A summary of inspiring and (sometimes) hard lessons learned over the summer
The pandemic’s flipped over our lives. If we’re lucky (“lucky” being a relative term here), the big problem we face is the loss of face-to-face experiences.
I may be an introvert, but I don’t function as well without company. I need one-on-ones to feel inspired and to get fired up.
So over the past few months, I went on a LinkedIn and Slack blitzkrieg to feel more connected with others (at least within the digital space). I’d also wrapped up Product School, and I wanted to get a deeper understanding of Product Management as a culture as well as a community.
Five words describe this jumpstarted journey: “Lots of trial and error.”
YET it’s been a beautiful one thus far. This accelerated exploration has led me to discover more about myself as well as my professional goals!
In my last article, I jumped into my crash course in networking. Just to recap, here were the key points, which were based on my experiences and learnings:
- Do your homework
- Ask open questions
- Listen & listen
- Share lit
- Share with others, see if you vibe
- Keep the chat going, be supportive
Here’s a secret: Product Management is not Fight Club. You SHOULD talk about it if you want to get ahead. Talk and listen. Listen and talk.
I’m trying to get at an overarching principle here:
Go in to play the long game when it comes to networking. It’s called “connecting” for a reason.
Before we launch into the holidays, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts I picked up that could be helpful if you’re looking to build your PM community.
DO personalize your invite and start out strong with an enthusiastic, human first (digital) impression.
DON’T be a robot. The flat, autofill requests and messages are a dime a dozen- PM’s from Analysts to CPOs get them a LOT. How do YOU stand out from this piled on inbox? People are more receptive stories, so start off with a digestible bit of yourself!
DO engage in their content!
DON’T just barge (it’s not sliding at that point) into their DMs demanding that they do something for you. You have a better chance if you’re already adding value to their interests, teachings, and experiences. Increase visibility by liking their posts, and give them something new to think about by following a “yes, and” approach to their posts on LinkedIn. They’ve posted to start a conversation. Be that conversation starter.
DO be mindful of their time. For all the yes’s, send an agenda prior to the coffee chat (which helps steer the conversation) and show up early!
DON’T presume they’ll have time to jump on a Zoom call with you willy-nilly and demand one. You might just have to build that trust and reliability. Either way, just dust yourself off and move on if you get a no. Your success rate in connecting will gradually increase as you become more of a skillful storyteller/listener.
DO ask thoughtful questions (which gradually come with experience and research)!
DON’T waste their time by asking things that could be casually Googled. If you’ve managed to wrangle a chat with potential additions to your PM circle, treat it as a golden opportunity to get them to talk about themselves. The benefits? 1) You’ll learn something valuable about the industry and best practices, and 2) you’ll start to decipher what makes them tick, their influence points
DO follow up! Show how you’ve applied what you’ve learned to them in practice – tell them how the experiment turned out.
DON’T treat potential mentors/managers/colleagues as a temporary means to a one-sided transaction. Otherwise, you’re on a one-way train to Forget-Me Town — or worse! LinkedIn and Slack are more of hubs to build actual relationships, and you should make the most of that! Some people will be interested to see how you’re doing, especially in PM!
To conclude with a gentle nudge, the best Product Managers are keen on growth. Keep that in mind while affirming to yourself that you (yes, you!) have value. Frame whatever passions or projects you have — the things that make you YOU — as an undertaking with growth potential. Appeal to their growth mindset when it comes to adding value.
Double chocolate fudge brownie points if you can spin all of this as a notable benefit for your connection and their own progress.
Go for gold!