Generally, product managers stay within the field of product management, simply moving to higher up positions with more responsibilities. Product managers might be promoted to senior product managers, senior product managers could move on to become product management directors, and so on. While this is perhaps the most common career path for product managers, it is by no means the only career path. In fact, there are many interesting exit opportunities for product managers, one of my favorites being entrepreneurship.
Product consultants can be private consultants or work for a company. Their main responsibilities is to advise clients in fields such as product design and market launch of a product, as well as helping to reduce risks and lower costs. This is a very similar job to product management, and product management experience is often sufficient to secure a product consultant job. The main difference between management and consulting is that consulting is a lot less hands on- product consultants don’t have to deal with all of the tactical needs, such as working with marketing and sales departments and managing people.
Working with a startup is not the most secure of jobs, but sticking with a startup can turn out to be extremely rewarding. Almost anyone in any field can find a suitable position working with a startup, but product managers are uniquely suited for founding startups. Founding a startup requires imagination, the ability to manage people, experience with design, budgeting skills, the ability to market and sell successfully, and good risk assessment- all skills essential to being a product manager.
Other Management Positions
Product managers are often successful as directors and managers in positions other than product management, such as marketing directors, sales managers, project managers, general managers, marketing managers, and more. Depending on the specifics of a product manager’s company and position, their responsibilities may have overlap with the responsibilities of these other positions. Product managers also work with managers and directors in these fields, giving them relevant experience. It’s actually common for product managers to shift from one management position to another while remaining in the same company.
Product Operations Manager
For those who like to do more hands-on supervision, product operations manager might be the right job. Experience in product management is usually enough to land a job as a product operations manager, which has much overlap with other product management positions. What sets product operations managers apart is that they supervise more of the day to day task involved in product development, rather than the ‘big picture’ plan. This is an ideal position for people who enjoy problem solving.