How I landed my first job as a Product Manager

The first real job is always an adventure. You are young, you are motivated and you are most probably unexperienced. So who will hire you? How can you get your first job as a Product Manager?

I landed my first product management job with the age of 23, when I just finished a traineeship and had zero experience working as a product manager with engineers in one team. So here’s what I did before and during the interview:

Before the Product Manager interview

Be prepared. I guess you will roll your eyes, but are you really, really well prepared? Do you studied the company page and did you look up the persons you will have your interview with? When I started to interview myself, I could immediately tell who prepare and who not. You could immediately see the difference.

Define for yourself, what you already bring to the job. Even though you maybe haven’t worked in product management before, you can think of parallels which you will need for the new job. Just as an example: I created digital apps for kids and and worked together with agencies at my old job. You could say this is already product management, but I had no engineering team, so not all people agree here. Still I needed to understand kids and what they wanted, because I knew that I am not a kid and therefore not the regular customer. Also I already managed bigger projects. My line manager especially loved that I created products for the most complicated target groups: Children. So it was no problem, that I didn’t have experience in e-commerce.

Read books, blogs and articles from and about product managers. Just because you are currently not working in product management, it does not mean, that you should not know something about it. Get your knowledge from books, podcasts, blogs or articles. It is so easy to get information and level up your knowledge. You don’t always need to invest in an expensive online training, a good book is worth a thousand times more. The ROI from a book is not comparable to an online training.

During the Product Manager interview

Show motivation. Be punctual. Be committed. People will feel if you really want the job. It’s okay to be nervous and it’s okay not to know the answer for every questions. But show, that you will get better and you want to learn. Product Managers should be willing to learn their entire life and you can immediately show it. Nothing is better than a growth mindset.

Be honest. If you don’t know something, be honest and tell immediately. Nothing is worse than trying to come up with an answer even though everyone in the room gets the feeling, that you actually don’t know it. And again: People can tell, when you seem like you don’t know the answer, but try to say ANYTHING.

What else

After several weeks at my new job, for the first time I was on the other side of the interview: Together with my line manager I interviewed candidates. Before we went into the interview room he told me what he is always looking for in candidates. He looks, if a candidate is

  • smart
  • reliable
  • passionate
  • nice

A product manager should be smart, so that she can work with complex problems. She should be reliable, so that you can trust her. Ans she should be passionate, so that she likes what she is working on. Last but not least she should be nice, because if a person is not nice, it’s bad for the working environment.

To be honest I was really impressed by the nice part: Would I have included it into my conditions if I would hire someone? I would not have mentioned it explicitly, but I would have probably looked for it subconsciously.

Show your potential

So in a nutshell I would like to tell you: Be super informed, find out parallels from previous tasks and show that you really, really want the job. In the end you can’t make up for no experience, but you will rather have to show what is possible IF you would get more experience with this job.

You need to show your potential and in which direction you could go. If you came already this far with no experience, what would be possible if you gained some with your first job as a Product Manager? You could say you are your own product and in the end you want it to succeed. So put all your work in yourself as you are the most important product you can manage!

About Author

Vita is a passionate product manager and content creator with love for design and yoga. With "Product Heart" she helps turning business ideas into a great product customers love.

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