16. 02. 2021

Own Your Product Career Development

Building your career should be exciting and empowering, but sometimes it can feel as though the speed and direction of our progress is out of our hands.

Looking to take back control?

Here are some simple, actionable ways to make sure you’re in the driving seat of your own development.  

How is it that some people power upwards through the career ladder faster than you can track, while others inch forward with a minor promotion every few years?

At Adaptive Product I’ve had the opportunity to work with digital marketing professionals across a variety of disciplines – eCommerce, tech, IoT and more.

I’ve seen some candidates’ careers shoot up like rockets, leaping from promotion to promotion and cycling up through the pay grades.

Others have moved more slowly, and I’m often asked by candidates frustrated with the pace of their career progress what they can be doing to keep moving forward.

How do the shooting stars do it?

The lady who went from Marketing Manager to Director Product in the blink of an eye… is she superhuman?

Probably not – she’s most likely applying a few simple strategies that put her in control of her own career.

Based on my work with career high-flyers, here are the best ways to ensure you own your progress.

  1. Work backwards from your goals

Goals can be defined in terms of earnings, job title, responsibility and many other factors.

Whatever they are, you need to build a set of stepping stones to get there. You need to map your journey to that goal.

Turning goals into plans is the secret.

Plans keep you focused and ensure you work on other areas of your development to make progress achievable.

  1. Fight Stagnation

The corporate world has conditioned many of us to think of progress and development in annual or bi-annual cycles.


That’s often the frequency with which our positions and our pay get reviewed by employers.

If you want to truly take control of your development, you need to set your own time-frames.

I’ve worked with many ambitious product experts who break that 12-24 month cycle down into 9 or even 6.

With each period, they hold themselves accountable to progressing in key areas of their development, such as:

  • Learning – have I acquired new skills? Do I understand things better?

  • Results – am I doing this better than I was before?

  • Network – have I made new connections that will help me?

  • Exposure – have I interacted with a new team, tool, customer or project type?

  • Earnings – have I taken steps towards a raise, promotion, bonus or financial improvement?

  1. Involve others

Companies are seldom run by one individual. They’re led by a collaborative management team who lean on each other for support, advice and motivation.

Leaving one person in charge is too much stress, too much risk and unlikely to produce results.

Your career is one of the most important elements of your life – why not take the same approach?

Proactively involving friends and colleagues in your career goals can give you some much-needed accountability and drive.

Your Head of or Director is another key person to speak with. In a best case scenario, you’ll bring out the best in him or her as they help you to succeed. In unhappier situations, you’ll see their limitations and realize you may not hit your objectives under their supervision.

  1. Know when to move on

It’s important to explore potential within your current company before throwing in the towel.

Good companies value ambition and will work with you to help develop your career.

With that said, not all companies can give you the framework you need to reach your goals, however hard you work. Even if you do everything right you can only ever be part of the equation.

Don’t stick with a company that can’t provide the opportunities, culture or investment to enable your progress.

If you try and make it work but are feeling push-back, it may be the right time to make a change.

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