how to move from a project manager to a product manager role
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How Do I Move from Project Management to Product Management?

Are you currently a project manager? Want to make the shift into the (obviously more awesome) product management space?

Wonderful!

I’d highly recommend making the shift. I was previously a project manager and now am a product director…let’s just say I don’t think I will ever go back to being a project manager. Product management is just too darn fun.

Once you decide you’re interested in becoming a product manager, the big question becomes……how do you make the shift?!?!

First: Shift your mindset

The first thing you’ll have to do is shift your mindset from “projects” to “products”. While there may be facets of project management in product management, your time is no longer going to be spent tweaking budgets and project schedules, creating project charters or statements of work, or managing critical path activities. There are nowhere near as many processes in product management, so you’re going to have to take a much more flexible view on the process of starting something and delivering something. It’s way more freeform.

So, how can you do first shift your mindset?

First, consume everything product. Become obsessed. Read forums, check out books from the library, listen to podcasts. Become a product person.

Second: Apply product principles to your project management position

The second thing is to put all that knowledge into practice somehow. If you’re lucky enough to be in a job where you can take on more of a product type role and you can make strategic decisions about the future of that product, then that’s awesome! Do that!

  • Figure out some KPIs and start tracking them
  • Write out user stories for some of the bigger requirements themes of your project
  • Create or strategize how to improve the “go-to-market” strategy for your project (even if your project isn’t sexy or customer facing)
  • Take your existing schedule and roadmap what improvements you may be able to make or features you could ship once all requirements are met
  • Practice writing out customer personas for all of your stakeholders

If there’s an existing product team you can cozy up to and learn from, do whatever you can to spend some more time with them.

Third: If you can’t apply product management principles to your current position, try conceptualizing your own product

If you don’t have that option at work, then it’s time to build your own product. Yes, it’s scary, but creating your very own thing from start to finish is truly rewarding.

Find an audience you can relate to, start listening to their pain points and create something that will really help them, even if it’s something very small. It may not be amazing at first but iterate as you go. Get used to talking to real people and whatever you do (and it’s so tempting because doing this is scary at first), do not hide behind your computer.

Fourth: Find a job in product management

If you’ve started applying product management principles to your project management job, have become friends with and learned from the product team, or have built your own product (way to go!), then it’s time to start getting an “official” product management job on your resume.

If there are existing product jobs in your company, those would be great to go after first.

However, if there aren’t any product jobs at your company, consider asking your manager if you can pivot your role to something more product related. Even if it’s not 100% truly product management and still has some project management in there, having a product-focused title on your resume will make getting your next product job that much easier.

If pivoting your current job is not in the cards, then it’s time to rewrite your resume to focus on product management skills. As a product manager, you already have many of the skills a good product manager needs, like:

  • Great communication skills
  • Organization
  • Ability to balance multiple competing priorities
  • Presenting to and getting buy-in from stakeholders

Make sure to highlight these and include any projects you managed that were successful on your resume. Also, brush up on some product management interview skills if you haven’t already.

Fifth: Be patient

Your first product management role can be difficult to get into, so be patient and stay focused. You can do it!

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