Driving your product management career – Victoria Butt, Parity Consulting
Specialist recruiter Victoria Butt focuses on the product, marketing and communications. She shared her advice for getting that job you want in this highly competitive industry with an audience of over 500 at the Sydney Leading the Product Conference.
“If you’re not actively managing your career, it will be harder for you to grow it,” explains Victoria, “however most people only think about their careers when a role opens up, a manager leaves or there is a change in structure within the business. The reason many people don’t think about their careers is that they simply don’t know where to start.”
When it comes to the skills-based side of your career development, “Do the job before you get the job”, says Victoria. “If you want a promotion or growth, you need to be doing 80% of the role you are looking towards before you actually get it.”
This does mean investing time into learning outside of your normal role. Take a look at the job description of the role you want and identify the elements that you don’t have covered. It may be understanding profit & loss.
In this case, Victoria shares the story of a Senior Produce Manager client, Alex, who sat with the finance team for an hour a week to understand the P&L of the wider business, before taking recommendations to her manager, who was impressed as he hadn’t previously seen her as a money focused operator.
Alex aspired to become a Head of Product, but she identified that she didn’t have enough experience to manage a wider team. To change this, she hosted a training session for a different department before identifying two interested parties and offering to start mentoring them. This effectively doubled her reports and helped to establish her as an influencer within the business.
Finally, at Victoria’s suggestion, Alex began to gather feedback from around the business into how she was perceived and what skills she had. She learned a lot – not all of it good – but was able to take this feedback to shape herself into the ideal candidate for the role she wanted.
‘Us’ refers to who you have around you, the skills they have and how you’re managing that relationship. “It’s the people we have around us helping us that are important. You need them to give you the skills you don’t have yourself.” says Victoria.
Victoria established Parity at age 29. She didn’t know how to run a business but she gathered a team of 8 who had skills that she was missing.
After falling pregnant, Victoria was worried about how she was going to manage her life. She needed to identify individuals who were nailing working motherhood. She spoke to her network, mentioning that she had no idea how she was going to juggle career and parenthood.
As a result, Victoria met with seven women, some of them direct contacts and others friends of friends, taking them out for coffee and asking their advice. In the end, she ‘clicked’ with one of the women, a CEO married to a CEO who has three children and runs marathons in her own time.
Victoria’s suggestion is that you can look for mentors outside of your direct circle to help you with your career. “If you’re worried that mentor types won’t want to be bothered – don’t be – most people enjoy giving advice! You’re only asking for coffee and an hour of their time.”
Whether you think they’re there or not, you have career blockers.
Victoria explains that there are three types of career blockers:
- Ones who don’t know you
- Ones who don’t rate you
- Ones who don’t want to lose you
The first type of career blockers are on your leadership team. They’re the ones who say “who is that person?”
The second may not necessarily have a problem with you personally, they might just have a perception of you as only having a specific skill set.
Finally, the third type of career blockers are the ones who know you’re such a high performer that they can’t afford to replace you.
Victoria’s example is her client ‘Jake’, who was always being told he was amazing but kept getting blocked from promotions. The reason was that he was a high achiever with a specific skill-set which would be hard to replace. Jake wanted a promotion but admitted that he hadn’t done much to achieve it.
As advice, Victoria told Jake to invite five people within the business to coffee. “Sit them down and reiterate your strengths, your objectives, your personal brand and what you stand for. Then sit back for a few weeks and don’t do anything else.” she recommended.
The secret – these people can be career amplifiers. They can improve your career without even knowing about it. They’re unintentionally spreading your brand around the business.
Two things happened to Jake after he met with his colleagues – an executive asked him to give a presentation. He was also asked to set up an innovation hub.
“Who are your career amplifiers?” asks Victoria, “identify them and spend time with them. Get them to amplify your brand”
To overcome career blockers, which can be a major challenge, Victoria suggests being visible within your company. “Put your hand up as much as possible, even if it is just a matter of finding an extra hour a week”.
Victoria’s client Alex was able to secure a Head of Product Role within ten months of switching her career strategy. Jake found that his next application for a promotion was blocked – but that the block was overridden by someone more senior who was aware of what Jake was capable of.
Me, Us, Them. It’s super simple. Invest in your professional development, invest in your network, invest in your career blockers. Ask yourself:
- Am I doing the job before I get the job?
- Who are my mentors?
- Who are my amplifiers and how can I invest in the relationship I have with them?