How common are Career Stalls for Product Managers?
In a job as adaptive as a product manager, you are bound to encounter some major career stalls. But why don’t you ever hear about it? Product manager career stalls are more common than you might think. By the age of 40, 80% of product managers will have experienced a stall.
It’s not easy getting out of that stall. If you are a product manager experiencing a career stall, you are not alone.
I spent two decades as a product executive, working at companies like Microsoft and Atlassian. While there were definitely highs to my product management career, there are lows as well, including career stalls.
When do other people feel the stall and how did they escape it? Did they escape it? Why do product Managers stall in their careers? This blog shares the data from this survey.
Product managers are go-getters. They have to be in order to survive in a job as adaptable and ever-changing as product management. However, several factors make it hard for product managers to get noticed.
- The role is hard to define. Product managers deliver in many ways, many of which are not quantitatively measured.
- The role is cross-functional. Your boss might not even know what you’re working on.
- The role is in a small department. Unless you’re in a huge company, there are few peers to compare to. You might report into another function like Engineering. And the metrics for promotion are not optimized for product people.
Why are Product Managers stalled?
In a survey of 200 product professionals, they shared why they are stalled. Take a look at what our surveyees had to say:
The main theme surrounding product career stalls include having skills overlooked, being unable to advocate for themselves, and general issues with management. Let’s take a deeper dive into our surveyees and who they are.
Breaking Down the Data
Age and Gender Distribution
Of the product management career stall survey-takers, 27.8 % were male and 71.6% were female, with a small subset of surveyees who were gender non-binary or preferred not to say. An outsized percentage are female. This statistic is significant because women experience a unique experience in the workplace, particularly with workplace discrimination and maternity leave. That could be a factor as to why more women chose to respond.
In age, the surveyees were mostly between the ages of 25-45 which was the expected range for experiencing a career stall. You can see the distribution below:
- 44% of surveyees were between the age of 35-45.
- 37% of surveyees were between the age of 25-35.
- 15% of surveyees were between the age of 45.
- 4% of surveyees were younger than the age of 25.
First and Current Job
I wanted to see if there were benefits to starting a career in product management early. Do those who have a job in product from the start truly reach executive positions earlier? Or maybe having a head start in product management would actually lead to product management career stalls earlier (we’ll get to this question later).
I asked surveyees to answer when they began working and what their first job was. However based on the responses, I found little correlation that supported the notion that starting earlier led to seniority quicker.
There were only 6% of people who started specifically in product management. Surveyees came from a diverse background spanning from marketing to engineering to sales before converging on the product management career path.
Now that we have a good idea of our pool, we can get into the more interesting data. Let’s take a look at the details of our surveyees' careers.
To see how career stalls trend among senior product managers, we took a glimpse at their promotions.