Anyone who just starts a career or wants to change a path often finds themselves facing the chicken-and-egg paradox: no prior experience means employers are not interested; employers not being interested means no prior experience.
The product marketing sector is not an exception and it’s a catch 22 that can be really challenging to overcome.
The good news is that it is absolutely possible! In this article I will share some tips and tricks on how to get started in product marketing based on my own personal experience, including:
- How to become a product marketer with no experience
- How to move to product marketing from a non-marketing related position
- My own career path story
Long story short: I started as a Customer Support Specialist. It took me nearly two and a half years to become a Senior PMM. If I can do this, so can you too (if you want to!)
How to become a product marketer with no experience
In my opinion, there are two career paths into the product marketing profession.
The first one is more common, but long and gradual, while the second one is more direct but rare. The first option is to get into a dream company in a position that might be more attainable right now, with a goal in mind to move into the product marketing position further down the line.
The second path is to start working as either a junior product marketer - or just marketer - and then grow to a senior product marketer.
As the second path is quite clear as far as I can see, let’s dive into the first one a little more.
How to move to product marketing from a non-marketing related position
If you just finished a bachelor’s degree or want to change your career to product marketing, you might consider getting a non-marketing job at a desired company first.
If you don’t have prior experience at all, you might look at positions that do not require years of previous experience or specific knowledge, such as a Customer Support Specialist. Start by applying for relevant roles that are more attainable or applicable to your experience and use that as a springboard.
Okay, so you got a job at your desired company - now what?
Build your reputation
When you’re inside of a company it is way easier to move in a preferable direction, but with a huge effort from your side. First of all, from the moment you get started with a new company you should build your reputation as a high-performing, result-oriented, reliable employee. If you dedicate a lot to a company, it will bode well for your professional development there..
Share your career goals with your supervisor
People are always striving for something more, and it is way easier to get what you want when you’re direct and open about your intentions to the people around that can help.
Even if you’re currently far from a product marketing team, you should consider talking to your manager and express your desire to become a product marketing manager someday. Together you can discuss possible ways to move, in particular, what you should learn and accomplish, and what your manager can do to help you to achieve your goal.
If you don’t voice your ambitions to anybody, it will be way more difficult for you to climb the career ladder.
Never stop learning
This recommendation is relevant to everyone. In this particular context it means that no matter what your role is, you should constantly educate yourself and expand your knowledge. You might apply for a Master degree or another form of education like the Product Marketing Core certification from PMA.
According to a 2017 Harvard Business School study, employees value candidates with higher education more, compared to those who just finished many short-term courses. Doing this will enable you to get a comprehensive, in-depth understanding of the role and the industry that is vitally important for anyone looking to progress their career.
To supplement that, you should also consider challenging yourself by participating in different conferences and courses, and reading thought-leader articles, and more.
Start taking action that supports your goals
First of all, I would recommend starting with step 2: make your manager or supervisor aware of your ambitions.
Secondly, I would recommend connecting with a product marketing team and getting involved in their working routine. Look at team updates, tasks and projects. You might identify and bring value to the team as a bystander. Product marketers are usually super busy so you can offer up your help and learn along the way.
Become a job-hunter
The last step is to take over all of the above and benefit from it by getting a job! My recommendation is again - be open - be open to HRs too. Some companies accept applications from employees for new positions before the external search. So, don’t miss your chance and apply for every opportunity.
If you don’t make it from the first attempt, don’t worry. Collect feedback on how you should improve t keep just trying, and eventually, with hard work and dedication, you’ll get there..
So, to summarize:
- Build an excellent reputation, so a company will listen to your desires.
- Communicate your desire to move into product marketing with your supervisor, senior managers or HR.
- Continue to educate yourself on the product marketing function (get certified or enrol in a Masters degree.)
- Start volunteering and working on small product marketing tasks or projects.
- Constantly monitor the job market so you’re aware of product marketing hirings within your company and beyond.
My career path story
In 2016 I got a bachelor’s degree in Business Informatics. It opened me up to a career in Business Processes Analysis. However, when I was on the third course, I started to realize that it wasn’t something that inspires me a lot.
It was 2015, it had been a boom in digital marketing already. I started learning about the topic by reading articles on the Internet. I desperately wanted a project to start practising, as learning marketing only in theory is just not enough, but no doubt necessary. I bumped into this chicken-and-egg paradox, and didn’t manage to find any projects.
In addition to that, I lost hope of getting a marketing job when I finished my studies in 2016 as I didn’t have neither prior working experience nor relevant education. Despite this, I was not going to drop my hands.
Instead, I came up with a plan that I described above. It worked for me! So, I found Xsolla and desperately tried to get a job there. Finally, I was hired as a Customer Support Specialist. I was so happy, even though working hours at night were just killing me. So, on the other hand, these really terrible (for my health) conditions encouraged me to start looking for opportunities faster.
So, I was constantly monitoring open hirings, and tried two positions. I applied for a Junior Product Analyst position. There was some intersection with my bachelor’s qualifications. My application was rejected due to no prior experience. Then, I was lucky to apply for a Statistics Manager position.
It's a really weird title, but all you have to do is to collect tons of reports manually; non special qualifications were needed. So, after only four months as a Customer Support Specialist, I became the Statistics Manager with the normal five-day working week - that was already a big win for me.
After three months of such boring working routines, I optimized the data collection and report building process that allowed me to release almost 75% of my working time during which I continued to learn marketing, and think what I could do to move forward with that. What do you think I did next?
Right! I talked to my supervisor about my desperate desire to work in marketing and that I have lots of free time at work that I could spend bringing more value to the company. The marketing team was really small at those times - only three people.
My manager told me that I need to talk to one of the senior managers who was also responsible for the marketing team. So, I did that. I explained in every detail why I was interested in working in marketing and what I already knew regarding the topic.
It appears that the marketing team was considering searching for a Junior Digital Marketer that they were ready to teach. Guess who was lucky to take this position? Right! It was me! We agreed that I would combine my previous and existing roles in a ratio of 25% and 75% respectively.
So, this way I started my journey as a marketer in March 2017. In June of 2017, four months later, I enrolled in a Master program in marketing, and studied International Marketing at Vienna University of Economics and Business as an exchange student in the fall semester of 2018.
In March 2018, a year after starting as a Digital Marketer, my company hired a new CMO. She introduced product marketing to my company.
We had five solutions/products at that time, and I was promoted to Product Marketing Manager for the key product within my company. So, I had to work and learn in parallel. One more year later, in 2019, I was promoted to the Senior Product Marketing Manager position, which required me to lead projects across all products that involved other PMMs too. One more year later, I left that company, but that’s another story!
That’s it, guys. I hope it was not boring. Instead, I hope my story and tips will inspire and help you to believe in yourself, constantly learn and look for ways to move forward with your career. Good luck and much love to every one of you.