Friday, May 25, 2012

Advice To Obtain A New Position in Product Management

Sheryl Sandberg
Great advice and totally relevant for a career in product management!!

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg delivered a speech to the graduating class of Harvard Business School this week:

"The traditional metaphor for careers is a ladder, but I no longer think that metaphor holds. It doesn’t make sense in a less hierarchical world.

When I was first at Facebook, a woman named Lori Goler, a 1997 graduate of HBS, was working in marketing at eBay and I knew her kind of socially. And she called me and said, I want to talk with you about coming to work with you at Facebook. So I thought about calling you, she said, and telling you all the things I’m good at and all the things I like to do. But I figured that everyone is doing that. So instead I want to know what’s your biggest problem and how can I solve it. My jaw hit the floor. I’d hired thousands of people up to that point in my career, but no one had ever said anything like that. I had never said anything like that. Job searches are always about the job searcher, but not in Laurie’s case. I said, you’re hired. My biggest problem is recruiting and you can solve it. So Lori changed fields into something she never thought she’d do, went down a level to start in a new field and has since been promoted and runs all of the people operations at Facebook and has done an extraordinary job.

"Lori has a great metaphor for careers. She says they’re not a ladder; they’re a jungle gym. As you start your post-HBS career, look for opportunities, look for growth, look for impact, look for mission. Move sideways, move down, move on, move off. Build your skills, not your resume. Evaluate what you can do, not the title they’re going to give you. Do real work. Take a sales quota, a line role, an ops job, don’t plan too much, and don’t expect a direct climb. If I had mapped out my career when I was sitting where you are, I would have missed my career.

"You are entering a different business world than I entered. Mine was just starting to get connected. Yours is hyperconnected. Mine was competitive. Yours is way more competitive. Mine moved quickly, yours moves even more quickly. As traditional structures are breaking down, leadership has to evolve as well. From hierarchy to shared responsibility, from command and control to listening and guiding. You’ve been trained by this great institution not just to be part of these trends but to lead. As you lead in this new world, you will not be able to rely on who you are or the degree you hold. You’ll have to rely on what you know. Your strength will not come from your place on some org chart, your strength will come from building trust and earning respect. You’re going to need talent, skill, and imagination and vision, but more than anything else, you’re going to need the ability to communicate authentically, to speak so that you inspire the people around you and to listen so that you continue to learn each and every day on the job."

Read more:
At the monthly Startup Product Talks San Francisco meetup, people make pitches both about positions available and those who are seeking new positions.  Announce your availability on the Startup Product Talks SF form:

One of the recent comments was about "Unicorn hiring" where the hiring managers are seeking a mythical product management superhero that doesn't exist (never did and never will).  Its simply insane to expect one individual to have the expertise, breadth and width of experience and mastery to plug all the holes and provide all the product management strategies and tactics necessary to successfully bring products to fruition throughout the entire process from development to launch and produce revenue. 

A year ago, I posted my suggestions for 10 Steps to Prepare for a New Position in Product Management

Here's the next one in the series: 
10 Steps to Obtain A New Position in Product Management

Position Yourself & Ask for Help

1.  Finding a new position is a full time job - create the environment and network to support you in your efforts.  Don't isolate or think you can do this alone... 
Attend business networking and support groups - if one doesn't exist for the exact type of position or location you want, create one!  
Check out chambers of commerce, meetups, conferences, trade organizations, professional associations, user groups, etc.
Attend these events until you find or reclaim your passion and voice!

Create the Narrative
2.  Create the vision for your perfect position: 
Identify the qualities of the company, job, situation, environment you're seeking and include details of what you are most qualified for. Get it down to an elevator pitch.  Dream about it, talk about it, ask people if they "know someone who knows someone" who can help you (everybody knows someone who knows someone - not everybody just knows someone).  This will become your base line to match against.  

Identify the Obstacles
3.  Recognize that the first barrier to entry is head hunters, human resources and hiring managers who have no idea what product management is except for the job description and requirements they have to match against.  They are looking at 100s (maybe 1,000s) of resumes, so make it easier for them to recognize your value. Turn these people into your sales force and give them the sales tools to sell the value of you!
- Get your resume down to 1-2 pages 
- showcase results produced 
- highlight key words, accomplishments
- formatting makes a difference; Just like a website and product, the user experience makes the first impression
- Think in terms of designing a flyer or marketing collateral - put most important points above the fold, details lower on the page - don't make them read too much - just enough to invite you in for the interview or at least a phone call for more. 

Targeted Messag-ing
4. Have a master resume - then customize your resume to match the bullet points in the job description - even if they are looking for unicorns, this is their filtering document.  I have even done a "T Frame" cover letter where I blatantly match everything they are seeking on the left to examples of my experience on the right. 

Don't be put off by what they think is important - focus on your assets & experience & educate them on your unique selling proposition: why you're enthusiastic about the difference you can make and how you'll fulfill those needs.

5 Resume Messaging Suggestions From Hiring Professionals:

1. Money talks. Generally, the single most important information for any management professional to include in their resume is the “money.” Specifically, this refers to things they have done to increase revenues, profits, ROI, ROE, market share and any other financial measurements. Just as important are their efforts in cost reduction, cost avoidance, loss prevention and risk management. When writing your resume, use numbers or percentages to communicate what you have done to positively impact the bottom line of every company you have worked for.

