The Role of the Junior Product Manager
Every superhero has an origin story. And if you’re hoping to build a successful career in product management or product leadership — both of which are professions filled with genuine heroes — starting out as a Junior Product Manager might be your origin story.
So let’s briefly review what that role will involve and how to use your time as a Junior Product Manager to develop the knowledge and skills that’ll help you advance successfully through your product career.
What Is a Junior Product Manager?
Most companies that hire for Junior Product Manager roles do so for a couple of reasons: to help offload some of the tactical responsibilities of their Product Managers and to help the company itself train and prepare new full Product Managers for their organization down the road.
For these reasons, you’ll typically find a Junior Product Manager paired with a more senior Product Manager at the company.
You’ll also find that Junior Product Managers are usually not completely new to the working world. They might have no experience in product management, but they often come from other areas of the organization — development, QA, sales, customer service, marketing, etc.
What will you be doing as a Junior Product Manager?
The role of a Product Manager includes overall responsibility for the product’s strategic direction and market success. As a Junior Product Manager, you’ll be both helping your mentor Product Manager carry out those responsibilities and learning as much as you can about what it takes to do so. Because this is a support and learning role, you will be working under the supervision of your Product Manager, and your day-to-day responsibilities might be more tactical.
But fundamentally, you’ll still be helping support your team’s larger product strategy and goals, which will involve tasks such as:
- Collaborating with the product team to define the product vision and strategy.
- Helping to set the objectives and key results.
- Building a strategic product roadmap that fits in with the overall strategy of the department and the company.
- Speaking to customers to collect feedback.
- Working with the developers to deliver quality features and products within the expected timeline.
Junior vs. Associate Product Manager: what’s the difference?
These two entry-level product positions are similar but have important distinctions. The Associate Product Manager role is often the very first rung on an organization’s product ladder. In many cases, this person will have no work experience at all — taking the job right after graduating from school.
Associate Product Managers at companies like Google and Meta, for example, are actually part of apprenticeships designed to teach them both the specifics of product management and general knowledge about working for a corporation.
Junior Product Managers, by contrast, typically have at least some work experience and therefore won’t need as much training about working in an organization. In this role, your company will expect you to have some basic knowledge about business and will instead focus on teaching you to become an expert in product management.
Pro Tip: devour product management educational resources.
In your role as Junior Product Manager, you’re going to learn a lot from the people around you as well as your hands-on work to support their efforts. But it’s also a great idea to supplement those learnings with as many educational resources as you can find. Case in point: our webinar on advanced product management strategies.
Skills You’ll Need to Become a Junior Product Manager
Before you can leverage what you learn as a Junior Product Manager to take the next step on your product management career path, you’ll need to land the job in the first place. And to earn one of these highly competitive positions, you should be ready to demonstrate some key skills and character traits. Here are a few to focus on.
1. Curiosity and humility.
The hiring manager — whether that’s a Product Director or the company’s Chief Product Officer — obviously won’t expect you to know the product management field front to back in your job interview. But that person will want to see signs you’re intellectually curious and eager to learn.
2. A problem-solving mindset.
Product management is all about solving problems —both for your product’s customer and for the inevitable challenges your team will face completing your strategic initiatives with limited resources. To land a spot as a Junior Product Manager, you’ll want to demonstrate a problem-solving ability or at least an understanding of how valuable the skill is to the product organization.
3. Business sense.
Again, no company expects a Junior Product Manager to come into the role with a deep knowledge of the product field. But they will want to know that you know the basics of business — what a budget looks like, the difference between revenue and profit, how to conduct simple research, etc.
Stop for Inspiration Along the Way
As longtime product professionals ourselves, one thing we can guarantee you is that you’ll face challenges and frustrations during your time as a Junior Product Manager — just as you will during every phase of your career. They’re as fundamental to the job as a desk or a parking space.
One strategy we’ve found to deal with these inevitable frustrating moments is to step back and listen to the product management greats. It’s an effective way to recharge, remind yourself of why the work you’ve chosen has real value, and find some wisdom and inspiration from those who’ve been exactly where you are and kept pushing ahead.
So, if you need some inspiration anytime along your journey, take a moment and read a few quotes from the most successful product professionals in history.
Bonus Tip: Play Around with a Product Management Software Platform
One final suggestion: A great way to learn what you’ll be doing as a Junior Product Manager is to sample the popular software tools the product profession uses to get its important work done.
For example, by trying out the end-to-end product management platform from craft.io, you’ll be able to see all of the major strategic areas that product organizations focus on — roadmapping, prioritization, maintaining the backlog, defining personas, analyzing feedback, etc. It’s a great way to see what your future company will likely want you doing day to day.
And you can start using craft.io for free, right now.
Now go: start your product management origin story.
— Team craft.io