Overcoming Loneliness as a Product Manager

Posts, Building Your Product Career, Growing with Community

By: Jamie Martin, Executive Coach for Women on the Rise

Each morning, you wake up, go to work, and talk to people. Developers, marketing, sales, and clients… the list goes on! 

But at the end of the day, you feel this emptiness in your heart. A hollowness that you can’t touch. You don’t understand it. It doesn’t happen every day and shows up unexpectedly. 

You start to wonder – Maybe I’m not on the right track with my career? Maybe it’s time to look for a new job? A fresh start? Maybe I need to find something more fulfilling for my career? Or worse. Maybe I’m not good enough? Maybe I’m not capable enough for this role? 

It never occurs to you that this feeling is loneliness. 

How could it be?

You feel like you are always surrounded and engaged with people at work. You even wish you could have moments to yourself just to think.

But that’s the thing. You can be lonely and surrounded by and engaged with people. 

Loneliness can be exacerbated by being a Product Manager. 

You are caught in the middle, balancing the needs of clients, engineers, sales, and marketing. Heck, you are the one department that both sales and marketing can agree they hate more than each other. 

You have to make difficult decisions without having all the information you desire. You know that no matter what call you make, someone will feel like you are letting them down. But you can’t please everyone. You have to make a decision and keep moving things forward. 

To top it off, you are faced with unrealistic expectations. Stakeholders expect you to deliver a press-worthy product that is perfect. One that meets ALL the stakeholders’ needs from day one without a bug in sight. And not only that, it’s within budget and early! It’s an impossible task, and you are doing your best to navigate it by setting expectations. 

All of this pressure can lead to feeling alone at work. Standing on your own with no support in sight. 

Yet, you are not the only one feeling this way. The U.S. has a loneliness epidemic where over 50% of the population is experiencing loneliness (and nope, you can’t blame the pandemic; the stats aren’t that different from pre-pandemic). This impacts everything in our lives. Our productivity and satisfaction at work. Our ability to have a fulfilling personal life or navigate difficult times. 

That’s why it’s so important to build a community. Community is what gives you access to resilience. Community is what supports you to step outside of your comfort zone. Community is who reminds you to fill your cup when you need it most. 

Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to build a community. Community used to be something that existed around us. You were born into a community, surrounded already by people who loved you and were part of your team. This no longer exists, and instead, you need to be intentional about creating community in your life, career, and work. 

The User Journey to Community Building

So, how do you create a community intentionally? 

It’s just like building a product. 

Take a deep dive into you, the user of the community. And I mean deep dive.  

You don’t want to recreate the classic example of a user who asked for a lightweight pen and was given it but realized that they couldn’t put enough pressure on the paper to make it write as a result of your community building. No, you want to go deep. Dive to the root. 

Start with questions like: 

  • How do I define community? What does an ideal community look like to me? 
  • How did I create the community I have now?  What gift has it given me so far?
  • Who are the people in my community I want to stay, and why? Who are the people that I am ready to move on from, and why?
  • What elements are missing in my community overall? At work? With friends? With family? What do these missing elements mean to me? How would my life be different with these elements in place?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable am I in asking for support from my community? What would need to change to make that a 10? 
  • What expectations do I have of others in a relationship? What expectations do I have of myself? 
  • Who have I lost touch with that I wish to bring into my community? What stops me from reaching out? (No, really, what stops you… go deep)

You want to answer each of these once and then answer again. Dive into it like you would a client interview or a root cause analysis. This is the first step in understanding what you desire in a community and how you can start to create it. 

Allow yourself to see how the answers shift when you think about it from your career, at work, and friendships. What nuances are there that you might take for granted but actually impact how you create relationships?

Now that you understand your requirements for a community (or many communities), it’s time to take steps toward creating it. 

What is the first step you will take today to build community? 

And remember… It takes time to build a community, just like a product takes time. You are on a journey. Be patient and give yourself grace along the way. 

Here are a few tips for you to remember during the journey. 

  • Start where you are. You already have people in your life that you can start deepening your relationship with. Start with them. 
  • Be open and vulnerable. Community is about being vulnerable with each other. The more you can open up and share, the more connection you will feel. It’s scary. Especially when you have to show strength at work, but when you can choose to be vulnerable, the strength of relationships you have will be exponential. 
  • Be consistent. It takes time to build connections with people. You must show up in each other’s space a lot to develop the relationship. 
  • Trust the power of lost connections. Trust that the relationships you have built over time are not dead just because you haven’t talked in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, or even 10 years. You might just find they have been thinking of you, too. 
  • Ask for their phone number. Yes. Ask for their phone number. Make the first move. Don’t wait for them because they might be too nervous to do it. 

Community is worth it! It provides resilience, support, and friendship. It can help you achieve your goals and live a more fulfilling life. 

Ready to build your community? Reach out to someone in your life today and deepen your relationship with them.

About the author

Jamie Martin Headshot

Jamie Martin

Jamie Martin is the Founder of Unleash Your Voice and Executive Coach to Women on the Rise. Influencer Digest Media recognized her as one of the Top 15 Coaches in Chicago for 2023. As a former Product Manager, one of her favorite memories is reminding a CEO that he hired her for her voice, knowing fully well that he might not like what she had to say.

Jamie is obsessed with gardening and harvests so many tomatoes that she has enough to enjoy fresh pasta sauce in the middle of winter.