6 Components to Landing in a Product Management Job...or any Tech Job, really

I just found my fourth tech job, almost through happenstance while I was very busy preparing for a 30-minute talk at a conference in Poland. Because that was my longest public speech to date, I spent a lot of time polishing my content and practicing my delivery.

Due to the lack of free time, I did almost nothing for my job hunt but still ended up with an awesome job in less than one month from idea to job offer.

How did that happen?

Two out of six core components of a job hunt I did right.

As for the other four core components, I laid the foundation for them when I first got into tech and what I did three years ago still serve me well enough today. Nonetheless, it was a mistake on my part to not pay more attention to these four components. For example, by not preparing for a phone interview, I didn’t get to an in-person interview at a company I thought would have been a great fit for me.

If you’re looking to get your first tech job, please learn from my mistakes as well as what I did right for my latest job hunt:

Core Component 1: CV  

Truth: Employers want to know what results you can get done for them, not just what you can do.
My Mistake: Copying my job duties for my current role into my LinkedIn profile and CV, because I had to give a recruiter my CV in a rush.
The Lesson: Update my LinkedIn profile and CV with quantified achievements.
Question to ask yourself: What am I most proud of doing in each of my past jobs? How can I objectively document that on my CV or LinkedIn profile?

Core Component 2: Portfolio

Truth: No one reads anymore, so one photo with a few bullet points is worth a thousand words.
My Mistake: Not collecting screenshots of what I’ve done with my product, especially because the product innovations I’ve initiated are hard to grasp unless you’re deep in the lead generation business.
The Lesson: Prepare a portfolio with screenshots of my work’s evolution to show, not tell, what I have accomplished.
Question to ask yourself: What can I show to explain my work to someone outside of my domain in 1-3 pictures?

Core Component 3: Preparing for Interviews

Truth: Employers are considering thousands of applicants, so stand out by telling unique stories about your work experiences.
My Mistake: Not preparing for interviews ahead of time, because I believed that being myself will be enough.
The Lesson: Have a few stories ready about my work challenges and achievements so that I can tell short, coherent, and memorable stories about my work experiences.
Question to ask yourself: What stories can I share about mistakes made, achievements unlocked, and lessons learned that show me in a good light?

Core Component 4: Personal Website

Truth: Employers search for you on the internet, so what do you want them to see about you when they do?
My Mistake: Not updating my personal website since 3 years ago, when I considered becoming a junior developer.
The Lesson: Update my personal website with my most recent projects and work as well as tell people what I’m looking for so as not to be recruited for developer jobs. My personal website will not be just a copy of my portfolio or CV, as I’ll be adding my speaking engagements as well as my volunteer work in the tech community to my personal site.
Question to ask yourself: What do I want people to know about me so that I can get the job I want?

Despite these mistakes, I did a few things right that simplified the job hunt process a lot:

Core Component 5: Networking

Truth: Knowledge is power, so research potential employer companies as much as possible.
What I did right: I connected with current or recently departed employees before I applied for any jobs.
The Lesson: Screen potential employers before applying to them saved me time to focus on the companies where I truly wanted to work.
Question to ask yourself: What do I want to know about a company before I join?

In my latest job hunt, culture was a decisive criteria. So before I applied for any jobs, I conducted research about the company culture.

How did I do this? I made contact with people who recently worked or currently work at the company I’m interested in. A connection who works there will also be much more open and direct if they know that you haven’t applied for a job yet, because nothing is yet at stake. A person who recently left will also be very open, but they may not have the most recent news.

At one company that looked like a dream fit for me on paper, I heard from my contact that product managers use their intuition to create their roadmaps. Because I create product roadmaps using data and run experiments to test my hypotheses, I didn’t apply to this company.

Doing research on potential employers will help you prepare for the application process even if you’re not picky about culture.

Maybe you’re picky about salary and benefits? Ask what the career progression is.

Or maybe you’re picky about work-life balance? Ask when do people usually leave work.

Core Component 6: Setting Goals through Self-Knowledge

Truth: A job is not a career; a career is a series of jobs that give you the experience you need to accomplish what you want.
What I did right: Knowing what kind of experience, product, and company I wanted next in order to grow myself and my career.
The Lesson: Only you know what you want to accomplish, so no one else can plan your career for you.

Whether you want to make your expertise so valuable that you can ask your company to work remotely without anxiety or to increase your hourly rate to the point where you can work part-time and still support your family, figure out what skills you need to get there.

And then go after those experiences that will help you get and hone those skills.
Question to ask yourself: What do I want to do 5, 10, or 20 years from now? What kind of experience do I need in order to get there? What kind of people do I want to meet, work with, and learn from?

In summary, these six core components help you get your next (or first!) tech job:

    1.    Know yourself and what you want for your career so that you know what kind of a role and company you want.
    2.    Network with people to research companies and roles.
    3.    Show what you can do by updating your CV and LinkedIn profile with quantified achievements.
    4.    Prepare a portfolio showing your work using images and screenshots.
    5.    Build and launch your personal website in case your future employers search for you online (and they will!).
    6.    Find a few stories about to tell about your challenges and achievements in order to practice for interviews.

Would you like support for getting your first tech job by going through each of these components with me?

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