It’s not always easy for a product manager to explain her precise role in building product. Every company defines product managers differently, and a product manager’s output is sometimes difficult to see or quantify. Product managers tend to use success metrics as a baseline for their experience (e.g. “We increased conversion by 300%!”) but of course it’s hard to tell if that was the product manager’s doing in some way, or not.
And since companies have such varying definitions of product management and what they want product managers doing, it makes it hard to find the right fit. The wrong fit in a product management role is brutal; it will only lead to incessant conflict and frustration. If a company wants a product manager focused in one area and they hire for people who are mostly interested in another, there’s going to be huge trouble. But this happens a lot, often because companies don’t do a great job of defining product management and the role. So there’s confusion all around.
Product managers need a portfolio, something they can point to that (a) shows what they actually did; and (b) explains how they think. The thinking part is the most important.
My suggestion is this: write.
Medium is the tool/resource of choice at the moment, so unless you have an existing brand, I’d go there. And write. Share what you’ve learned, how you think, how you tackle problems, how you communicate. Find other content online that resonates with you and share it, providing your own opinions and insight. Talk about products you’re trying, products you love, or products you hate. Explain. Explain some more.
Lately I’ve seen more and more PMs (junior and senior) sharing their experiences and opinions online. And I think that’s awesome! (I don’t want to link to any specific articles, in case those people already realized what I’m expressing here, and they’re writing as a way to build up their portfolio.) There’s a lot of noise, for sure, and since product management is so broadly defined it’s difficult to cut through that noise. But that’s OK. You’re not (necessarily) writing in order to be perceived as an expert; you’re writing so that when someone comes looking to hire a PM you can match up with them (or not), more easily. If you strongly believe that a product manager should be a product owner, and you’ve written that publicly, you can point to that when a company comes knocking and says, “our product managers are more project managers.”
I’ve been blogging for many years. It’s helped me in innumerable ways. Having said that, I reserve the right (because I’m human!) to change my thinking over time. In fact, I encourage people to change their thinking over time. Very little should be writ in stone. Opinions and ideas change. New information materializes. Don’t worry about writing something publicly and then being held to it forever. Get out there and build a portfolio of ideas, approaches, tactics, etc. that help others understand who you are and what type of product manager you are / want to be. I think it’s a great experience and a great exercise in trying to codify your own thoughts/beliefs in a way that’ll help you articulate what you care about and question yourself further (so you can continue to learn and adapt.)