How to stand out from the crowd of aspiring Product Managers

Lisa Huang
4 min readAug 15, 2020


Associate Product Managers (APM) programs offer a glimmer of hope, giving new grads / early career professionals a proverbial foot in the door at top Tech companies 🚀

Associate product manager roles provide new grads and early-career professionals the chance to break into product management. The original APM program was developed in the early 2000s by then-Google product manager Marissa Mayer. — Exponent’s list of best APM programs

With unprecedented unemployment rates around the globe, these are stressful times… especially for the bright-eyed, hopeful graduates excited to embark on their career journey, only to find themselves competing for a spot against more experienced folks who have been impacted by recent layoffs.

We are 8 months into the pandemic and depending on where you are — the situation hasn’t improved dramatically. For those keeping tabs at home, New York Time’s global Coronavirus map can induce anxiety on a daily basis 🥺

In April, I participated in Connecting a Decade - an initiative from Zainab Ghadiyali and Deval Delivala to connect the class of 2020 🎓 with the class of 2009/10, enabling students to learn from experiences of mentors who graduated into the financial crisis that wiped out ~ $8 trillion in value 💥

🙋🏻‍♀️🙋🏽‍♀️🙋🏿‍♀️🙋🏼‍♂️🙋🏾‍♂️🙋‍♂️ Mentors offered their sage advice to the new graduates:

  1. 👥 Network when you don’t need it
  2. 🤓 Learn new skills
  3. 👀 Don’t overlook smaller companies

It’s time to translate this advice into action!

👥 Networking when you don’t need it

If you haven’t yet, you should join some of these vibrant online communities for Product managers. Most have active groups on Slack, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media channels:

  • Women in Product: a community dedicated to connecting women in the product management field
  • Products that Count: over 200,000 members to network, learn and get inspired by Product leaders
  • Creative Product Managers: a LinkedIn community with more than 76,000 members who exchange ideas, share experiences, and offer each other guidance
  • Product School: a tech business school (a la Bootcamps) providing courses and certifications for the next generation of product management professionals
  • Mind the Product: a community with a mission to help product people “push our craft forward together.”

📚 There are tons of resources out there: a calendar of virtual career-related events, Talent help list registries, Jobspresso remote work listings, and more!

🤓 Learn new skills

With the emergence of Product Management portfolios, a series of self-organized, volunteer-driven initiatives have mushroomed to help aspiring Product Managers gain hands-on experience — by building projects!

  • SIDE PRJCT: founded by Polina Parchenko, a platform to connect and find team members to build out a project. Similiar to a hackathon without the 48hr high pressure deadline. You can even join the SP accelerator, which offers a structured 7–week program.
  • Product Buds: co-founded by four undergrad students, Product Buds is a platform for members to advance PM knowledge and skills through dialogue about PM books, ideation and execution of collaborative projects. From book clubs to project jams, case study workshops to mock interviews, this is a wonderful example of self organization!
  • APM Club: a community for current APMs to network and accelerate their careers. APM hosts regular speaker sessions from Product leaders, book clubs, case studies and more

👀 Don’t overlook small companies

While I can’t discount the prestige that comes with cinching a coveted role at a FAANG or MAAN giant, new grads should weigh the pros & cons of being a right sized fish in the right sized pond for themselves.

Tweet threads worth reading!

In the age of movements including #BLM #MeToo, we should also be mindful of gatekeeping in Tech (and other industries), and how this impact BIPOC and underrepresented communities. The frustration has pushed Shreya to compile & publish her free resource on APM and New Grad roles. With a quick search on Twitter, you will find pages of tweet threads — including tweets from Tae’lur Alexis, Veni Kunche, Nikema Prophet, Jez Humble that resonated with thousands of people 🌊

💻 Thinking beyond FAANG / MAAN companies, you can:

The sage advice from the class of 2009/2010 is applicable across many job functions/titles and industries, and I hope this quick guide will help you stand out from the crowd, whether you are an aspiring Product Manager or not.

Have communities or resources you love? Share the ❤️ by adding them to the comments below!



Lisa Huang

Product Lead at Planet | 2x Founder, dabbling in TypeScript | My @TEDx talk: