How do I write a resume for a position I haven't formally done?

Any advice on getting into Product Management? I have lots of experience with this type of work, although not by title, and I'm having trouble communicating that experience on my resume/cover letters. Every PM job requires 3+ years experience in a PM role! - Anonymous

I know this problem well. When I was a book editor in NYC I wanted to transition careers into technology and building products. The problem was, unless you’re intimately familiar with what a book editor does it’s hard to see the parallels with product management. I probably sent out 200 resumes trying to make this transition and got ZERO INTEREST. 

Needless to say, I feel your pain. 

What ended up happening with me is I got a job in an editorial/marketing/merchandising position at Amazon. It wasn’t the product management job that I wanted but it was adjacent to A LOT of product management. 

This enabled me to get closer to the action, continue to learn, and eventually start building product at Amazon. When I made the official transition to a Sr. Product Manager role on the Kindle team it was because I could point to products I had built and the impact they had.

I don’t know any specifics of your work experience so my advice is general here but basically you need to:

  1. Show that you have built things
  2. Get in front of the right hiring manager of the right opportunity

To my first point, showing that you have been able to take raw resources and make something is table stakes. For anything more senior than an intern/entry-level position, demonstrating that what you made solves a problem and had impact is a pretty basic requirement for product management roles. Having built something is a shorthand way of saying that you understand the million different things that go into building and launching products.

If you haven’t built a product per se, that’s OK! That was the position I was in when I was trying to transition from editorial to product management. Which brings me to my second piece of advice. 

Sometimes getting into the right company or learning environment is more important than landing a specific role. In my case, I wasn’t ready to be a product manager at Amazon when I applied for product roles. BUT I was ready for Amazon and it proved to be one of the best possible places to learn about product management. 

If you take a slightly longer view of your goal the questions might be less about how to make yourself look like a product manager in your resume and more about where can you get a job that lets you build product no matter what your title is?

Sending out resumes and not gaining consideration, especially when you know you can be great at something, can be terriblly discouraging. For me the answer was to take a slightly longer view and find another path. 

I don’t know the specifics of your situation so I can’t say precisely what your resume or cover letter should say that it’s not saying now but this is what I look for when reading resumes for product management:

  • Has this person built a product? What was the scope? What was the situation? What was the product?
  • How / why has this person been successful building product before? Was this person a driver of or cog in the process?
  • What impact / results has this person had by building product? To the business? To UX?

If someone has demonstrated they can build something and own / drive the process than I’m looking for details that help me see how a person might add value in different situations?

  • What’s this person’s domain expertise?
  • How technical is this person?
  • How experienced is this person?
  • Etc.

And underlying all this I’m trying to see if I catch any glimmers as to what motivates you to pursue a particular position. Why do you want to be a product manager?

Hope this helps!
Gregory Rutty


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