You guys know Paco, right? He always makes intelligent comments on posts, participates in caption contests, etc… He is a one COOL dude. Anyway, he’s giving the Cranky Product Manager a rest this week with part one of a four part series on being an unemployed product manager.
The Cranky Product Manager finds his perspective and advice interesting — not your normal blah-blah, that’s for sure. She would really like to see a vigorous debate in the comments about 1) How can PMs avoid getting laid off, and 2) Once laid off, how to you get rehired. Such a discussion could really help people! Please, have at it!
A Short Guide to Being an Unemployed Product Manager – Part 1
Ahhhh! Lay-offs. Unemployment. Not quite how I planned it, but it kinda feels good to have some time off.
I’ve finally had some time to catch-up on a bunch books I Amazon’d last year. I’m even reading The Product Manager’s Desk Reference – I was skeptical but it’s actually quite good.
Got back to eating healthy foods, going to the gym, and lost some weight. No vending machines, eating-out on trips, or office birthday parties to cram my maw with junk. Instead, I’ve learned how to make slow-cooked stews from scratch. Sooo tasty!
Heck, I even managed to finally make a batch of homebrew – been wanting to try that for years. I’ve got about 50 bottles of dry Irish stout that will be ready to drink in another week.
Ahhh… the bright side of being unemployed.
And, really, I have to say all that before talking about how much it sucks to be an unemployed PM right now. Otherwise, writing this would get too depressing.
…Off, that is.
My former employer had a bad Q1 in 2008 – really bad. And that’s when the lay-offs started. I was honestly surprised to be hit, but at the same time, I could see why. And this is important – PMs may be the center of the product universe, but that’s NOT the same as being invaluable.
In fact, I should’ve been building a better position for myself. And by “building” I mean that, as a PM, you have a lot of wiggle-room in how you fill your role. Sure, you’ve got a lot of hats to wear, but you should think hard about which hats you wear the most.
In these crap-ola times, being Mr. Strategy, Mr. Voice-of-Customer, and definitely Mr. PM-Best-Practices will not make you invaluable. In these crap-ola times, you should spend more time being Mr. I-Close-Deals. Or Mrs. Though I don’t recommend switching between the two – those operations are expensive, and you really don’t want your company footing that insurance bill right now. Anyway…
Why? It should be obvious. Now’s the time to really buddy-up with Sales and be more willing to parachute into deals. If you’re helping close deals, you’re bringing in money. And money good. Non-revenue generating crap like writing MRDs bad.
Finding Water in the Desert
Suffice it to say, I wasn’t invaluable at my last company. I did my own post-mortem and at least learned a few things career-wise. I’ll skip the details, but suffice it to say that you should do the same. Don’t just blame your former employer – think how you could’ve avoided the cut and move on to the new American passtime – job hunting.
I’ve been looking for a new PM position since last summer. Granted, I’m not in a software hot-spot of the country like the Bay Area, and location DEFINITELY affects your PM opportunities.
Still, I’m a guy with over 10 years of PM experience at some really big-name companies. I have a technical degree from one of the best universities in the world. I have a nifty LinkedIn profile with lots of connections and recommendations. I even have references that will gladly talk about how awesome I am and how they wish they had more children they could name after me.
What I don’t have is a job.
Despite all the advice I’ve read about finding a job in this economy, it’s not working. And I think a lot of that advice is sound – it’s just that things have gotten to the point where it’s not about the job candidates, it’s about the economy as a whole.
On numerous occasions, I’ve applied for positions that wound-up being retracted. And from what I hear, that trend has only been accelerating since last year. Obviously, businesses are gun-shy about spending big money on a role which, honestly, few of them truly understand or value appropriately.
Just this week, I got the “management is reviewing the opening” speech from a company where I killed the initial interview, but they decided to do a double-take on the position before I could schedule the next round.
In my next installment, we’ll talk about what you can do when you can’t find a new PM gig. In the meantime, I’d like to hear what YOU think the most “invaluable” activities a PM should focus on during these tough times. Back rubs for the CEO? Buying drinks for the VP of Sales? Talking to the CFO and pretending to be enthralled by his daily routine? Let’s hear it.
Also in The Product Manager's Guide to Unemployment
- Guest Post: A Short Guide to Being an Unemployed Product Manager – Part One
- Guest Post: A Short Guide to Being an Unemployed Product Manager – Part Two
- Guest Post: A Short Guide to Being an Unemployed Product Manager, Part Three
- Guest Post: A Short Guide to Being an Unemployed Product Manager, Part Four