Treat Your Career As A Product

career Sep 01, 2021

For those of us in the world of product management, we love to iterate, talk to customers, build strategies, and think about amazing products.  The challenge is we forget all of our product principles when it comes to our career.

Let’s walk through how you can use basic product principles to fast-track to product leadership, reduce burnout, and love what you do. Specifically, let’s use the principles of design thinking.

“Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation—anchored in understanding customer’s needs, rapid prototyping, and generating creative ideas—that will transform the way you develop products, services, processes, and organizations.”IDEO U 

The elements of design thinking are “empathy, optimism, iteration, creative confidence, experimentation, and an embrace of ambiguity and failure.”  We use these principles everyday as product managers. Let’s go through how to apply them to your product career.

1. Frame It as a Question

Frame your challenges as a question.

First Step:

Make a list of all the issues you can identify with your current work situation. For example:

  • Work too many hours
  • Tired of doing tactical work
  • Coming home stressed and anxious each day
  • Haven’t been promoted in years
  • Hate my job
  • Feel undervalued at work
  • Feeling unmotivated 
  • Don’t really know what I want to do 
Second step:

Take all the issues you listed and narrow it down to one single problem statement. For example:

I am stressed, burned out, and stuck in a job not using my amazing skills, but I don’t know how to get out of it. 

Third Step:

You want to take your problem and frame it as a question. Try asking a “How might I…?” question. For example:

  • How might I transition to a new product role?
  • How might I create work-life balance?
  • How might I land a product leadership role?
  • How might I collaborate with my senior leadership to get on the promotion path?


2. Generate Ideas

Now that you’ve got your question, let’s move on to generating possible answers!  This is where we are rockstars as product managers.

Get your sticky notes out and brainstorm all ideas. Do not hold back.  Then start to organize the topics. Group them together and see ideas and themes emerge.

3. Make Ideas Tangible 

Now I want you to leverage your product brilliance and build a vision for your career. Make it large and a bit scary.

Then break it down into a roadmap and then a release plan.

4. Move into action

As product managers, we are comfortable that we have a bias towards action with our products.  I want you to apply that bias to your career.  After you brainstorm ideas and build your release plan, let’s start to test the ideas out. For example:

  • Asking colleagues for feedback
  • Doing some volunteer work in a domain you are interested in
  • Get that Linkedin profile updated
  • Write out what you want in your new job
  • Launch a blog
  • Find a mentor who can support and drive you to action


Ask for help

When you are stuck, stressed, and frustrated as a product manager, it can impact every part of your life.  Even when using a process like design thinking, you may need some help to not only get through the process, but help you discover what kind of product career would set you on fire each day.

My mission is to help product managers not only fast-track into leadership, but love their job as well. Having a fancy job with a fancy title is meaningless unless we also love it.

If you are ready to take decisive action, schedule some time with me and we can build a career strategy.  These calls are free and are meant to give you the insights you need to move into action.

Just schedule here:


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