Early this year, I suddenly found myself in the job hunt phase. After a rather comfortable stay of 3+ years in the same organization, I decided to give myself a change. I was out in the job market and all that I had learnt in the past 3 years was being validated, judged, and scored. I was interviewing for product manager roles and that’s when I realized how I had completely ignored the most important product I had complete control on. The product ‘Taruna’. Sure the job market product ‘Taruna’ worked great but what about its marketing, its pricing, and its sales?! The job hunt phase gave me a good opportunity to work on all of these and create a platform to continue working on it from there on. I accepted I was a product to the job market and decided that this product must classify as the sexiest one out there in its domain.
Job hunt was a true test of how well managed was the brand Taruna, and how did I perform as the CEO of Taruna Inc.
This post aims to share some lessons I realized during this terrible yet amazing phase. In case you’re interested in reading how & why I resigned from my previous job, please follow this link.
In the job market, you either build products, or you are the product. And I have no shame in accepting I am the latter. This classification is as simple as saying that either you’re an entrepreneur or you’re everybody else. And one position is no better than the other. You can make a meaningful difference in yours and others lives by playing either of the roles as well as you can.
If you’re like me, and you’re the product in the job market, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you find your next dream stint.
What does your product do? Does it have a story or is it a feature bloat that’s hard to explain & hard to understand?
When I started job hunting, I was super proud of myself! And why not? In 3 years, I had virtually done everything — sales, customer support, digital marketing, user & market research AND product management! You name it and I had done that stuff in B2B SaaS domain. My resume (or marketing website) didn’t follow the one rule great product managers swear by — NO feature creep!
In the very first interview that I appeared for, after lots and lots of back and forth, I was finally given a feedback on the lines of, “we love you! You seem to have done amazing work! You’re going to kick asses in near future but” Yes, my happy story ended with a but. “… but we are not sure where to put you!”
It took me days to realize why such smart people were unsure where to put this smart lady in their organization chart. And that was because the smart lady wasn’t smart enough to tell them where she fit in! She never told them which cog was she in that wheel.
And have you heard about customers not knowing what they want? This was one classical case of that. I was bad at telling the customer what the product ‘Taruna’ did and where in their need cycle did it fit beautifully. I left it on the customer to figure out the need. Wrong. Bad move.
I learnt from it and went on to thread a story around my complete past work experience. I stopped saying Taruna can do this, that, that, and even that! Instead I started saying, ‘Taruna builds successful products and she goes on to do all that’s required for it. If need be, she can sell it herself to prove there’s a market, she can support and champion the users because she has the ability to understand the products & user needs very well, and she can market it beautifully because she has the knack of understanding exactly which problem users are looking to solve using the product she built. And as a proof of this claim, she has done all of this.’
Now, didn’t this sound like a threaded story?
(What’s your story? Tell me in comments below. :))
How well does your product’s marketing website or your resume perform?
Much before people start using your product, or sign-up for it, or even decide to invest time evaluating it, they look at the product’s marketing website. Bad news for you, no matter how beautiful your content is, how well your features & testimonials & numbers are structured, all that most users are looking for is that one thing that’ll convince them that you are worth their time. They are looking for a hero.
On average, a resume gets 6 seconds worth of glance. Count till 6, and you’ll know how short a duration that is. Now go back and look at your resume. Is it optimized for those 6 seconds? Or the reviewer would spend those 6 seconds scrolling through the 6 pages of your resume? Good news is, you make that choice. If your experience is anywhere between 0 to 6 years, a one pager is good enough. Go ahead and add an extra page for every next 6 years. And don’t forget to have a hero in your resume. Hero is what stands out in your resume. It’s that one thing the reviewer will read even if s/he skips reading the entire resume. Highlight something that you’re most proud of and make that your resume’s hero.
While going through the exercise of working on my marketing website or my sales brochure, I stripped my resume from 3 pages to 1, and 840 to 406 words. Also, my resume now has a hero, it clearly shows that I enjoy, have the talent of, and find opportunities to take things off from scratch to success.
