Seeing as we just reached our first milestone in the discovery series, I thought I’d take a second and say congratulations! Congratulations on both the new gig and congratulations on reaching your first milestone in discovery, if you’ve been following along. It’s so important to celebrate everything we possibly can, especially since product managers are usually the last to be celebrated, if at all. I don’t mean to sound bitter; I want to present you with a hard truth about product management. While it’s one of the most rewarding career paths you can find, it’s also thankless.
So on to the good stuff. The reason you’re reading this article. I just got asked this question on my Instagram (@the.productcoach). After I answered it, I thought to myself two things: one, since I’m starting a new job as I write this, it’s perfect timing for me to share what I do whenever I start a new position regardless of the title, and two, there must be others wondering the same thing. So the question was: what are your top tips for hitting the ground running as a new product manager or with a new job in general. I shared four tips with this gentleman who asked me and here they are.
Tip 1: Set goals (or personal OKR’s) with your new manager
This one is so important for numerous reasons. Not only does this show that you are highly self-motivated and ready to hit the ground running, but it also indicates that you don’t need or want to wait until your reviews with your boss to start working toward success in your new job. It also gives you a clear definition of how you and your boss will define and measure your work. After we set the goals, I review my progress with my boss once a month in our weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one (1×1). Doing this opens the lines of communication with your new manager and says to them that you’re open to feedback and that you want to improve.
Tip 2: Network internally as much as humanly possible
Your network at the company is possibly the most critical asset you have. When you leave a job for a new one, you start that internal network again. Starting over like this can be both exciting and incredibly daunting.
I go about this by finding as many key stakeholders as possible from each department I’ll interact with and set up 1×1’s with them. Then, if things go well in the first or second 1×1, I’ll ask if we can meet regularly (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) depending on their schedule and what they prefer. For instance, at a previous job, I met with our head of marketing weekly, one of the directors of sales monthly, a few data analysts monthly, a director of customer success monthly, you get the idea.
Let one conversation lead to the next. Meaning, in my discussions with these stakeholders, I try to end each by asking, “Hey, so I’m trying to meet more people here; who else do you recommend I talk with, either on your team or just in general?”
Tip 3: Learn the product
Now, you might be thinking, “uh… no duh A-A-Ron!” You’d be surprised, though; I have been at a company where the other product manager couldn’t demo his piece of the product, let alone the whole thing. So my tip here is to give a demo to 3 people within those first six months (depending on how complicated your product is).
The three people you should be able to demo to:
A friend of yours in tech (if it’s a tech product)
This friend is in the industry, which means they will get it quicker than most. In addition, they’ll give helpful feedback if you ever need to demo to the internal groups or a technical user of your product.
Your significant other
Your significant other is someone you trust implicitly and will give you feedback on your delivery. This person will likely ask great questions coming from a total beginners perspective which might help determine usability issues. In other words, if your role touches UI/UX at all, pay attention to all of the questions your significant other asks. If your position doesn’t handle the UI/UX, be prepared to provide these questions to whoever is in that UI/UX role.
Your mom or grandmother (insert “your mom joke here”)
I wish I were telling a “your mom joke here,” but I ain’t joking! Similar to your significant other, your mother or grandmother will be able to help you work on your delivery and your elevator pitch for each feature. How do you explain all the features as easy to digest and succinctly as possible? Your mom knows how you explain it!
Tip 4: Discover customer problems
Check out my article for my full thoughts on discovering problems. But, I will say, I highly recommend listening to sales calls, customer success calls, customer interviews with the product team, etc. I also recommend getting on the phone with as many customers as possible. Any way to hear directly from customers in these first six months is crucial, whether recorded calls or live. Hearing directly from customers will help you figure out any quick wins you can work into the product and ship something of value as quickly as possible.
Congratulations on the new job! I hope these tips work for you and help you get up to speed and become irreplaceable at this company. Let me know in the comments or message me directly what else you’ve found helpful when you start a new job! Also, let me know how the job turns out for you and if these tips helped you. I’d love to know!
I look forward to hearing about your success!