I am a Product Manager. What are you?

When I first started my job search I was looking for a replacement to what I was: General Manager.  However, I soon realized that I didn’t have the experience in years, size of company, size of team, scope of product(s), etc. to compete with other people who had the general manager title.  So, I went back to where I was more comfortable: business analyst or project manager.

I had a degree in Computer Information Systems, and an MBA, and had been a general manager for almost two years, but everything I learned was self-taught, with no mentors and no system in place.  I figured it would be a good idea to get what I’ll call institutionalized experience – not from a university but from the systems within a functioning business.

If you asked me then, like now, I would have told you I was passionate about the intersection of technology and business.  How to solve business problems with technology solutions. Because of my early work programming Simplot’s intranet (which was a lot of fun), I was most passionate about web technologies.  And, I have always been interested in a role within a company that had strategy and vision as part of it’s functions.

When I was searching for business analyst and project management roles, I came across a title that was new to me: product manager.  It turns out that a product manager is like a mini CEO… this is the person who owns a product and is responsible for the vision, strategy, execution, marketing, and profitability of a product.

Wow… you mean I could do all the stuff I wanted to do, even without being the company’s CEO? Don’t get me wrong… CEO is where I wanted to go, but I didn’t think that I could be one anytime soon… I’d have to get more “gray hairs.”  But this product manager opportunity… wow!

As you probably know, I never landed a job as a product manager. Instead, I launched The Worst Job Search Ever, and eventually started JibberJobber.  Fast forward to today… it’s almost been eleven years since I got laid off and started this journey.  If any of you have ever been an entrepreneur, you’ll know that as the years go by, you really question the value that you bring to a corporate environment. As an entrepreneur, you do so many things that you are not sure what you specialize at.

A few months ago, I was chatting with a recruiter friend of mine and said “you know, if I wanted to get a job, I have no idea what title I would even look for.  You know me… what do you think?”

To my surprise (because I had kind of forgotten about it) and delight, he said “You should look for a job as a product manager.


A recruiter, trained to see what roles people could fill in a company, saw me as a product manager!

Over the last few weeks I’ve done some searches on product manager jobs in my area, and have been making a list of functions that product managers do.  This compilation is a list that is helping me restructure my role and job and duties at JibberJobber.  I’m virtually rewriting my job and duties, and those job descriptions are helping me.

I wonder, how many of you would benefit from this type of exercise?  Discovering the right job title for your (a) capabilities and (b) passions and interests, and then drilling down and defining what you actually do in that role, and what the value to the organization is.  This is what I would consider part of a career recalibration… a reality check.

It’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I’ve figured I was indeed hireable again, and going through this tactical exercise is helping me understand my value in the market.  For a lot of the people I meet at my presentations, I’d suggest this is an important exercise to really understand that you still do offer value, and you still can have fun in your career… and that you are not a has-been.  I know that the longer a job search goes, the more you feel that way… so do what I’ve been doing and start drilling down on the role(s) you would really excel at!

1 thought on “I am a Product Manager. What are you?”

  1. Jason, like you it seems we share job search strategy thinking. It is exactly what everyone in what next confusion could be doing. Well done!

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