After a three month job search, I finally landed my first, full-time product role. It was exciting, except…
No amount of reading or YouTube videos or informational sessions can prepare you for the job. Every company has a different flavor of product management, and every person on the team works differently. Below, I’ve documented the advice that actually helped me at the start of my career.
Talk to your manager
Your first day will involve a lot of hand holding. HR will need to explain company policies, IT will need to give you permissions to apps, and your coworkers will need an introduction on the newest member to their teams.
It’s in this time period that you should lay the foundation for your relationship with your manager.
First, you should establish the cadence of your meetings. In my internship, we met at least twice a week. In my current role, we try to meet once a week (but realistically once every other week). There should be dedicated time on both of your calendars for a 1:1 meeting.
Second, create a 30–60–90 day plan. Go over what you hope to accomplish, what your manager expects you to accomplish, and measurable goals that tracks your progress. There’s nothing worse than the creeping feeling of imposter syndrome.
And finally, get to know them as a person. What do they like to do in their free time? What inspires them to work? Having a good relationship with your manager will make a huge difference at work.
Get to know people and processes
Chances are, you’re not the first employee hired (and if you’re hired before an engineer or designer — run).
It is crucial to build a healthy work relationship with the people you’re going to work with. Understand your coworkers’ needs, pain points, and what motivates them to keep working.
One piece of advice I received from a product mentor was not to lead but to support. As a junior, lean in on the experiences your coworkers have built up and provide assistance whenever you can. Though you may read books and blogs about “shaking up the company and bringing change on day 1”, that’s not your job.
People are going to doubt your product sense and strategy until you start delivering results. By fostering strong interpersonal relationships with your coworkers, you organically start building trust.
I get it. When you’re hired, you have a desire to prove something. You’re driven, you’ve memorized plenty of frameworks, you’ve listened to so many talks and watched so many videos — you don’t need help.
It’s time to let go of that ego.
There’s nothing worse than drowning quietly while everyone assumes you’re fine. Then, when the time comes to deliver results, you have nothing to show. Avoid this scenario by asking for help early and often.
As the new person on the team, you have the best reason to ask all kinds of questions. “What is X? Why do we do Y? How do we do Z?” And truth be told, you’ll still have plenty of questions past the first few months.
Flaunt your new person status and take full advantage of it! And if your company doesn’t encourage a culture where there’s no dumb questions: leave.
Keep track of your energy
Ramping up as an entry-level product manager is exhausting because of the information overload. Company initiatives, product best practices, cross-functional relationships, managing stakeholders — it’s a lot.
However, it isn’t good when you bring negative energy to meetings.
Tackle things one at a time. Don’t try to improve your skills in user research, data analytics, and presentations all at once. Spreading yourself too thin won’t give you the results you desire, and it’ll burn you out faster.
If you’re struggling, reach out to your manager, peers, or co-workers for help. Make use of your vacation days/PTO. It’s okay not to add value within your first 90 days because you’re still learning, doubly so as an APM who’s new to the field of product management!
At the time of posting this, I’m six months into my role. Truthfully, I’m still not settled in, and I’m not sure if this feeling completely goes away. As product managers, we’re often too critical of ourselves and the value we bring to our teams.
I just want to remind you that you’re doing great. Take it one day at a time. Congratulations on your new role (if you have one), and good luck with job search (if you’re still looking)!