How should I position myself if I'm a founder looking to move into a PM role?

First of all, I’m new to this community and this is my first post, so please excuse me if I miss out something that might not be permissible on this platform.

So, here’s my concern:

I am the founder of a startup and have been running it for three years now. My top priority is to join a growing company (aka great team).

Many job postings state that the applicant must have “5+ years experience as a product manager.” It appears that this is what’s getting in my way because I began my firm right out of college (3 years ago), so I don’t have five or more years of experience as a project manager, but definitely have experience doing everything PMs do with a bootstrapped team.

Because of my goal above, I don’t want to work as an associate PM for a big company, and startups don’t offer APM positions.

The options that come to mind are:

a) to continue applying and pray that my founder emails and requests for coffee from team members are successful.

b) look for a less senior position where I could have an easier time landing interview, such as in marketing or growth.

If you could give me a plan C, that would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.


A very warm welcome to the Community @AlanaMartin. I’ve been connected with this community for more than a year now and have not only enjoyed being here but have also had the privilege of learning a lot here and have many of my doubts and queries cleared from the extremely helpful community members in here. Now, coming to your post and concern.

You don’t need to worry about the number of years of experience being accurate. Most people consider founder experience as PM + other stuff. If anything, when we talk about early stage startups there might not even be PMs (other than the founders).

But perhaps you’re running into trouble with the hiring screens.

If the hiring manager is not a vice president or executive you may know, you will likely need to leverage your network to connect with them.

Did you establish any contacts with investors? Even if you operated entirely on your own resources, I’m sure you developed a network, right? I know a few people who received seed rounds—a form of “large” institutional funding—and then transitioned to bigger firms like FAANG, and other companies.


@MarcoSilva, Yes, I had a couple brief conversations with investors, but they were superficial and had no real impact. When compared to someone who can tweet or send out a few emails stating their desire for a job and receive references, my network is actually quite little.

If my network is unable to assist me, how do you believe I can obtain interviews and make it through the selection process?


That’s the thing…if you have no other “standard” product experience you need to network. Network with other founders more likely to commiserate and maybe help you out.


Yes, networking works best when you have established a relationship and are not in need of anything. Simply said, asking for assistance when you reach out is less effective (something I also learned the hard way with investors).

Through Crunchbase, I’m also emailing founders who have launched two or more businesses to get their advice. If they reply, I might be able to ask for any recommendations in my second email. What do you think?


Welcome aboard @alanamartin

If you are a founder, aren’t you already a PM?


Thank you so much.

Yes, I’m simply trying to figure out what might be making me uncomfortable during the screening process.

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Hey @AlanaMartin, Welcome to this wonderful community (Prowess). Hope you’ll enjoy being around as much as we do.

Regarding your post, here’s my two cents.

If you respond to a job posting by applying, you should send the hiring manager or recruiter a note right away. Describe your exceptional qualifications for the position, such as being in charge of the complete product lifecycle, budgeting, or other special skills. Be unique and you will draw in those who value your uniqueness. If not, the HR assistant expert who was tasked with narrowing the 75 applications down to 5 for phone screening will simply discard your application.

Send out cold mails and cold InMails to CEOs at businesses that interest you (LinkedIn seems to have greater response rates than email). Describe the kinds of issues you resolve. Even if they don’t have a pressing need, ask if they would be interested to speaking with you for a 10-minute exploratory conversation.

Consider ancillary positions such as sales, marketing, or anything else that would fit with your background. In situations where you need to speak the native language of other functions, learning more about those trades can assist you develop your empathic leadership abilities.

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Thank you so much for the warm welcome. And great link to extraordinary skills! Lol :smile: To gauge my performance, what would you say is a good application to interview ratio?

I recently applied for a position as a growth marketing specialist, so I have an interview for it. However, I already know that I want to work in the product department because it will provide me the most experience and I will be successful there. They have a product owner position that requires 5+ years of expertise, however I didn’t apply for that one.

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Ratios of interviews to applications are comparable to batting averages in baseball. Depending on what you are hitting, yes. The deck is stacked against you since HR assistants are looking at basic requirements while applicant tracking systems are searching for crucial terms.

My background is unusual—it includes engineering, sales, marketing, and product development. I apply for a few intriguing jobs. Only 5% of random job posts receive any responses. the cover letter No distinction. Maybe 25% of messages go to the hiring manager or an internal recruiter.

Sending a strong message directly to the hiring manager instead of filling out an application, greater than 50%. That is after spending a lot of time refining my value proposition and message. If you are willing to work on a contract basis or as a consultant (“1099”), you may find that some small businesses value that approach.

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It’s interesting that you’ve discovered that the greatest way to pitch oneself is, in essence, via email to a founder or hiring manager, isn’t it? If so, what makes applying first and emailing later different from applying first and only emailing?

You’ve discovered that they want to start you as a 1099 in this particular circumstance, finally. If so, why do you believe it’s a better approach for 1099 versus full-time employees? Thanks

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I discovered that companies don’t really know what they want when they hire their first product person. It relieves pressure on them to be open to contract jobs. Making a long-term commitment is unsettling since their demands will change swiftly. They require assistance in identifying the issues that need to be resolved.

It’s a different scenario for very big companies. They want someone who will match their processes and culture, be familiar with their precise tools, etc.

A really valid question is whether to just email instead of applying. I don’t follow any strict guidelines. I would find it difficult to explain why I did both. Not a satisfactory response, but I make my decision based on my experience.