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Top Entry-Level Jobs to Transition into

Top Entry-Level Jobs for Transitioning into Product Management

Reviewed By Product Expert and Coach
Elizabeth Hogue
April 16, 2024

Why Entry-Level Jobs Are a Stepping Stone to Product Management

We'll say it louder: product management is NOT an entry-level job. It requires specific understanding and knowledge of every role in a pod and how they work together. While associate product manager programs are starting to rise in popularity, they're extremely competitive and difficult to achieve unless you're freakishly remarkable. We here at Bridged are most definitely not, but we each used a transition job to make our way.

Starting your career in a relevant entry-level tech job is an excellent way to build the skills and experiences needed to transition into product management. While this path definitely requires patience, it's one of the most sure-shot ways to achieve success in the field. Entry-level jobs provide an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of product inter-workings, and give you 1:1 experience with a product manager to learn the ropes.

The best product managers have skills in another relevant role to assist their team. Because of the nature of a product pod, usually the skills flex in one of 5 areas.

5 Most Common Roles in a Product Pod

  • Engineering
  • Research
  • Design
  • Analytics
  • Project Management
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Top Entry-Level Roles to Transition into Product Management

Frontend or Backend Engineer: The Technical Wizards Who Build Digital Products

Short Job Description

An engineer is responsible for designing, developing, and testing products, systems, and software in a range of industries.

Transition Process to Product Management

Engineers often make excellent product managers because they have experience collaborating with technical teams and understanding complex systems and code. In order to transition to a product management role, engineers can focus on developing skills in business, including customer needs analysis, general product and financial strategy, and project/task management.

One way to gain product management experience as an engineer is to take on projects that involve working with customers or stakeholders. This will help with the role requirements of identifying customer problems and design solutions that meet those needs. Engineers can also work on cross-functional projects that involve collaborating with other departments such as marketing, design, or sales.

How to Get an Entry-Level Role as an Engineer

To get an entry-level role as an engineer, we recommend self-teaching yourself code and stacking certifications and projects to prove your experience. Then you can look for entry-level roles, internships, co-op programs, or apprenticeships that offer hands-on experience in product development or engineering.

UX Researcher: The Inquisitive Minds Who Uncover User Insights

Short Job Description

UX Researchers work to identify user friction with applications and websites by using qualitative and quantitative data. This is such a fun gig for those who studied psychology or sociology, or anyone curious who is interested in identifying problems all day.

Transition Process to Product Management

UX researchers can transition to a product management role by developing their skills in engineering, product strategy, project management, and quantitative analysis. They have qualitative analysis on lockdown. Researchers work extremely close with product managers and cross-functional teams, so they can gain valuable experience in understanding user needs and what it takes to develop successful products.

One way to gain product management experience as a UX researcher is to focus on collaborating with your cross-functional pods to develop and implement relevant user research studies. Practice prioritizing your research questions based on aspects like impact-to-users, size of customer problem, and validation of problem size. UX researchers can also gain valuable experience by taking on project management responsibilities and coordinating with internal and external stakeholders to drive user-centric product development.

How to Get an Entry-Level Role as a UX Researcher

Sign up for a free research resource like Sprig or Hotjar, and get familiar with different types of qualitative surveys you could design for users. Look into the different types of unbiased questions asked in research surveys around topics like pricing, messaging, and customer satisfaction.

Now pick a website you are familiar with, and try creating a research plan to identify some key pain points for users. Next try moderating a study on some friends and family to see if you're right. Write down your findings, and try and organize them in a way that tells a convincing story, and be ready to talk about your work in an interview. We recommend some (free!) courses for this if you're feeling lost below.

Product Analyst: The Data-Driven Problem Solvers of the Product Pod

Short Job Description

A product analyst is responsible for analyzing engagement and customer data to help develop product strategy and identify opportunities for growth.

Transition Process to Product Management

Product analysts can transition to a product management role by developing skills in engineering speak, design requirements, and project management. By working closely with product managers and other cross-functional teams, product analysts can gain valuable experience in understanding the full product development lifecycle beyond ideation and analysis.

One way to gain product management experience as a product analyst is to focus on identifying opportunities for product improvements or new product development, and collaborating with cross-functional teams to develop and implement these solutions. Product analysts can also gain valuable experience by taking on project management responsibilities and coordinating with internal and external stakeholders.

How to Get an Entry-Level Role as a Product Analyst

Use a website creator (like Wix or Webflow) to write about something you're passionate about, and use Youtube videos or our recommended classes to learn how to implement free Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. Then monitor your data! Think about what paths you'd expect users to take while engaging with your content and write about why. This exercise is great content for a mini "portfolio" to talk about on product analytics interviews. There's also expert mode: find a local business to trade work for-- maybe you throw up GA & GTM, they give you a meal., and you can give them a few insights to improve their user experience. Win, Win, Win.

Fun fact: I used product analytics as a stepping-stone to product management.

Elizabeth here. My background is in product analytics and experience optimization strategy. This has helped me hugely as a product manager and entrepreneur, mainly because I'm able to create and enhance my own weighted frameworks for problem validation and prioritization frameworks. This is the path I most recommend to friends and family who want to end up in product management.

Project Manager / Scrum Master: The Organizers and Coordinators of the Product Pod

Short Job Description

A project manager/scrum master is responsible for overseeing and coordinating projects from conception to completion, ensuring they are delivered on time and within budget.

Transition Process to Product Manager

Project managers/scrum masters can transition to a product management role by developing skills in engineering, design, analytics and product strategy. Project managers have a bit of a lead over other roles because they collaborate with each team member somewhat equally, which gives equal exposure to each practice. They also work closely with product managers and cross-functional teams to design program deadlines and milestones.

