Product School

Unlocking Your Product Management Career: 5 Key Strategies to Turbocharge Your Career

Nikhyl Singhal

Author: Nikhyl Singhal

August 4, 2023 - 7 min read

Updated: January 24, 2024 - 7 min read

Product management professionals, this one's for you! Today, we're going to unpack how to advance your Product management career, find meaningful advice, and make critical decisions, especially in this volatile climate where growth can be slow, yet new opportunities like AI are rapidly pulling us forward. 

Editorial note: This post is based on a talk by Nikhyl Singhal, Meta VP of Product, on Turbocharge Your PM Career and contains additional insights and examples from the Product School team. You can watch the webinar in full above.

As Product Managers, we often find ourselves at career crossroads. You might be pondering, "Where do I go from here?" or "Do I stay where I am?" To navigate these waters successfully, it’s essential to consider your career in a broader, long-term perspective and learn how to source the best advice.

Blog image 1: Unlocking Your Product Management Career: 5 Key Strategies to Turbocharge Your Career

Plotting your product management career journey: guidance, growth, and gratification

Before delving into the strategies to help you turbocharge your career, let’s see how to approach this move.

Visualizing the big picture

The first step towards untangling the complex knot of career choices lies in considering the broader picture. It's easy to get caught up in the immediacy of our day-to-day work. So, take a step back, extract yourself from the granular details, and consider your aspirations and what you wish to achieve as a Product Manager. Is it the allure of leadership positions that motivates you, or is the prospect of being a subject matter expert more appealing? 

Identifying what truly excites you can help create a vision for your career path.

Crafting a strategic career plan

Once you have a clear vision, it's time to chart out a strategic career plan. Ask yourself what skills you need to develop or enhance to reach your desired position.

Pro tip: Remember, careers in product management are seldom linear and may require you to seize opportunities as they come, so your plan should be flexible enough to adapt to these changes.

Stay, or leap?

There comes a time in every product manager's career when you ask yourself, "Do I stay where I am, or do I leap into new territories?"

Staying might mean deepening your knowledge of your current industry, taking on larger projects, or stepping into a leadership role. It provides you with the chance to consolidate your learnings, harness your skills, and establish yourself as a thought leader.

On the other hand, leaping might mean switching industries, changing roles, or even moving to a different type of organization. It offers the thrill of exploring unknown territories, learning new concepts, and expanding your comfort zone.

The answer is not black and white and entirely depends on your individual goals, aspirations, and risk appetite. 

Sourcing the best advice

In the quest to shape your career path, don't overlook the value of getting advice. Insight from seasoned professionals, mentors, and peers can be an invaluable resource. They can provide unique perspectives based on their experiences, illuminate potential pitfalls, and offer guidance on seizing the right opportunities.

Be proactive in reaching out to people within and outside your organization. Attend industry events, webinars, and conferences to network and learn from others. 

5 Unbeatable strategies to unlock your potential

Let's now dive into five valuable tips to help you boost your career potential.

1. Think of your career as a product

Firstly, approach your career the same way you would a product. A product has a vision, a strategy, and a set of tactics—it's the same with your career. View it as a long-term journey, broken down into 'releases' or steps, much like a roadmap guides a product's development.

Blog image 2: Unlocking Your Product Management Career: 5 Key Strategies to Turbocharge Your Career

Visualize your career as having three distinct phases, much like a product. The first phase is the 'drunken walk' early stage where you experiment and learn. Then comes the hyper-growth stage, where you move into leadership roles and try to scale your career, and finally, the market leadership phase, where you transition from leadership to offering advice and guidance.

2. Optimize for story, not level

Secondly, it's crucial to make each career transition additive. Focus on optimizing for the stories you can tell about your career and your growth rather than the levels you've reached. The experiences, setbacks, and victories you've encountered are what future employers will be interested in hearing about. Remember that adaptability and growth always trump responsibility.

Blog image 3: Unlocking Your Product Management Career: 5 Key Strategies to Turbocharge Your Career

Furthermore, don't let your passion for a specific product or mission cloud your judgment about the culture and opportunities for learning within an organization. A great product can become a miserable experience if the culture is toxic, and no amount of personal connection can compensate for being stuck in a role where you can't progress.

3. Connect authentically with people

Thirdly, it's all about people. One of the most common regrets is, "I wish I had gotten to know more people". In the first phase of your career, you're learning who you are and mastering your craft. But in the second phase, the people you know can help propel you forward.

Blog image 4: Unlocking Your Product Management Career: 5 Key Strategies to Turbocharge Your Career

Pro tip: Try to spend at least 30 minutes every week building a meaningful relationship with a peer, a leader, or a newcomer. These connections can foster opportunities, experience, and wisdom, and provide a network you can lean on in your future career transitions.

4. Turn strength into a superpower

Next, it's crucial to identify your strengths and then transform them into superpowers. As product managers, our careers are a testament to our work and need equal focus. 

Blog image 5: Unlocking Your Product Management Career: 5 Key Strategies to Turbocharge Your Career

Every one of us has strengths, areas where we naturally excel, whether it be in ideation, execution, organization, leadership, or technical expertise. Rather than trying to be good at everything, excel in one or two areas. Whether you're a crafter who creates features, a domain expert in AI, or an organizational maestro who knows how to move complex projects forward, leverage these strengths to advance your career.

But how do you do that?  Whichever strength you possess, you need to dig deeper. Strive to excel in that area, push the boundaries, and become the 'go-to' person for it. Doing so not only positions you as a domain expert but also sets you apart in an increasingly competitive field. 

5. Bet on Yourself

As important as your strengths are, equally crucial is your belief in yourself. Don't outsource your career to your manager or your company. This involves being proactive about your career decisions, instead of outsourcing them to your manager or company.

Blog image 6: Unlocking Your Product Management Career: 5 Key Strategies to Turbocharge Your Career

Be the master of your own career trajectory. Bet on yourself, lean into your strengths, make authentic connections, and be prepared to tell your story. This is the key to unlocking your potential and making the most of your product management career.

In conclusion, to keep moving forward in the Product Management career ladder, make sure that your career path reflects your vision and strategy, just like a well-managed product. And remember: you are in control and your unique experiences, connections, and strengths are what will propel you forward.

Learn more with Product School

As you navigate the roadmap of your product management career, it's crucial to equip yourself with the right skills and insights. Our Product Leader Certification (PLC)™ is an excellent opportunity you shouldn't miss. Co-created with top product leaders from Silicon Valley, the PLC™ is designed to bolster your product management capabilities, enhance your leadership skills, and enable you to devise impactful product strategies. Schedule a call with our Admissions Team now to find out more. 

Updated: January 24, 2024

Subscribe to The Product Blog

Discover Where Product is Heading Next

Share this post

By sharing your email, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service