 Highlight fast-track promotion. The careers of many management professionals are distinguished by a record of rapid advancement through a series of increasingly responsible positions. Be sure to highlight your promotion track and remember that you don’t have to write a job description for each of the positions with a single company. Rather, you can just focus on your last one or two positions at each company along with your most notable achievements.

 Showcase the problems that you’ve solved. Managers and executives face challenges, often on a daily basis. Demonstrate your strong problem-solving skills by including several of the most notable problems you’ve helped to solve, what you did and the end result (quantified if at all possible). Contributing to the start-up of a new operating division that delivered $8.1 million in first-year sales is a great achievement!

 Be different. Management professionals often share common skill sets and qualifications. Most are experienced in budgeting, staffing, team leadership, operations management, administrative affairs, technology and more. As such, what can you highlight in your resume that will differentiate you from all of the other candidates with similar qualifications? This might include public speaking, media interviews, industry honors and commendations, publications or any one of a number of other projects, events or initiatives. Give careful thought to what makes you unique and a great candidate; then be certain to strategically highlight those items in your resume.

 Integrate the “right” keywords so your resume will get selected during a keyword search. Here are just a few general management keywords and keyword phrases that you may want to include (if appropriate to your experience and education):

Banking, Budgeting, Business Development
Board of Directors
Cash Flow, Cash Administration, Cash Management
Client Relations
Corporate Administration
Client Relationship Management (CRM)
Corporate Mission
Credit Lines
Earnings Before Interest & Taxes (EBIT or EBITA) & Amortization
Expense Control
Fiduciary Responsibility
Financial Management, Controls
Manager, Director, Vice President, President, Chairman
Mission Statement
New Ventures
Operations Management
Organizational Design
Profit & Loss, P&L
Projections, Proforma
Relationship Management
Return on Investment (ROI)
Staffing, Talent Acquisition
Strategic Planning
Team Building & Leadership

Online Networking
5. Use LinkedIn
Identify who you think would fill the position you want & look at those people's resumes. They're the competitive space!  To upgrade your position, check out people that are above your most recent position, i.e. VP, product marketing, Director of Product Management.

I know for a fact that Amazon Mechanical Turk is used for filtering candidates...Turkers (who may be paid 25 cents per task) are asked to view a LinkedIn profile even if that person is not applying and use that person as the "ideal" to identify other similar profiles.  Sophisticated algorithms are also used to identify appropriate candidates just based on key words.  Use this to your advantage.

Join LinkedIn groups where tech hiring people are. You can join up to 50 groups for free.  LinkedIn is filled with open networkers - these are the people who were on LinkedIn early. They love to give advice. Use the job boards within the groups and master how to use the job search tools within LinkedIn.  

When you reach out to someone on LinkedIn, do your homework first - tell them exactly why you're connecting with them, what you appreciate about what they do or who they are, and exactly how they can help you.  Be human and customize your requests.  I hate when people invite me to connect and I have to work to figure out why.  Connect with me on Linkedin: (use cfsolomon at

4. Use Social Media
    Attend twitter chats to showcase your expertise, especially the weekly Global Product Management Talk!  Read the FAQs for how to find other relevant Twitter Chats and how to use Twitter to network effectively   

Participate, write blogs, contribute to other people's blogs, comment on blog postings - show up and add to the party!  Identify the players from your perfect company and reach out to them using Twitter - you'd be surprised how quickly people will respond if that is their platform of choice.

Blogs related to products, management, marketing, design:

5. Attend webinars about getting hired and subscribe to lists, websites and networks

6. Believe in yourself, gain confidence, stand in their shoes, be positive
What would you think about someone who had your credentials? You'd probably think they were awesome!
Do whatever you can to nurture your health and well-being.

7.  Offline Networking - reiterating step one
Attend Toastmasters meetings - these are great for getting feedback & practicing presentation skills. You might even find meetings that take place in the target location or sponsored by your perfect company.

In San Francisco, join us on the 2nd Wednesday of the month at Startup Product Talks San Francisco meetup.  People make pitches both about positions available and those who are seeking new positions.  Announce your availability on the Startup Product Talks SF form:

8.  Retool: attend Product Camps, industry events, trainings and obtain certification.

Join the Association of International Product Marketing and Management  - as a member, you have access to great resources, trainings, PDUs and certification

Hector Del Castillo gives a great presentation and professional career growth plan template:

9. Have a good attitude.  Be open minded -  Think like an entrepreneur and do what you can to pay the bills (but don't sell yourself too short) - Even being underemployed - Working increases confidence and network.  

10.  Be a Leader & Align with Like Minded People
Maybe you'll get angry enough to recognize you deserve more & contribute much more than you're being compensated for.  Or, you'll reinvent yourself based on the job descriptions that are hiring and stay current...As soon as you don't need a job (desperation goes away) and you're vibrating at a higher level where your next big opportunity is looking for you - there'll be plenty of opportunity regardless of the economic environment. 

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