One way to gain product management experience as a project manager/scrum master is to focus on coordinating with cross-functional teams to deliver successful products. Project managers/scrum masters can also gain valuable experience by taking on product management responsibilities, such as developing product roadmaps or collaborating with other departments like marketing or engineering.

How to Get an Entry-Level Role as a Project Manager

Create a few free accounts with some popular project management tools (such as ASANA, Jira, Trello) and create a task manager for a household project. Watch Youtube or take a recommended class to learn how.

A project could be something as easy as logging steps to a family cooking recipe, or something as complex as managing a home remodel project. This is great content for a mini"portfolio" to talk about and reference in interviews. Read our job guide for ways to get your foot in the door as a project manager.

UX Designer: The Creative Minds Behind the Look and Feel of Digital Products

Short Job Description

A UX designer is responsible for creating engaging and user-friendly digital experiences for websites, applications, and other interactive platforms.

Transition Process to Product Management

UX designers can transition to a product management role by developing skills in engineering speak (technical requirements), product strategy, data analysis, and project management. Understanding user needs and preferences is a critical part of both UX design and product management, so UX designers can leverage their expertise in user research and user testing to inform product strategy and decision-making.

One way to gain product management experience as a UX designer is to work on projects that involve product strategy and roadmapping and collaborating with other departments like marketing, engineering, and customer support. Participating in cross-functional workshops, hackathons, or design sprints can also help UX designers gain a better understanding of the product development process.

How to Get an Entry-Level Role as a UX Designer

UX/UI is probably the most popular bootcamp role-- which means it's oversaturated with entry-level workers. This makes it almost as difficult as product management to get an entry-level role. Unless you have a real knack for design, we'd recommend pursing another role first like research or analytics to help your transition. BUT, if you feel really strongly about design, there are things you can do to set yourself apart from the crowds. After completing a specialization in UX, beef up your portfolio with real-world examples using programs like Catchfire. Be extra diligent about the skills you target, and set up job alerts on Bridged or a similar platform to be sure to get in the first round of interviews. Building a strong portfolio of design projects and being on-the-dot with job applying can also help you stand out to potential employers and demonstrate your drive, skills and creativity.

Do you need a degree to transition into Product Management?

In short, job experience is way more critical than a degree for a career in product management. The best product managers come from all backgrounds and provide a diverse set of skills in one of the above mentioned field. Product management is also a popular role for people with MBAs, though this is definitely not a requirement and not what this article is encouraging. Stack a certification with industry experience to be a knockout in the field and on applications.

Our Favorite Product Management Certifications

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Complete Guide to Becoming a Product Manager

LinkedIn Learning is free with a LinkedIn Premium subscription ($30/month). This class is great for beginners who want to learn more about product management basics.

Learn more

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Digital Product Management Specialization

UVA Sponsors a comprehensive specialization through Coursera. This program focuses on test and learn strategies, identifying and acting on customer insights, and running an effective product program.

Learn more

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Become a Product Manager: Learn the Skills and Get the Job

This class is great for learning how the role of a product manager changes based on company type and size. It also goes through lots of PM skills for a comprehensive class.

Learn more

Evaluating an Entry-Level Company for a Transition to Product Management

When looking to transition into product management, it's important to carefully evaluate more than just the entry-level-stepping-stone roles. Take it one step further and also evaluate the companies holding these roles. Identify companies that offer opportunities for professional growth and development, and those who post about a culture of promoting within. Some key factors to consider when evaluating a company for a transition to product management include the company's product development culture, the size and scope of the company's product portfolio, mentorship opportunities, and the level of cross-functional collaboration and communication.

Companies that have a strong product development culture and value the role of product management in the organization are more likely to offer opportunities for growth and advancement in this field. Look for companies that have a dedicated product management department, a clear product development process, and a track record of successfully launching products that meet customer needs. Say no to those that put product under the same umbrella as fields like marketing and/or operations.

The size and scope of a company's products can also be an important factor to consider when evaluating entry-level companies for a transition to product management. Companies that have a diverse and dynamic digital product portfolio offer more opportunities for learning and development in different areas of product management, from product strategy and roadmapping to user research and data analysis. You do not want to pigeonhole yourself at an ecommerce company without room to move into real products. Identify companies with multiple product teams, and hopefully a CPO. You can check out some company reviews for product-heavy cultures here.

A mentor is one of the single most important things that can affect your transition into product management. When interviewing at companies, try to get a sense for the product manager of the team you'll be working on (if possible, sometimes this is tricky at some companies pre-hire). Does the product manager seem nice? Willing to help? Having a mentor that is already in product management can be a HUGE advantage when it comes to career advancement. We can't stress this enough.

Finally, consider the level of cross-functional collaboration and communication within the company. Product management is a highly collaborative role that requires working closely with cross-functional teams such as engineering, design, marketing, and sales. Look for companies that encourage collaboration and provide opportunities for cross-functional projects, as this will help you develop a better understanding of the product development process and build strong relationships with other departments.

By carefully evaluating entry-level roles and companies to fit your end-goals, you can fast-track your transition into notoriously-difficult-to-break-into product management. Keep in mind that every company is different, and it's important to do your research and ask questions during the interview process to ensure that the opportunity is a good fit for this particular career goal. With the right company and the right mindset, a transition to product management can be a rewarding and fulfilling career move that can set you up for great success. Good luck!

Elizabeth Hogue
Bridged Cofounder & Product Coach
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