Friday, February 19, 2010

Career Change: The Presentation

This is the fifth and final part in the career change series. It has taken a while to get to this one because, frankly, it is the most difficult of the series. You need to realize that unless things fall magically into your hands, this part requires patience and perseverance. It requires networking and getting out of your comfort zone. Finally, it requires ensuring your resume says product manager and not developer or analyst or wherever else you are coming from.

Remember, your best bet is going to be going into product management in your current company. I want to be very clear that, especially in the current economic environment, you are very unlikely to change companies into a product management position. A company is taking a risk just by hiring you. Product management is such a pivotal role that you would be asking a company to take on three risks: you, your ability to manage a product, and the product itself. Still, it can be done.

To get there, start with reworking your resume. As I go through specifics, I want you to keep one thing in mind: every item on your resume should be tailored to show how you benefited the company from a product management perspective. You closed more sales, you caused costs to go down, you reached better compliance, whatever. You want the hiring company thinking about how they could use those benefits in their company.

Show your customer interaction

It is extremely critical that you show how much successful customer interaction you've had. "Personally caused an additional $3M in sales to close due to my assistance in sales process" is gold, but even saying "Provided technical expertise on eight failing sales, leading to three unexpected closes." is good. Product managers don't need to be sales people, but they need to understand the sales process and they have to have customer empathy. You have to show that on your resume.

Show your data gathering

Product management is data intensive. The more you can show you know how to gather that data and that you've used it, the better. "Ran UI focus group, identified product weaknesses, worked with UX to improve, and saw support incidents go down 10% as a result." There is a lot there, but it shows the cross-functional nature of the position and a solid benefit to the company. This could also be done with win/loss analysis, support forum monitoring, and any number of other areas.

Show cross functional skills

I alluded to it before, but you need to show how you understand the cross-functional nature of the position and can succeed at it. Most projects have a cross-functional project meeting. This is a good time to volunteer to be the secretary. Take note and do follow up. That can end up on your resume as "Ensured cross-functional team understood and met objectives for biweekly coordination meetings."

What to leave off

Leave off the technology specifics. Showing that you re-implemented the UI in Python is not going to win you points. Showing that you understood the customer concerns with the current interface and caused them to be addressed successfully (you can leave out the "addressed by you" part) will win points.

Network, network, network

As I mentioned, in the current economic climate, it is unlikely you will have a job fall in your lap. You need to have a finely tuned resume and you need to be talk with people. I am on the board of the local product management association and I attend start-up group meetings. Find out what is in your area and get out there. Things won't change by themselves. It will take work, but it can be done.

Good luck!