Some points for wondering and wandering into your future professional network
Looking into Product but don’t know where to start?
Like with a lot of industries (but even more so with Product Management), your greatest assets may well be your people. Your connections. Your community.
The reality of things? Usually, you’re gonna have to go to them before they come to you. Network, network, network.
Fall into the rabbit hole, and be willing to jump into a series of happy accidents.
What I mean to say is be like Mario and treat the available options like Star Roads- shortcuts that will eventually get you where and with whom you want to be. If you start off community-agnostic (especially on Slack), you can start narrowing down to see what you really want — which product leaders blow your mind and which aspiring PMs inspire you.
Here, YOU’RE the customer. What are YOUR needs?
Keep in mind that each community is different, so start broad to figure out what you want and tailor to that.
I’ll start with a few platforms that have nudged me forward:
Leave it to chance with this free AI professional weekly matchmaking platform and have virtual coffee chats with designers, engineers, and founders from all walks of life. Also join in on startup fireside chats!
The blessing about PM as an industry is that the organization can be pretty flat. Word of caution, though: be mindful of people’s time. If they’re more senior, it might be more effective if you start a conversation and then ask good questions instead of jumping to schedule a 1-on-1. Read the room wisely. Either case, you want to show that you hold their opinions and guidance in high regard by asking questions and engaging with their content. It doesn’t hurt to be a cheerleader. This is my main platform for interacting with new connections, regardless of industry.
A huge pool of some of the most enlightening product content I’ve ever read. Also, it’s an opportunity for you to find some of your rockstar thought leaders- engage with them there or geek out over their articles on LinkedIn. I contacted my first product mentor after reading her inspiring article series for ALL PMs. By reaching out and building that bridge of trust, she gave me my first foray into product: a consultation for a startup. She also introduced me to an outstanding product coach and thought leader who brought me into his own community.
And here’s to all the Slack communities I’ve loved…
PM Book Club: Led to my co-founding partner and more exposure to thought leaders ✌
Women in Product: My first PM conference (WIP 2020 was AMAZING) and a great network
SIDE PRJCT: My first project to ideate, develop, and ship (in the works!) 🎆
Can’t find one that meets all of your criteria for a fulfilling community experience within PM? Build your own! Treat THAT as a product!
Need a crash course in networking?
DO YOUR HOMEWORK 🤓🔎
Check their experience on LinkedIn, their content on social media, any speeches or workshops they’ve led. Find any areas of commonality. And I can’t stress this enough: always customize your LinkedIn requests. It shows you’re investing in them and caring about what they think. To your benefit, it raises the likelihood of responsiveness.
ASK OPEN QUESTIONS 🤠❓
“Yes/No” questions can be useful, but wouldn’t you want to get more stories and data beyond single-word answers? Also, show that you’re trying to understand where they’re coming from before contacting them — be the investigative journalist that treats questions as deeper follow-ups. Gives you more ground to cover on the wild frontier that is PM.
LISTEN & LISTEN 👁👄👁👂
You learn more by listening, especially as a greenhorn. Listen to different product experiences. Hear the stories, and even more so, dive into the needs and problems that emerge. It’s practice for the prize, and the more wisdom you have earlier on, the more prepared you’ll be for conversations, applications, and interview.
SHARE LIT 📚💭
PM stands out as a community book club. Because problems evolve, the toolkit must follow. THIS is where you can add value: the best leaders I’ve met are open to new ideas, no matter where you are on the product path. Bond over standard product tools! Send articles/posts that remind you of them, their interests, how they find meaning in their roles. Chances are you’re getting their wheels turning.
SHARE WITH OTHERS, SEE IF YOU VIBE ✨ 🍻
This is coming from a natural introvert: it can take extra work to open up to strangers, but oftentimes, the rewards are worth the stakes. Opening up can be reciprocated, and who knows, you might be connecting with your future boss or teammate. If you can geek out on something together, you’re on your way to getting gold. PM is a human discipline.
KEEP THE CHAT GOING, BE SUPPORTIVE 💬🎉
Can’t level up if you don’t follow up. You do YOURSELF a disservice if you log off after one coffee chat. Tune into their content (and don’t forget to like/comment for more exposure!!!), post any key lessons they taught you and credit them, and/or support them on the many platforms available.
And voilà, you’ve started building your community!
You have value to add, even from the start. The options are open and ready for the taking.
So what do you do? Go.