4 Ways To Become A Better Product Manager During A Crisis

These are trying times. I’ve been a product manager for 25 years and I’ve survived several economic crises. I’ll be honest. I’m nervous about what the COVID-19 pandemic is going to do to the global economy. But I’m also a strong believer that looking for the silver lining in times like this can make a big difference in our well-being.

The way I look at it is you have two choices: you can live in fear that your company might be forced to lay people off (if that hasn’t already happened) OR you can make the decision to take action and use the time you now have to move forward and advance your career.

Here are four things you can do now to take charge of your situation to grow your career as a product manager.

Build your network

So many of us are uncomfortable with networking. I have good news for you. There’s a way to connect with tens of thousands of product managers without leaving your house! That’s right. If you have a Slack or Facebook account, you can connect with more than 50,000 other product people.

Whether you’re looking for a job or you’re a seasoned professional wanting to connect with like-minded individuals to exchange ideas or get advice, all of these product management communities have something to offer. If you’d like to learn more about roles at a specific company, for example, you can almost always find someone in one of these PM communities who’s willing to help.

Update your resume

Whether you have a job or not, this is the perfect time to dust off your resume and give it a makeover. In fact, if you’ve been in the same role for a while, you may find it challenging to go back and update your resume to reflect your accomplishments over the past few years. Just like product management has become more data-focused, so have hiring practices. Did you know that most companies are now using software (Applicant Tracking System, aka ATS) to screen job applications.

According to a popular study conducted by search services provider Preptel, as many as 75% of the candidates don’t make it past the ATS screening! An ATS friendly resume is absolutely critical to a successful job hunt.

Here are some of my resources for creating the perfect PM resume.

Improve your time management skills

I see a lot of product managers wondering how to manage their backlogs or not spending time with their stakeholders because they’re not sure how to deal with all of those sometimes conflicting opinions. So they just don’t do it. They find a million little tactical issues to contend with rather than just getting the hard things done.

You are a product manager. Just like you manage a product, you have to manage your time.

The technique I’ve found to be most effective for managing one’s time is time-blocking. Check out my recent blog post to learn more (p.s. Elon Musk supposedly uses time blocking to run two companies!).

Read every day

I’ve made it a goal to read for at least 30 minutes every day. There are some great books on product management out there. I’m currently reading Start with Why, The Jetsetters (for something light and easy) and The Body: A Guide for Occupants.

Another book that I’ve read which I highly recommend for anyone who needs some inspiration to find the silver linings while we get through the next several weeks is Man’s Search for Meaning. Based on his experience in Nazi labor camps, Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, the author Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purposeI. If there’s just one book you read in the next month, I encourage you to order this. I read this years ago and have been thinking about it a lot recently.

I’ve also pulled together a collection of my favorite books, podcasts and blogs I recommend everyone consume, whether you’re trying to break into product management, are starting a new PM job or are a seasoned product expert.

These are just a few simple things you can do now to keep moving forward. The choice is years. How will you use the time you have now? Will you use it to become a better product manager? I certainly hope so!

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