Product Managers Mentors: Where To Find Them, What To Do With Them?

by drjim on February 17, 2014

Mentors are the ones who show product managers the way to go…

Mentors are the ones who show product managers the way to go…
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Being a product manager is a hard job – creating a product development definition is not a simple thing to do. In order to do it well, we all need a little bit of guidance in order to figure out what we both should and should not be doing, There are many different ways to get this kind of guidance, but the best way is to get yourself a mentor.

How A Product Manager Can Find A Mentor

If we can all agree that having a mentor is important for a product manager, then we can focus on just exactly how we need to go about getting one of these for ourselves. This is not something that will make its way on to your product manager resume, but it’s important nonetheless.

This is where I am afraid that I have some bad news for you – there is no one magic formula for getting a mentor. Instead, you are going to have to realize that mentors can come from a bunch of different sources and so you are going to have to do some looking around.

Various sources for mentors include meetings that you attend, conferences, requests from friends, and sometimes just emails or calls that arrive unexpectedly. What you are going to be looking for is opportunities to rub shoulders with people who would know more than you about how to do your job.

Remember, it’s not going to be you mentor’s job to find you. Rather, it’s your job to find them. I also want to remind you that you don’t have to limit yourself to finding people who have done your exact job in the past. Rather, you are looking for someone who has experience in your industry (or a similar industry) no matter what jobs they have had. It’s their experience that you are looking for no matter what form it takes.

What A Product Manager Should Do With A Mentor

A lot has been written on how to go about finding a mentor, not nearly enough has been written on what to do with a mentor once you have gotten one to agree to work with you. It turns out that this is really the most important part.

What a product manager needs to realize is that a mentoring relationship must be based on both parties having mutual respect for each other. It’s not going to work out if this does not exist. The mentor must have a genuine desire to help you and you must have a real desire to learn from your mentor.

In order for any mentoring relationship to be successful, the product manager needs to understand just exactly what you are trying to get out of the relationship. The key is to realize that your mentor is not there to tell you what to do. Instead, their role is to offer you another perspective on the challenges that you are currently facing. Ultimately, all of the decisions that you’ll end up making will be yours, but you will have had an opportunity to consider your mentor’s inputs. In the end, we all learn from experience. A mentor is there to provide you with a much needed soundboard so that you’ll be able to make better decisions.

What All This Means For You

All too often product managers can end up thinking that they have to find a way to solve all of the challenges that they are facing by themselves. It turns out that this is not true – a mentor can show you how to be a successful product manager. No, this is not part of any product manager job description, but it’s important enough that it probably should be.

In order to get a mentor, product managers need to take the time to look for successful people who have done either the product management job or a similar job. Once they have a mentor, a product manager then needs to understand that a mentor’s role is not so much to advise you, but rather to provide you with different ways of thinking.

The world of product management can be both intimidating and challenging. Taking the time to find a mentor will provide you with a way to get the real-world guidance that you’ll need in order to be successful. Take the time to do this correctly and you’ll be on the path to product success!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should ever have more than one mentor?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

p>Product managers spend a great deal of time looking inside of their company in order to determine what their product development definition is telling them needs to be done next in order to both create and market their product. What we can forget is that the real world in which our product will be competing is a crowded, confusing place. Our customers often turn to analysts in order to get advice on what they should do. We need to make some friends in the world of analysts…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy Horn February 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Jim, great points. I also encourage those looking for mentorship, and especially those looking to mentor product managers (in all stages, all around the world) to also check out http://TheProductMentor.com

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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drjim February 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Jeremy: Thanks for the link!

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