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4 Ways To Be A Better Product Manager During A Crisis

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

These are trying times. I’ve been a product manager for 25 years and survived several economic crises. I’ll be honest. I’m nervous about the economy and the current job market.

As of early August, more than 37,000 workers in the U.S. tech sector have been laid off in mass job cuts so far in 2022, according to a Crunchbase News tally.

I’m a firm believer that looking for the silver lining in times like this can make a big difference in our well-being.

The way I look at it is you have two choices:

  1. You can live in fear that your company might be forced to lay people off (if that hasn’t already happened). Or:
  2. You can make the decision to take action and use the time you now have to move forward and advance your career.

Here are four things you can do now to take charge of your situation and grow your career as a product manager.

Build your network

So many of us are uncomfortable with networking. I have good news for you. There’s a way to connect with thousands of product managers without leaving your house! That’s right. If you have a Slack or Facebook account, you can connect with more than 50,000 other product people.

Whether you’re looking for a job or you’re a seasoned professional wanting to connect with like-minded individuals to exchange ideas or get advice, all of these product management communities have something to offer. For example, if you’d like to learn more about roles at a specific company, you can almost always find someone in one of these PM communities who’s willing to help.

Update your resume

Whether you have a job or not, this is the perfect time to dust off your resume and give it a makeover. If you’ve been in the same role for a while, you may find it challenging to go back and update your resume to reflect your accomplishments over the past few years. Just like product management has become more data-focused, so have hiring practices. Did you know that most companies now use software (Applicant Tracking System, aka ATS) to screen job applications?

According to a popular study by search services provider Preptel, as many as 75% of the candidates don’t make it past the ATS screening! An ATS-friendly resume is critical to a successful job hunt.

Here are some of my resources for creating the perfect PM resume.

Improve your time management skills

I see a lot of product managers wondering how to manage their backlogs or not spending time with their stakeholders because they’re not sure how to deal with all of those sometimes conflicting opinions. So they don’t do it. They find a million little tactical issues to contend with rather than just getting the hard things done.

The technique I’ve found to be most effective for managing one’s time is time-blocking. Check out my recent blog post to learn more (p.s. Elon Musk supposedly uses time blocking to run two companies!).

Read every day

I’ve made it a goal to read for at least 30 minutes every day. There are some outstanding books on product management out there. I’m currently reading Start with Why, The Jetsetters (for something light and easy), and The Body: A Guide for Occupants.

Another book that I’ve read that I highly recommend for anyone who needs some inspiration to find the silver lining while we get through these trying times is Man’s Search for Meaning.

Based on his experience in Nazi labor camps, and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, the author Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

If there’s just one book you read in the next month, I encourage you to order this. I read this years ago and have been thinking about it a lot recently.

I’ve also pulled together a collection of my favorite books, podcasts, and blogs I recommend everyone consume, whether you’re trying to break into product management, are starting a new PM job, or are a seasoned product expert.

These are just a few simple things you can do now to keep moving forward and take control of what is within your control.

The choice is yours. How will you use the time you have now? Will you use it to become a better product manager? I hope so!

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