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Top 10 Product Manager Skills To Boost Your Resume In 2021

Product managers need to be constantly upgrading their product management skills to stay competitive when job searching or when looking to move up within their organization, company, or startup. 

A successful PM is always interested in learning about new technologies or agile methodologies that could help them be more effective product and people managers, or even better teammates or coworkers.

Listed below are the top skills employers are looking for in 2021 for PM roles. 

If you’re just getting into product management, use this article as a checkpoint to brush up on your skills before looking for product management jobs.

Hard Skills Vs Soft Skills For Product Managers

Before we review the top skills for product managers in 2021, a quick note on the difference between hard skills and soft skills, and the role of each type for product managers. 

Hard skills, also referred to as technical skills, include learned skills in creating a product roadmap or product strategy, writing technical specs, or the ability to effectively use product management technology.  

Soft skills include skills like leadership, prioritization, and interpersonal skills. 

A successful product manager will have a mix of both types of skill sets. Technical skills are important for developing and designing products, and soft skills are crucial for leading the product team and getting products through the product life cycle efficiently. 

Most In-Demand Product Manager Skills In 2021

Below is our list of important skills that any new PM or leveling up PM should look to master: 

Hard Skills

1. Understanding Of Web Development

While product managers don’t necessarily do coding or programming, an understanding of this process is useful. Knowing the product management principles is one thing, but being a great product manager means that you also care about the context you’re working in. 

It can also help you relate and empathize with your engineering team, as well as communicate with them more effectively when developing timelines and a roadmap. 

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Talk to your engineering manager about what skills would be most helpful for you to have in order to work with their team
  • New PM: Taking a simple coding class specific to your tech stack, like these for Ruby, can be a good start. Look at the job description for the PM job you are interested in. 

2. Writing Technical Specs And Requirements

Coming up with new product ideas and optimizations are an important part of a product manager’s role, but without specific technical requirements, product development can stall and get stuck in pre-production. 

Being able to create technical product specs, detailed requirements, and product features for new products provides a specific direction for your engineering team and designers. 

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Check out your organization’s documentation space (ie. Confluence) and look for example product briefs, spec sheets, etc. See what has worked well for other teams. 
  • New PM: Read this article on how to write effective product specs

3. Conducting Market Research

Having experience with conducting market research is also important for any good product manager. When conceptualizing a new product, market research is critical to finding out whether there is a market or an audience for the product, as well as finding out how the product can best serve that market. 

This includes assessing customer needs and gathering customer feedback, and can also entail conducting user interviews and surveys or working with a user research team. 

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Talk to product marketing managers in your organization, and ask them what personas they have identified for your product/website. You can also reach out to your SEO team about what tools they use to measure the SEO impact of your product content initiatives.  
  • New PM: Check out free resources like this one. Try out your skills by conducting test market research for a made up product. 

4. Knowledge Of User Experience Best Practices

While a product team often includes UX and UI experts, it is helpful for product managers to have some technical knowledge in user experience best practices. This will help the product manager speak the same language as the UX product team, and ensure mutual understanding of how quick or time-consuming a task may be. 

It also can help a PM communicate requirements more effectively, and can be used when creating wireframes or other product documentation. 

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Develop a relationship with your UX and design teams. Ask them about any documentation they have around best practices for your product. 
  • New PM: Read up on UX best practices from sources like this

Soft Skills

1. Critical Thinking And Analytical Skills 

This is a must-have for any PM. Product managers must be able to analyze information and data and provide actionable insights to their teams. This helps them ensure products provide sufficient value to both the business and their customers. 

Decision-making and strategic thinking are daily responsibilities for product managers, and without the ability to think critically about and weigh their options, making smart product decisions is difficult. PMs need to be able to cut through to the very heart of documentation in order to make decisions quickly. Time is money!

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Take action and go through prior communications you have sent to your team. Look for places where you could have been more succinct or clear.
  • New PM: Practice this skill in your everyday life. Spend time reflecting on your past experiences, and practice active listening when speaking with others. 

2. Leadership And The Ability To Take Initiative 

As with any management position, leadership skills are important for supporting and motivating your team. For product managers at all levels—not just senior product managers—leadership skills need to work in tandem with an initiative to get products into development and to meet deadlines. This means that the best product managers also possess some project management skills in order to see products through product development to product launch.

Also, product managers often have to lead cross-functional teams that may include representatives from the development team, product team, engineering team, marketing team, sales team, and other teams. Leadership is important in getting all team members on the same page and working toward the same goal. 

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Look for opportunities within your team and organization for you to take on a leadership role. Maybe you can start a social group at your company, or lead a training session. 
  • New PM: Put examples of prior leadership roles on your resume, and if you don’t have any, start volunteering for them! Try searching for organizations in your area that are looking for help. 

3. Flexibility

Priorities can change daily in the world of product management. One day a certain product is the priority, and the next it’s something different. Product managers need to have prioritization skills and must be able to keep up with changes in their business and in the competitive landscape and stay flexible to ensure products are developed and launched in a timely and efficient manner. 

A crucial part of this is managing prioritization. Along with keeping up with daily changes, can you adjust your team’s priorities accordingly? 

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Keep in mind that the customer and the business come first, and be sure not to let your own self interest cloud your judgement. We all want our projects to get delivered on time, but there are times where you need to allow for another group’s priorities to take precedence. 
  • New PM: Keep up with the ever changing product management space by following blogs like this one, and be sure to keep your potential customers top of mind. 

4. Problem-Solving

At their core, products are intended to solve problems, for a business and/or for a specific type of customer. Great product managers need to create products that fundamentally achieve this. A problem-solving mindset is a key part of creating and brainstorming product ideas in the PM role. 

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Be sure to empathize with your customers when brainstorming new ideas for products. Their problems should be the driving force behind your decision making. Learn how to make a customer empathy map here.  
  • New PM: When solving a problem, even in your everyday life, it’s important to clearly define the problem, so that you can properly focus on a solution. Even if it sounds silly, try saying the problem out loud. 

5. Time Management

Product managers are constantly splitting their time between different products and projects, as well as always adjusting to shifting priorities, as mentioned above.

Time management skills help product managers juggle everything on their plate, while still completing tasks efficiently and pushing products through to launch. Time management skills can always be improved upon as you learn what works best for you.

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Discuss time management best practices with all of your stakeholders, so that your team has a voice in scheduling and delivering tasks on time. 
  • New PM: Practice your time management skills by setting weekly or daily priorities, and block out time in your day to get your priorities accomplished. 

6. Communication Skills

This skill is essential for product managers. Proper communication skills, including written and spoken communication, ensure that the product manager can effectively communicate with and lead their team to get successful products launched on time and on budget. 

PMs also need to be able to communicate to stakeholders outside of their team, particularly when reporting on product success or opportunities for improvement. 

How you can learn: 

  • Current PM: Ask for feedback on your communication with your team members, and identify areas where you can improve. Certain stakeholders prefer certain forms of communication, so be sure to take that into account. 
  • New PM: Try practicing public speaking wherever possible, so that you can develop confidence in communicating with people you do not know personally.

What Skills Make A Great Product Manager?

Along with the above hard and soft skills, there are lots of intangibles that boost a product manager’s ability, like product vision, emotional intelligence, and asking the right questions. What skills do you find valuable as a product manager? 

There are lots of ways to build your skills, such as attending product management conferences, listening to podcasts, and reading expert blogs. Keep upgrading your skills to stay relevant and effective as a product manager.

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