Product Managers come from all walks of life, and wherever people are in their careers now, there are routes into product management. One of the most frequently followed routes is an internal transition.
When we're talking about internal transitions, we're talking about when you're already employed by an organization but in a non-product based role, and then your first product role is within the same organization after you have moved over from another role.
Of a survey I conducted in 2021, 50% of all product managers reported their first product opportunity as having come about from an internal transition.
So how do you make an internal transition?
Luke Frayling is a Senior Product Manager for a healthcare software provider and he managed to get his first product management role by working closely with the existing product team.
In my support roles I worked very closely with the product team, which gave me the opportunity to learn more and more from them, until an opening came up in their team, which I applied for and got.
In Luke's case it was a support to product transition, but there are similar stories from marketing, sales, design, and engineering.
The important thing here is, by working closely with the product team you become exposed to not just the team's members, but also their methods, their knowledge, and their day-to-day activities. It also allows you to contribute to their work whilst demonstrating the product skills that you have.
This closeness puts you in a great position when a new product role becomes available, as you'll already have a more thorough understanding of what's required than any other applicant walking in off the street.
If your current role doesn't put you directly alongside the product team, another option is to demonstrate your product management skills.
Maybe you are a user of the product that your company operates, in which case, there could be opportunities for you to provide value feedback on where the product can be adjusted in order to deliver additional value.
This was the case for Tom Elliott, who now is a Product Manager at a SaaS Talent Management and ERP provider.
I started giving them feedback regularly and really enjoyed working with the team there. They offered me the role as PM and it was a no brainer to go for it.
In the survey, networking actually came out as the second most frequent (23%) way to find a first product role (and it was also mine!), but this also applies within your current organization.
The more you can develop relationships with those in your organization, the more chances you have to demonstrate your skills, and the greater the chance you have of being front of mind when a new opportunity arises.
Therefore, it's worth investing some of your time to attend work social functions, engaging in group chats, and generally getting to know as many people as you can. you never know when an opportunity will arise and who has the ear of the recruiting manager.