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What Do Product Managers do? How to Explain Your Job to Anyone.

“What do you do for work?” is probably the most dreaded question you can ask a Product Manager, second only to “When will this feature be ready?”  

It’s such a simple question, but our roles are so difficult to describe. Our day-to-day is never the same. We lead products but don’t build them. We solve problems, but we do so iteratively in a way that is tough to describe. 

When I’m asked this question, I used to start blabbering and the conversation would go like this: 

Typical What Does a Product Manager Do Script

Nosey stranger: “What do you do for a living?” 

Me: I’m a Product Manager. 

Nosey: Oh, so like project management? My cousin does that. 

Me: No, PRODUCT Management. 

Nosey: What is that? 

Me: I create new products for companies... well I don’t exactly create them, but I help others create them.  

Nosey: “what do you mean by that?” 

Me: I help find problems and work with technical people to solve them.  

Nosey: Who are technical people? 

Me: Developers or UX folks. 

Nosey: What is UX? 

Me: audible sigh and disappointment that I still can’t explain what I do for a living 

... you get the picture.  

what makes a great product manager

Build Your Confidence By Explaining What You Do Concisely and Simply.

Being able to explain your role and why it matters to anyone is a part of building confidence. It's validating to know that your role is understood and valued. I’ve had awkward conversations like this so many times and every time it chipped away at my psyche a little bit more. 

Now I’ve made it my mission to make it easier for Product Managers to explain what they do, for the benefit of us and anyone who makes the mistake of asking us these simple question. 

So here it is, after hundreds of attempts, here is the script that seems to work to help folks understand what the heck a Product Manager is and what they do: 

Nosey stranger: “What do you do for a living?” 

Me: I’m a Product Manager.  

Nosey: Oh, like Project Management? 

Me: Not quite, PRODUCT not project. Let me explain with an example. What is your favourite app? 

Nosey: TikTok 

Me: Cool! Well, TikTok has a bunch of Product Managers working for them. Product Managers lead the vision and strategy of new products. So when TikTok launches a new filter, for example, a Product Manager was likely behind that. Product Managers are the people who find new customer problems that the business should solve next. They validate that these are the right problems to solve and that it will help the business. Then they work with folks like developers to create solutions to those problems. They do this through experimentation and lots of testing. It’s a really fun role. 

Nosey: Wow sounds cool!  

There you have it! The simplest answer I could find to explain the role, pique your listener’s interest, and keep your confidence high! 

I sincerely hope this makes your small talk easier. I know it's helped mine!

What answers have you given when asked this question? Share with us in the comments!  

Unlock your path to product greatness with Tacit Edge! Our tailor-made product management training & certification programs are designed to elevate your skills and propel you toward success.

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