Even if you have a satisfying career as a project manager, you may feel the urge to try product management. It makes sense that you want to — it gives you an opportunity to use your leadership skills while playing a new role in the company. Maybe you want to have a more significant impact on the business or help influence product design.
If you’ve thought about making the leap from managing projects to products, here are four questions to ask yourself.
Are You Ready To Acquire New Skills?
While you can use your management talent in your new role, you may need to learn new skills or brush up on ones you don’t frequently use.
One thing you need to know about is the product. Learning the ins and outs of your product may take some hands-on experience. You may be required to learn low code to produce a software product, for example, or visit the factory where your business outsources production.
Another skill you will need in product management is flexibility. Whereas project managers make a schedule and work to keep everyone on it, product managers must be prepared to change deadlines, sometimes quickly, as demand or the market fluctuates.
You may be working with people outside the company for the first time. Project managers usually deal with internal departments and resources, and product managers coordinate with vendors, suppliers and factories.
Are You Ready for High-Level Management?
The product manager focuses on strategy and big-picture issues. You don’t often dip your toes into the daily pool of activity. If you’re used to overseeing every aspect of a project, you’ll need to adjust how you manage.
Your team needs you to focus on coming up with ideas, making presentations to stakeholders and researching the market when you are a product manager. You may be handing off the day-to-day functions of your job to a project manager instead of overseeing them yourself. If you are prepared to change your focus, you can do well in your new managerial position.
Are You Ready for Public Accountability?
While managers are often accustomed to accepting blame when something goes wrong, it can frequently happen in product management. You are rewarded with creative freedom and the ability to see your ideas come to life. The flip side is that when the product doesn’t perform well, deadlines aren’t met, or other problems happen, you shoulder the burden.
Of course, when all goes smoothly, your product performs as well or better than expected, you meet or exceed your deadlines, and everyone is happy, you can accept the credit.
Are You Ready To Study, Talk to Experts and Conduct Interviews?
Acquiring a new set of skills means you have work ahead of you. You may need to take classes, obtain certifications, read product management blogs and spend time in the production area. As you do these tasks, it will become more apparent to you what you need to learn to get in the door of product management.
It helps to talk to experts. Do you have colleagues who are product managers? Ask them lots of questions. Find out things like:
- What do you love about your job?
- What improvements would you make?
- If you had to start over again, what would you do differently?
It’s hard to beat talking to people with real-life experience to get the bottom line.
A job change typically involves polishing your resume and cover letter and going to interviews. If you haven’t done these things in a while, consider brushing up on your skills. You’ll need to be ready to answer interview questions and explain your desire for a career change.
Shifting from project management to product management can be a fascinating and challenging career move. There’s nothing like learning new skills to expand your horizons. Learn all you can about product management and then get out and find your dream job.