26/30: Networking for Product Managers
Product managers are natural networkers. On the least busy day, you talk to at least your team, usually 5 or more people. On a really busy day, you might spend all your working hours talking to folks. Despite this, some PMs are reluctant to network outside of work.
Why should you build a network? Well, several great reasons.
Jobs. Despite the proliferation of sites that match job searchers with companies, one of the best ways to land product jobs is through connections. A lot of hiring managers actively look for visible candidates online.
Mentorship. A great way to find a mentor is to network with people in your industry. People are more likely to respond positively to an ask from a friendly face than they are a cold message. And this way you get to know a potential mentor before you start spending time together.
Upskilling. Immersing yourself in a community of people working in the same field will lead you to develop skills further through discussion and collaboration. Whether it’s a tweet or post or a joint project, working together and talking with your community will make you a better product manager.
Friendship. With so many people out there experiencing the daily grind just like you are, why not take the chance to get to know them? You’ll share stories and find a willing ear to help you look at your work from a different angle.
Context. I can’t emphasize this enough, but understanding that your job exists outside the confines of whatever your current employment reality is a hugely important factor for future success. Especially if you’ve been in one place for a long time. Get to know the big world out there.
“That’s all great, but how do I build a network?”
Well, there’s more answers than one to that. You’ve got to decide what you want to get out of networking.
If you’re looking for jobs, then keeping up with former coworkers can often be enough. Connect with people on LI and Twitter, and do what we all do on social media. Like, share, comment, and subscribe.
If you want a mentor, try following people whose posts or writing you like and share your own thoughts. You could also look into mentorship networks like ADPList.org or Mentor Mesh where you can connect with mentors directly.
To level up your skillset, try a side project or further training. Check out people like Shyvee Shi, Andrew Bowker, or Diego Granados if you’re just starting out. If you’re looking to grow into a senior PM or product leader, consider programs like Reforge or OnDeck.
Whatever it is you decide to do, just make sure it’s fun and interesting, so you can sustain the habit.
And that means you have to, too. But that’s what makes it all so fun in the first place!