How to Land your First Product Management Role

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Starting your product management journey is still not as simple as landing a job as a software engineer in Nigeria. It is because most startups building their products prioritize hiring experienced product managers with experience in building products. How do you navigate your way to build the experience needed? Here are some practical ways to help you kick start your product management journey:

Today, the tech space has some of the best-paying jobs in Nigeria and Africa. More companies are building products which have led to the rise of product managers in Nigeria. 

Starting your product management journey is still not as simple as landing a job as a software engineer in Nigeria. It is because most startups building their products prioritize hiring experienced product managers with experience in building products. 

As you may wish for an entry-level role, unfortunately, the reality is, there are not so many product associates and intern positions out there at the moment.

How do you navigate your way to build the experience needed? Here are some practical ways to help you kick start your product management journey:

Join an early-stage startup: 

That remains one of the fastest and current ways to kickstart your product management career in Nigeria. Joining an early-stage startup offers you the chance to grow with a product team, gain insights into their product development process.

You will learn how to relate with development teams (this might comprise mainly the founders and one or two more people) and also be able to experience managing a product’s development lifecycle along with the product owner, who at this stage could be either the Co-Founder or Founder of the company. However, there are two sides to this.

Pro(s): You get to learn and gain fundamental skills in different aspects of product management and general management you wouldn’t have gained early in a much bigger team.

Con(s): The pay is meagre in most cases; the startup might still be bootstrapping and may not be able to pay an industry standard.

Build Your Own Product:

That is a courageous path to take and will require a lot more grit than working in an early-stage startup. But while applying for associate roles as a product manager, you don’t have to stay idle. If you have a product you have always wanted to build, try to set up a team with the skills required to develop this product with you as the product manager. 

You will probably learn two times faster due to the pressure involved with pulling this off. You are responsible for selling the idea to people to bring them on board to work for free with a promise of equity. If you can do this, you have already started your product management journey, which always requires you to get lots of buy-ins, often on features and products in general. 

If you can successfully lead a team to build and launch a product, you would have learned so much within that space of time. Any technical recruiter will find this impressive. You might even get to skip starting from an associate level. 

Pro(s): If you can finish building the product, get it to the market stage, and solve a real problem, you never know; it could gain traction and attract investors.

Con(s): The emotional and mental demand required to keep people motivated with little or no immediate rewards is unreal, and that can take its toll on your mental health. You also need to ensure you have some source of income, no matter how small, while doing this or a sponsor helping to take care of the bills in the short term. 

Apply For Product Associate and Intern Roles

The reality of the high unemployment rate in Nigeria makes even internship and associate roles quite competitive, but the tech world is not for the lazy or mediocre. So, yes, apply with the mindset of going in for a competition you intend to win.

However, be ready to apply for as many openings as possible. Prepare your CV to show your greatest strengths and highlight any little experience you have (if any). Do not undersell yourself but avoid lies – this is always a tricky balance to find.

Pro(s): Going through interviews is always a great learning experience. If you don’t land the job on the first interview or first few interviews, it prepares you better for future considerations as you gradually build confidence and experience in handling interviews. However, that doesn’t suggest you can’t land a job on the first try.

Con(s): The chances of being rejected or not receiving feedback from recruiters on your first few interview attempts are higher than getting positive feedback. You must also prepare for this scenario and learn to move past it quickly.

Join Product Management Communities

Joining active online product management communities helps you network with product managers at all levels and is of tremendous benefit to your career, especially when trying to land your first product management job. 

You get job updates shared in these communities; you join webinar sessions with senior product managers where you get to ask pressing questions. You also get access to mentorship (directly and indirectly) from senior Product Managers within the communities (this is subject to your social and communication skills). For product communities, The best product communities in Nigeria and Africa are Product Dive and Product Tank, Lagos. If you are not already in these communities, join them now.

Pro(s): Networking well within these communities can help you bypass that painful process of submitting multiple resumes all around. Senior Product Managers first look within these communities to recruit before publicly advertising these jobs. You also get access to free learning materials and webinars that are of tremendous value to your career.

Con(s): There are barely any cons in this situation, but the closest might be that it might be hard for larger communities to get the kind of personal attention you need from the community manager.

Find a Product Management Mentor

Request for mentorship from experienced product managers who have walked your path and can guide how best to position yourself to land your first job. You can also benefit from their network. But it would be best if you learned not to bug these mentors with too many questions. Learn to do your research before asking them questions. Their duty is not to hold your hand every step of the way but to provide guidance only when necessary. 

Pro(s): If you are teachable and patient to get their take on things, you can avoid many rookie mistakes.

Con(s): Having a lovely mentor who might try to babysit you can make you mentally lazy and affect your growth.

Good luck with your job hunt! 

Our Product Management Bootcamp is coming up on 13th August 2021. Right there, you will be gaining the fundamental knowledge needed to start as a Product Manager or build your product.

If you are transitioning into Product Management, you intend to build a product, or you are already a founder but need to develop quality skills and share in the experience of Senior Product Managers.

You can now sign up here

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