How to get that next Product Management or Product Design job (as long as it's not "Product Owner" 🤨)
I had a little break in Tenerife, where I failed to summit the tallest mountain in Spain for a second time (I use the term "summit" loosely here, since we went up in a cable car with the kids).
I'm back and I'm already exhausted by thought leader Twitter..
Interview: How to get your next Product Management or Product Design job
I recently interviewed Sarah Doody, the founder of Career Strategy Lab on the podcast. We spoke about some of the myths of job hunting, and how you can stand out from the crowd and improve your chances of getting that next job. Check out the full interview here, but here are some of the highlights:
1. Actually read the job spec
Don't just mash "Quick Apply" to any job that has the right job title at the top. Go through the job spec, highlight the stuff you're really good at and start to build a narrative about why YOU are a good fit.
2. Job requirements are a wish list, not a specification
Most job specs are written by non-experts, probably in a hurry. You don't need to be able to tick 100% of the boxes. 60% is a good starting point.
3. Customise your resume / cover letter
It's a good idea to have an MVP resume / cover letter available as a starting point. "Customising" them doesn't mean rewriting from scratch every time. Adapt these skeletons to the job in question and make your unique attributes stand out.
4. ATS systems do exist, but they're not your enemy
Many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems but in most cases these are just used as a categorisation aid, and real people still look at them. It's an easy excuse for struggling job hunters to blame AI. It's mostly not true.
5. Years of experience is not a hard requirement
Don't be afraid to apply for jobs that require X years of experience if you have less. There are limits (6 months is a lot less than 10 years) but focus on owning your narrative & what you bring to the job, and how you explain it.
6. It's OK to interview for jobs you don't want
If we're going to treat our careers as products, we shouldn't be afraid to experiment and learn. You'll also get fantastic insight on whether you're paid right, and you might even end up wanting the new job!
Getting Hired as "Product Owner"
Speaking of getting a job, here's this week's hot take. Hear me out!
We all know that "Product Owner" was originally just the name of the stakeholder representative on a Scrum team. The Scrum Guide says "The Product Owner is accountable for maximising the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team."
So far, so Scrum, but the problem with Product Owners isn't the concept (although it's debatable how many POs live up to "For Product Owners to succeed, the entire organisation must respect their decisions"). The problem is that, almost without exception, jobs that are advertised as "Product Owner" tend to massively over-optimise for backlog prioritisation and shovelling coal into the feature factory. These people are a mix of Business Analysts and Project Managers, generally doing little product discovery or any of the deep thinking that we want product people to do. SAFe has a lot to answer for here too.
Is this true across the board? Probably not, but it's a common enough pattern and I like to think that we're better than that. Product Management is a craft and we should stand up for it.
CAVEAT: I actually do (sometimes) advocate this type of job for people trying to get into product management. This is because, for many employers, just having "product" on your CV will get you past the HR screening. It's not great that it's come to this, but you have to play the game (and you will get valuable experience working with stakeholders and developer teams, so the effort isn't wasted). But get out when you can!
That's all folks
Thanks for reading, and hopefully listening. If you found this content remotely useful, please give me a thumbs up on the issue and make sure to share it with your friends.
If you feel like buying me a coffee, well, I do love coffee.