After 5.5 years as a management consultant I decided it was time for a change, and recently transitioned into a role as a Product Marketing Manager. When I was doing research on how to make a transition to a PMM, I often asked other people what process they followed to break into a new role or industry. After doing research I realized there weren’t a ton of answers, so I wanted to share this playbook to help others as they begin their search for Product Marketing roles or transitions into PMM careers.
Step 1: Reflect on what you want to do
Once I knew I was ready to make a career transition I needed to figure out what I was going to transition into. In order to figure out the answer to this question I thought about what I wanted to do. Ideally, your job should be somewhere intermixed between the following three things:
- What are your strengths? – For me, it was about building relationships, leading cross-functional projects, telling stories, and communicating with diverse groups of people
- What do you enjoy doing? – I really enjoyed presenting, connecting with customers, developing thought leadership and finding ways to train and coach people
- What does the market value? – These seemed to be things that the market valued as there were a good amount of PMM roles available
After reflection, I realized that becoming a Product Marketer for a Tech company (not sure what kind) was broadly what I was interested in, and I was ready to take the next step.
- Write out you resume – Write out all the things you’ve worked on in your current job
- Identify your strengths – Evaluate what you do well, and what you might be able to use to your competitive advantage in your next job
- Create hypotheses for potential new roles – Based off of your reflection and review of your skills, create a hypotheses or two of what you might want to do next. (Ex: PMM at a Tech company)
Step 2: Research Opportunities
Once I had some educated guesses at what I wanted to do next it was time to go do some research. Because of the internet, it’s never been easier to find information online, and because of social media, it’s never been easy to stay in touch with your network. I used these two resources to help me understand more about product marketing, if I would be a good product marketer, and lessons, tips, and insights from people who are product marketers.
Finally, once I got a good sense of if I might like product marketing (based on my research) I began to evaluate my candidacy for these roles. I took a look at the job descriptions of product marketers and compared them to my own skills and strengths. This is a good sanity check to make sure you’re qualified for the roles that you want.
- Read everything you can – I read everything I could on Marketing, product marketing, marketing in the technology field. Here are some of the articles I found useful
- What is Product Marketing? – Ada Chen https://adachen.com/what-is-product-marketing-a7352fd80b54
- Matt Hodges On Product Marketing – https://blog.intercom.com/intercoms-matt-hodges-product-marketing/
- What Makes a Great Product Marketer – https://www.leadspace.com/what-makes-great-product-marketer/
- What Do Product Marketers Do? – https://medium.com/tradecraft-traction/what-do-product-marketers-do-insights-from-pmms-at-facebook-uber-lyft-and-figma-9159e625e5e9
- Talk to people in the field – I spoke to people who currently held the role I was interested in (Product Marketing) to find out more about their day to day job and career aspirations. If you don’t know any, find some companies you’re interested in, and look up the product marketers who work there and try to connect with them.
- Review Job descriptions – Find some job descriptions and get a sense of the roles and responsibilities of the job you might end up in. I used LinkedIn and Glassdoor
- Evaluate Candidacy – Combine what you learned from your research and evaluate if you’re a good candidate based on your skills, experiences, and interests.
For anyone who is changing careers (i.e. changing industries, functions, etc) the evaluating your candidacy piece is very important. You may feel that you have what takes to do the role you’re applying for but ultimately, you’re going to be going up against other candidates who already have substantial Product Marketing experience or internal candidates who have a leg up on the company (or ones who have both!) For hiring managers, it can be easy to choose the least risky option, which sometimes means going with someone with prior experience even if there is another candidate out there who might be good at the role but hasn’t held it previously.
While this shouldn’t deter you from applying to a role you really want, you need to be realistic about the job market and applicant pool especially for popular roles like PMM and open jobs in general at any popular or in demand company.
Step 3: Define Priorities and Criteria
Jobs come in all shapes and sizes. And while there are many similarities between PMM’s at various companies there are lots of differences. To make sure that I was applying to things that were truly of interest, I developed some criteria and priorities around what I wanted in my next job, and would use that as a way to evaluate if a job opportunity was a good fit. Here are some of the priorities I came up with:
- Company Culture– Collaborative, diverse, fun, high-performing
- Company Size– Both Big tech (+10,000 employees) and growth startup (Series B/C)
- Function/Role– Product Marketing, mostly in B2B
- People– Leaders who were inspirational, hard-working, and people-development oriented
- Write down priorities – You need to spend time thinking about what’s important to you, and only you know what that is. Write them down and sort them out and use them to evaluate roles as they come up
- But Lean on others too – Ask others what was important to them – You don’t need to copy, but sometimes hearing how others decide can help you identify what’s important to you
Step 4: Get Ready
With my priorities in place, I began searching for job and job opportunities. There are two types of job opportunities that I searched for. First, were existing opportunities – these are the ones that can be found on job boards and websites. I mostly used LinkedIn and Indeed to find these.
The second were emergent opportunities – these are the ones that you do not hear about publically, and either exist internally or are yet to exist. Finding these are challenging, but with the right networking and targeting it can be done.
Many jobs never get posted to job boards, so I relied on my network to help source opportunities. In many cases, people in my network were able to either connect me to hiring managers or recruiters. out of the 5 roles I applied to, 2 of them were never posted externally until after I had done final round interviews.
A friend of mine invited me to an open house at one of the companies I was interested in. When I was there, I was able to meet a recruiter who was hiring for PMM roles. I connected with her after the event and she setup time to talk to me about my background and interests, and she connected me to a few hiring managers.
On another occasion, a friend of mine put in a referral for a role. While I wasn’t qualified for it, another recruiter reached out to me because she was a PMM recruiter and wanted to get to know me better so she could look for other roles I might be a good fit for.
The takeaway: having a network helps
- Search for jobs – I used LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed for existing opportunities, and setup alerts to make sure I stayed on top of things. For emergent opportunities, I identified people in my network who worked at companies I was interested in, and made sure to let them know I was job searching. In most cases, these people were willing to keep their eyes open for potential roles, and connect me with recruiters and hiring managers.
- Connect with your network – Speak to people at companies you are interested in to find out more about their company, a role there, and if there are any opportunities.
- Prepare your Resume & LinkedIn – You don’t need to spend a ton of time on this but you do need to make sure these are in good shape. Here are some resources for it if you need them.
Step 5: Apply and Close
Once I was ready to hunt for jobs I went after it. For each job that I applied to, I made sure to have someone who worked at the company to refer me in. For every interview I did, I made sure to prep with my referrer either by chatting with them on the phone or talking via email. Finally, after each interview I did a debrief to make sure I understood what I did well and what I could do better.
- Company Deep Dives – For every company I interviewed at I did company deep dives to make sure I was up to speed on the current events and understood their business model, culture, and mission
- Interview Prep – This goes without saying, but I made sure to prepare for every interview
- Post–Mortems – After each interview, I wrote a post-mortem of the questions I was asked, what I learned, and what I thought I could do better for the next one
As someone who needs plans and playbooks, this is the process that worked best for me. Everyone is different, and while my plan worked for me there are lots of other ways to land a job in Product Marketing. While I’m still new to the job, I’m enjoying the experience, and while a lot of that has to do with what I’ve made of the role, much of it can be attributed to identifying a role/job that would be a good fit for me. If you’re thinking about a transition into product marketing, feel free to use this to guide or augment your existing search, or share your tips of how your finding success in the transition process!