Roadmap Your Product Management Career Plan

As the New Year begins, inevitably we take stock of where we are with our current job and how we want to develop ourselves professionally in order to fulfil our career and life aspirations. You may have already started developing or updating your Product Roadmap, but what about your Career Roadmap?

Developing your Product Management Career Plan is not too dissimilar from developing a Product Roadmap. You need to chart your course with Professional goals and objectives, and of course every Product Manager loves a good ol’ Ideation Session!

Ideating Your Product Management Career Plan

During your Product Management Career Ideation session, things to consider are:

  • Which Product Management role models do you aspire to & why?
  • Breakdown the characteristics of different roles you might consider.
  • Make a list of professionals you admire and what they do for work.
  • Look at roles within your team, organisation or elsewhere that you aspire to have one day.
  • Review areas of Product Management that you love.
  • Understand the characteristics of a good and a bad Product Manager.
  • Ask yourself if you want to be more of a generalist or a specialist within Product Management?
  • If you’d like to be more of a specialist Product Manager, what skills do you need to build and to what degree of competency?
  • What existing Product Management skills, experience & other personal assets would you like to exploit?
  • Where do your Product Management skill gaps lie?
  • Are you proficient at each stage of Product Delivery and Day to Day Product Operations?
  • Look at industries where your existing skills may be transferrable.
  • If there is a new industry that you’d like to transfer your Product Management skills to, what additional requirements do you need?
  • What professional development areas do you shun from but you know are important to get to the next rung of your Product Management career? Eg public speaking
  • What DON’T you want in your next job?
  • What type of people DON’T you want to work with in your next job?
  • What DON’T you like about Product Management?

It may seem odd to consider the non-aspirational characteristics of Product Management, but like any good Ideation session, it’s important to get all ideas onto paper to help define the areas that are worth exploring. Constraints such as areas that you no longer want to focus on and what you DON’T aspire to in your career are also useful in helping you generate new ideas that wouldn’t otherwise come to mind.

Steve Johnson suggests that in addition to the list above, we should also consider these other questions:

  • What activities do you really enjoy? After all, you surely do better work when you enjoy what you’re doing!
  • How do you define of product management–is it a business role or a technical one? Is it more about defining products or delivering them to market?
  • Do you prefer working with developers or with sales people?

Prioritise Which Skills You Need to Develop

Once you have compiled your bucket list of job aspirations and areas for growth, you need to determine which area are most critical to develop immediately and determine how long it is going to take you.

If there is a career progression that you see yourself following, map out what the next few jobs might look like to get you to where you want to be. If you are one of the lucky few who have more than a Horizon 1 Career Plan in mind, prioritise which skills, experience and assets you need to develop based on the following criteria and/or others that you might see fit:

  • Which skills, experience and assets are the most valuable in the short term (your current employer in your current job).
  • Which skills, experience and assets are the most essential for you to achieve your medium to long-term career goals.
  • Level of difficulty to become proficient in the skills area and the duration it will realistically take for you to get to the expected level of proficiency to nab that job that you aspire to?
  • What you are most passionate about?

Creating Your Product Management Skills Development Plan

As you are developing your more granular Skills Development Plan, consider what new daily habits you need to develop in order to realistically achieve these Professional Development milestones. Ideally, tie in the Skills Development Plan with other areas of your life to increase your commitment, better still, find other colleagues or a study buddy in your network who you’d like to work with to build up a specific skill together. It will increase your accountability.

Share your Skills Development Plan with your boss, colleagues and mentors so that they may support you and give you feedback on how you tracking along.

Throughout the year, try to revisit the Skills Development Plan and goals at least monthly. Set a monthly team meeting with your manager, colleague or mentor when you share how you are tracking, congratulate each other on each other’s milestones and discuss any blockers to achieving your goals.

Go Forth and Create Your Product Management Destiny!

Seize control of your own destiny in your career and make this the year that you will shine in the areas that are important to you in your long-term Product Management career. It will deliver greater personal satisfaction in your life to know that you are working towards your own personal goals, not just the organisation’s agenda. Ultimately you will be the best Product Manager you are capable of being, by developing the professional areas that are most relevant & appealing to you.

Be the best that you can be as a Product Manager! There are so many areas to explore and many of the skills are transferable to industries if you are looking for a change. All the best in growing your career!