What to Look for in Your Next Product Job

These tips will help you find a role that’s aligned with your goals, skills and values.
Headshot of Olivia Belitsky
Olivia Belitsky
Expert Contributor
July 13, 2021
Updated: July 19, 2021
Headshot of Olivia Belitsky
Olivia Belitsky
Expert Contributor
July 13, 2021
Updated: July 19, 2021

Have you noticed that a lot of people you know are changing jobs recently? Or maybe you’re feeling the itch to start looking elsewhere. You’re not alone: The Great Resignation is coming.

According to Axios, anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of workers are looking for their next role once the pandemic ends. What interests me is their reasons why: 80 percent are concerned about career advancement, while 72 percent are rethinking their career skill set. One software developer told NPR, “The pandemic has changed my mindset in a way, like I really value my time now.”

I’m no stranger to changing jobs; I worked on nine product teams at three companies in my first four years out of college. While this meant that I was the new person way more frequently than I would have liked — so many times that I even wrote a guide on how to onboard — it also meant my skills were being challenged all the time, both in breadth (learning different types of products and industries) and depth (mastering foundational skills). 

Based on my experience, I recommend all of my product peers not be afraid of changing companies or teams if they feel their skills are stagnating. It will only make you stronger! This guide will dive into two important questions: Is it time to leave your product job — and if so, what should you look for next?

 

Is It Time to Leave Your Product Job?

Questions to Ask If You Think You Should Leave Your Product Job:

  • Are you excited about what you’re building?
  • Are you challenged enough?
  • Are your skills improving?
  • Is your product and company aligned with your values?
  • What do you stand for?

Are you excited about what you’re building? Life is too short to build products you don’t care that much about. I’m not saying you have to find your life’s fulfillment in your work — though it’s cool if you do! — but you deserve to work on a product that brings you delight, too.

Are you challenged enough? Are your skills improving? By asking if your role is challenging enough, I’m not referring to having too many deadlines or an unreasonable manager. Instead, I’m curious if you are stretching your skills by taking on new projects. It’s important that each quarter, you see growth both in the breadth and depth of your skills. If you aren’t, that means you’re stagnating in your role.

Is your product and company aligned with your values? What do you stand for? I believe that we product managers are here to support and help our users. Are you building a product that is truly helping others? Are you working for a company that is contributing some good to the world? There are no absolute right or wrong answers here, only what is right for you. For me, there are some companies and industries I won’t work for because they are misaligned with my values. Trust me, it’s way easier to like your job when you believe in your company’s mission.

More Expert Insights From OliviaEngagement Is a Useless Success Metric. Track This Instead.

 

How to Find the Right Fit at Your Next Company

Questions to Ask During Your Next Product Job Interview:

  • How do you measure this product’s success?
  • Where do ideas come from?
  • What are you excited to work on in the next year?
  • What challenges do you want to solve?
  • What skills or personality traits does someone need to thrive in this role?

If you have decided it’s time to find your next role, it’s imperative that you find a position on a product you’ll love building at a company that will support your growth. As someone who has interviewed for more than 50 product roles, I’ve discovered that you learn the most about fit by asking these questions during your interview.

How do you measure this product’s success? This question is key because the performance of your product will be the primary benchmark by which your job performance is measured. Some products, especially in the e-commerce industry, have very clear North Star metrics and KPIs. Others, frequently in the B2B or software space, have less clear success metrics. Personally, I feel more empowered when I know what goal I’m working toward, whether it’s revenue, enrollments or NPS. If your interviewer gives you a vague or uncertain answer, this could be a red flag that the organization as a whole is not aligned with the goals or long-term vision of the product.

Where do ideas come from? Brilliant ideas can come from anyone in the organization, though every company is different. Some companies are very top-down, where leadership decides your roadmap and you are expected to execute it. Other companies thrive on collaborative brainstorming, where you may spend hours every week just intaking and vetting new ideas from all over the organization. I have worked in both environments, and I much prefer the latter.

What are you excited to work on in the next year? What challenges do you want to solve? When you ask this question, your interviewer’s eyes should light up with excitement! Maybe they can’t tell you exactly what they’re building, but they should be able to convey to you that it’s something worthwhile and fulfilling. After all, would you want to work somewhere where you’d be building something boring to you?

What skills or personality traits does someone need to thrive in this role? Every company and team is looking for something different in the product managers. Some companies may need someone extremely diligent and detail-oriented to bring technical products to market, while others may need a stargazing visionary to move boldly into new markets. Beware of interviewers who say they are looking for “a little bit of everything” or vaguely say “someone well-rounded”. This frequently means they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for in the role and could lead to a mismatch.

 

The Takeaway

It’s time to find a role that’s aligned with your goals, skills and values. As product managers, we are responsible for the products and features our team puts out into the world. I am committed to being an advocate for my users and building products that help them solve their problems and add value to their lives. I hope you find your path too, friend.

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