How to fill a skills gap for your career progression


How to fill a skills gap for your career progression

As product roles touch upon many areas of the business, and cover lots of responsibilities, it's no surprise that the range of skills needed to succeed is quite large.

When it comes to learning new skills there are four main approaches that we can take to filling our skills gaps:

  • Content based support
  • Course attendance
  • Community support
  • On the job experience

Content

When we're talking about content we're talking about videos, podcasts, books, and articles posted by those with experience, and the good news is that when it comes to product roles there's a lot of it out there. In fact, the challenge is more about knowing which to pay attention to and which to ignore.

Great sources of content include productcoalition.com (written), upGrad (video), Product Podcast (podcast!), and Inspired: How to create tech products customers love, by Marty Cagan (book). These are great places to start to give you a wider exposure to product roles and skills, however, as you identify the skills gaps you can drill down further.

Obviously, subscribing to my newsletter will also get you access to this information, as I bring together content from across the board to help us improve our product management skills.

Courses

When it comes to courses, like content, there are a lot out there, some of which can be quite expensive. I'm of the view that product people are really driven to find out more information, after all, that's a huge part of the role, and so I don't think it's a problem for product people to NOT have been on a course.

At this stage there isn't an 'official ' product certification that anyone in the industry would identify, which means any course you attend is being done to gain knowledge not the piece of paper at the end of it which symbolises attainment of a level. 

And as we saw above with content, there's a lot of it out there which you can access for a fraction of the cost. You could spend $1,000 on a 3 day training course, or you could get access to a year's worth of eight different $10 per month experts providing access to their own different views of product, or just read free posts every day which gives you a much more rounded view of product.

Community

When we're talking about community we're talking about product people gathering in the same place to exchange ideas, advice, and find support, and the good news is that there is quite a bit of that around that you can tap into in order to fill those skills gaps.

Mind the Product is one of my favorite communities, as they run free monthly meetups in over 200 cities around the world, which have multiple speakers from the industry discussing a whole host of subjects. With some cities holding host to hundreds of attendees they're also a great place to get networking, and the events are often sponsored by organisations who are looking to hire product people so you get a direct line to a potential employer.

The other place where community exists is in Slack, where there are numerous Slack Groups for product people, including Mind the Product, Product School, Product Coalition, and Product Hive. They're places where questions can be raised, interesting articles shared, CVs can be reviewed and much more.

Experience

The final area is obviously the hardest to tap in to, however to seek experience without having a full-time product position, you just have to think outside the box. Some ideas on how to achieve this are:

Volunteer / Intern - investigate organizations who are in an area that you're interested in and see if you can spend some time with them for free so you can learn the ropes.

Look inside your own business - are there roles in your current company that utilize some of the skills gaps that you have, and where you can go and spend some time. It might be a few hours a week learning, or it could be a full-time transfer, but if it gets you access to the skills you need then it's worth your time.

Start your own product - many of the skills of product management are in reality simply business skills. Knowing who to talk to and how to talk to them. Figuring out what you need to spend your time on. Working to get something valuable to a customer. If you can start a side hustle then you'll immediately be exposed to a whole range of product challenges that allow you to test out your ideas and your learnings. It doesn't have to be the next Google or Facebook, but it will give you something to talk about in an interview.

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