A Career in Beauty

If I wanted to get a job in beauty, what do I study and where do I work?- Early Birdy

Hi, I love this question! There are so many paths to success, but I’ll share a few:

1) Study marketing in school; consider getting an MBA

I’ll start with an interesting and way too true story: I have a friend who has an MBA from Harvard.  When she was there, being brilliant, filling her mind with great info., surrounded by wonderful, inspiring people, NO ONE explained to her what MARKETING was! She took a chance and started working at a big beauty company, and the rest is history.  She loves her job! 

No one explained to me in high school or college what marketing was either, or that there was any creativity involved.  I learned the same way - I also got a job at a big beauty company and observed.

Marketing is the art of creating and selling product.  Marketing roles can have aspects of product development (coming up with product ideas), sales (public speaking, creating sales pitches), business management and/or accounting (managing inventory and sales projections, etc.), advertising (how to advertise, what to advertise, where, etc.), PR (media relations), and of course people management (mentoring etc.).

Many large companies (Avon, Lauder, L'Oreal) do like to see that you have a marketing education; having an MBA certainly gives you an edge.  Consider those options, if you have the opportunity/interest.

2) Consider a sales role

For virtually every piece of beauty product you see on a shelf, there is a sales rep.  They may be selling to you or to the retailer (as a sales rep for the brand). This role can involve aspects of marketing like inventory management and accounting, but what makes a successful sales person is people skills and passion.  If you love meeting new people and building relationships, consider exploring a sales role for a beauty brand or at a beauty retailer.  It’s a great career path even if you eventually want to be in another role: seeing how product sells, what works/what doesn’t, understanding retailers’ and consumers’ needs… that’s a great education in and of itself. 

3) Explore a product development-related path (i.e. Cosmetic Chemistry, or Graphic Design, or Packaging Engineering, or Perfumery…)

Creating beauty products is a mix of innovation, chemistry, engineering (packaging design), graphic design, etc. 

If you’re math/science-minded, cosmetic chemistry is a fascinating career path.  Packaging engineering is another great path and of course your skills could take you far beyond the beauty category.

If you’re into writing and/or the arts, consider breaking into beauty as a copywriter or graphic designer.  The path to Creative Director often begins there.

If you’re a visionary, consider trend forecasting as a path (this is an important skill for marketing as well).  I just did an interview for IFB with Sharon Graubard, SVP of Trend Analysis at Stylesight, where we talked about our backgrounds; she goes quite in depth about her career path and what it takes to succeed in trend forecasting. Check it out! (You have to turn your volume up loud, technical issues…).

If you’re passionate about scent, consider being a “nose.” Becoming a perfumer is a long road, but WOW, what an amazing job!  Fragrance companies like IFF have programs.

If you’re ultra-organized, consider getting started in a project management role.  It’s essential to product development and those skills (whether acquired at a beauty company or not) will open doors.

4) Investigate public relations or a publishing role

Of course, you don’t have to work for a beauty company to be intimately involved with the beauty world.  Interning at a PR firm that represents beauty brands, or in the beauty department of a publication (online or off), can be a great start.  In terms of education, a communications-related degree is a strong foundation for a PR career, and of course a journalism degree opens doors in publishing.

Hope this is all helpful!  On Thursday, June 30 I’m speaking at the HBA Conference in NYC on Social Media and New Career Directions with some great beauty experts; if you’re in NYC, sign up on the site for free admission using the code GPSE!

Also, here are two resources I’ve relied on over the years:

Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) | Society of Cosmetic Chemists

Good luck.  Be in touch if you have more questions!

ann sommabeauty, jobs, career