Landing a job in the product manager position is very demanding because of vast and diverse skill requirements and rising competition amongst aspiring product managers. Therefore everything that gives an edge over other applicants becomes a necessity rather than a choice. Effective networking is one of these things.
Effective networking gives a headstart in landing a position in product management and helps throughout a Product career by enabling the sharing of ideas and experiences. It also allows product managers to use their network to find solutions for common, day-to-day challenges when executing their product vision.
However – incorrect timing, lack of proper space, goal misalignment, or unclear value propositions can get in the way of effective networking. We have compiled a list of the most important networking hacks for aspiring product managers that ensure your networking efforts. To start, let’s take a look at the places to start networking with.
Where to Start?
Networking can be boiled down to three key aspects – space, time, and people. If you don’t get the first one right, it doesn’t matter how effectively you manage the other two. Put simply, knowing where to start is critical to building a wide network and gaining valuable experience.
Here are a few places to start with:
1. Start with your Manager
Leaving the managers and senior leadership at your existing company out of the picture is one of the biggest mistakes you could make when networking. Once you are certain about pursuing a career in product management, the first person you need to take advice from is your manager. Not only do managers have enough relevant experience to guide you through transitions, but they are also aware of your strengths and weaknesses. They are the closest professionals that you can build connections with and ask for advice.
However, this is not to say that you should randomly approach them and ask them for advice on making the career switch. You need to place your networking efforts carefully after assessing factors like:
- How comfortable are you with your manager professionally and personally?
- Do you generally keep your manager in the loop while pursuing your goals both inside and outside of work?
- What is the outlook of your organization and your manager in an employee’s personal and professional growth?
Assessing these factors will help you design a sensible approach to have this conversation with your manager and factor in how much you’d like to involve them.. It will also give you a sense of clarity about your future at the organization.
2. Join prominent Product Management communities
Online communities provide unconstrained spaces for sharing ideas, experiences, and problems. From aspiring product managers to seasoned product professionals, you will find like-minded people in these communities that are passionate about developing and managing products.
The best thing about these communities is that they are not limited to Product Management professionals. They will also help you gain a firm understanding of the latest trends and practices in UX design, data science, tech, and marketing. This makes them one of the perfect places for aspiring product managers to know more about the field and the tools and tricks of the trade.
Here are the most prominent product management communities that you should join right away:
- Product School
- Creative Product Managers
- The Product Stack
- Product Coalition
- Product Management Insider
- Mind the Product
Signing up for these product management groups will give you an edge over others by providing endless opportunities to network, learn about product management best practices, ask questions and gain valuable experience.
3. Attend Local Product Events
Another great space for networking for aspiring product managers is local product conferences and meetups. These events provide great opportunities to build connections with local product professionals, learn from their experiences, and gain new perspectives about the discipline.
While online communities allow connections with a more significant number of people, the network you build by attending product events often proves to be more effective. This is because of a simple reason – face-to-face conversations, if timed and framed right, are much more engaging and effective than online ones. You have a much greater chance of making people see value in you in local product events than online interactions.
Therefore, local product meetups and conferences are the perfect places for you to land a job as a product manager if you know how to time your words right and communicate your talent compellingly. So, find the best product events in your city and sign up for them to build a wide network of local product professionals which will help you land the product management positions faster.
Starting with these three places will help you get a headstart in building your network of product professionals. However, for your efforts to be successful, they need to be timed and designed in such a way that it maximizes your networking success.
4. Important networking hacks for Aspiring Product Managers
Here are 5 networking hacks to keep in your quiver that will help you maximize the success of your networking efforts.
Don’t Limit Your Networking to Product Managers
Setting limits to your networking efforts in terms of positions unknowingly narrows your chances of building connections with great product managers. We know that product management is an intersection of many disciplines and bases itself on those disciplines’ cross-functionality. So if you just aim to network with product professionals, you miss out on a huge number of connections. By being flexible and networking with developers, designers, and marketers, you will open yourself to more networking opportunities.
Use Problems to Increase Engagement
A primary responsibility of product managers is to solve problems that occur throughout the product roadmap execution. Product managers that are passionate about the field love this part of the job. You can use this to your advantage. An interaction with a product professional is more likely to turn into a connection if it is about finding a solution to a problem you’re facing with your side project or product idea. Discussing a problem will also ensure that the prospect gets a glimpse of your product management skills.
Add Value to the Events and the Communities
Networking is an act of mutual realization that each party is capable of delivering value to the other. This means that your networking efforts will only be truly effective if the prospects see value in you. You can start showing value by actively contributing to both the local product events and online product communities. Start by posting relevant content and participating actively in discussions in the product management communities that you join. Participate in discussions and ask intelligent questions in the Q&A sessions of local product events. By doing all of these things, you will be noticed by local product professionals and members of the online communities, which will help you expand your network.
Do Your Homework About Prospects
You can only have meaningful connections with people if you have a conversation with them about something that interests both of you. Get to know more about the speakers that will speak at the local conference you’re going to attend. Similarly, check the RSVP lists of product meetups and select the people you want to target for networking. See what products they are working on—research the challenges those products face and suggest possible solutions if it comes to that.
Take Part in Product Design Competitions
Product design competitions give you a great deal of exposure and provide you with plenty of networking opportunities. Apart from showcasing your system design and product management skills, you can participate in these competitions to meet and connect with product professionals and aspiring product managers.
To sum up, networking is one of the most important aspects of pursuing a career in product management. Having a wide network of product professionals gives you a headstart in landing a position in product management and helps you throughout your career by allowing you to share ideas, experiences, and problems with them.
Abhishek Kumar: Interested in deep tech and growth strategy, Abhishek helps brands with crafting water-tight growth strategies at ContentNinja.