This is a situation that many people face. They have a certain skill set, years of experience in a certain type of work and they now want a change. They want to move from one role to a different one. And they often face a roadblock in making that change. No one wants to hire them without showing the experience in that particular role.
For example: you have worked as a project manager in the IT space for the past 10 years and you now want to move into product management. Most often, this transition will not happen easily and will require concentrated effort on your part. And that was the case for my client, let’s call her Sarah(to protect her identity). She was in a field related to project management(again, protecting identity here) and wanted to move into product management in the same organization she worked for. However, the management and the HR folks at the organization denied her request on the grounds that she did not have the requisite prior number of years of experience as a product owner.
How can Sarah move from one job family to another? Here are 5 strategies to do the same:
- Firstly, I asked Sarah to determine why she wanted to move from role A into product ownership. I challenged her to think beyond the superficial reasons that arise when we think of making a change. This is also to ascertain if she is ‘jumping from the frying pan to the fire’ – meaning is she trying to run away from something that she runs to the other extreme end also referred to as the pendulum effect. I want to ensure that she is not landing in a worse spot than she is in now.
- In Sarah’s case, she had comparable experience in some past roles but without the formal title of a product owner. As a next step, I recommend taking inventory of your past experiences to identify what skills and experiences speak to the new role that you are interested in. Are there things that you have done in the past that are in the realm of a product owner’s responsibilities? Start making a list of those experiences and skills as well as any transferable skills from your current roles. This is what you will leverage to make your pitch and sell yourself for the new role.
- The next strategy is to connect with other people in similar roles. In Sarah’s case, since she did not want to move out of the organization she works for, I suggested she connect with other product owners within her organization. For those looking to move to a different organization, connect with product owners anywhere. The goal here is to understand what a day in the life of a product owner looks like along with understanding what life as a product owner entails. Additionally, speaking to people in the role gives Sarah the right language that she can adapt to and use in her pitch.To Sarah I recommended setting up lunch meetings, where she gets to ‘interview’ the product owner about the role. A few questions to bring up in the conversation include:
- What the role entails?
- What typical problems arise in this role?
- How are these problems resolved?
- What does the person like about the product owner role?
- What new skills did the PO have to learn?
- What did he/she learn on the job?
- If they could start all over again with the knowledge and experience they now have, what would they do differently in their role as a product owner?
- The next strategy involves getting involved with associations that cater to that role. In Sarah’s case, she would look for associations such as the Product Development and management association. Attending these trade association meetings, give Sarah knowledge about the latest and greatest in that industry. And gives Sarah an opportunity to connect with other product owners and managers! What a great way to get to connect with people in the role you aspire to be in and this could lead to a job offer as well!
- Lastly, I asked Sarah take a look at what classes and courses and certifications exist. See how this knowledge can help. Sometimes, taking a class itself is not sufficient. People want to see that you can use the knowledge that you learnt. They want to see that you did project work or an internship in the new skill set you acquired. Depending on the skill, you may want to look for classes that offer these experiences as well.
Moving from one job family to another does not have to remain an aspiration. It can become a reality too by taking the right steps in that direction as outlined in this post.
What job family are you aspiring to move into?