Also, don’t shy away from getting feedback. Show your resume to couple of your friends, seniors, or colleagues, and ask them if they’d be willing to talk to you further looking at your resume.
Your resume is where all of it begins. Make that first impression count.
(If you’d like to have a look at my resume or need help getting feedback on your resume, feel free to PM.)
What’s your sales pitch?
Imagine a multi-million investor suddenly came right in front of you and asked you to sell yourself in no more that 60 seconds; what would you say? Have you said the answer aloud in front of the mirror a hundred times already? If either of the answers is no, go do it right now. Your product’s worth is as much as your sales pitch. There are two (and only two) ways to win a sale, either your product does the talking, or you know to talk your product. Those two, and nothing else. If you aren’t already a brand in the job market that you won’t need to do the talking, it’s always better to learn the latter.
Prepare a sales pitch. Prepare your story. And do it today. Practice it. Ask for closures, and often. And keep following-up! If you’re going to be around in the job market for a while, it’s time you learnt to sell. Yourself.
How have you priced yourself?
Are you in a monopolistic market or a commodity market? Put simply, are there lot more people with skills that you have, or do you have some expertise in an area that is hard to find. If you’re in a monopolistic market, well done, you get to decide the price. If you’re in commodity market, look around, and find out the average price. Then again, look around, and find out if you’re a below average product, an average product, or an above average product in that commodity market. If you’re are smart enough to know both the average price and your position in the market, and with little bit of basic math, you can easily calculate your price. Ensure that the cost you ask for your product is less than the value you can provide. That’s how the conventional market works — customers must see a positive ROI in buying you / from you.
Know your worth, and ask for it. :)
And know a secret, big enterprises are scared & suspicious of cheap products, no matter how well it works.
Are you catching up with the industry?
What are you doing to keep yourself relevant to the changing market and user needs? A good product manager always has an eye on the market and an eye on the user. She keeps assessing the world around her to proactively pivot, enhance, or strip down the product so as to keep her product relevant to the market and relevant to the user.
Are you adding skills that can help you get better at your job? Are you constantly asking for feedback? Are you keeping an eye on which skills are becoming valuable to the job market and which skills may eventually die? And most importantly are your new skills adding up to and enhancing your brand’s story?
I don’t care if you’re actively looking for a job or not, you must answer all these questions to yourself right now. And make all efforts to make and keep yourself relevant to the industry.
How much do you know about the competition?
If you’re in the commodity market, it’s very important that you know other players in your market. Know how you differentiate from them, and what are your unique points.
Social media has made it super simple to even follow the best, and learn from them. Go ahead and find the best people in your domain/industry, stalk them, and make them your digital mentors (never mind, if it’s a one-sided relationship). Read what they are reading (most of them will share it with their followers), find out what skills they have, and figure out how you can go about learning what they know.
Do you have friends, colleagues, ex-bosses, and managers who can vouch for your work? Do you have a network who can recommend you? If not, start building it today. Much like the traditional market, where people buy from people they trust, you are bound to benefit from a recommendation from somebody who has a better brand, or a better product than you do.
And lastly, like any good product manager, know these 4 things about your product very well:
- what problems do you solve? Companies are not looking for titles, they are looking for growth. They don’t want you to know 10 different programming languages, they want you to code the solution.
- who is your target market? Always know which types of companies and people look for products like you and always keep working towards making yourself relevant to them.
- how big is the opportunity? Howsoever you may evaluate it (monetarily, personal work satisfaction, brand value of the company you want to work for, or the amount of learning), but always try to estimate the worth of your stint. The one thing that sets you apart from other products is that you will have only one customer at one time. Make an informed choice.
- how do you measure success? Again, howsoever you may evaluate it (money, happiness, number of big brands on your resume, learning), have a success criteria for your brand. And keep measuring yourself against it.
If you liked what you just read, and maybe learnt a thing or two, please recommend this post, so others can find it too.