For many of us, working in the beauty industry is the ultimate dream.
But where do you even start?
If you’re one of the many out there hustling, interviewing for jobs and internships in the industry and looking for a way to get your foot in the door, you might want to really pay attention. We’ve rounded up six huge names in the beauty industry to give you expert advice.
These experts run the gamut, from hair and makeup professionals to editorial, public relations and corporate pros. They not only share how their careers got started, but they also give their best tips for breaking into the business.
Here’s the beauty career advice they wanted to share with you.
How Did You Get Your Start in the Beauty Industry?
“I was about 22-23 years old when I admitted to a friend that I had always thought about being a hairdresser, and he told me I’d be great at it. So, I went to barber school for 1,000 hours, then went to beauty school for my teaching certificate for another 1,500 hours every night while holding down a full-time job. I moved to Austin, Texas and worked and apprenticed under Zan Ray, the most expensive hairstylist in Austin, then moved to Minneapolis to work for Aveda. I became a beauty school teacher and became a global educator for the company and developed products for them, which are still there today, 20 years later.”—Ted Gibson, celebrity hairstylist
“I knew I wanted to be a writer, and I loved magazines, but I had no idea how to get into the industry. When I was studying abroad in London during my junior year of college, I sent my resume (via snail mail!) to human resources at all of the big publishing companies, but, needless to say, never heard back. So when I returned to the US—desperate for an internship—I emailed a few websites to see if anyone would bite. One of the women referred me to her friend at NARS Cosmetics, who was looking for a PR intern. I didn’t even know what PR was, but jumped at the chance to interview. I spent a summer and September Fashion Week with NARS and learned so much—most importantly, that I loved beauty and that I really wanted to be on the editorial side.”—Dawn Davis, beauty editor at Total Beauty
“One summer, I was studying theater in NYC and started doing most of the cast’s makeup for our productions at the same time I landed an internship at a funeral home, where my job was to apply makeup to ‘clients’ prior to their wakes. It was a very humbling experience to help families be able to see their loved ones as they remembered them in life.”—Simone Ciafardini, vice president of global education development at Clinique
“I started by hanging out in my dad’s beauty salon back in Chicago, watching him work and observing him and the makeup artist in the salon. I attended the Art Institute of Chicago and was always inspired by the face as a canvas and the transformative power of hair and makeup and what it could do. I had a clandestine meeting with a makeup artist at a photographer’s studio in Chicago, and it all just clicked for me, that makeup artistry was what I wanted to do. I started doing makeup for Elite Model Management test shoots in Chicago and years later moved to New York to call on Pat McGrath’s rep. I started working for Pat, which got me my own agent.”—Tina Turnbow, celebrity makeup artist
Did You Do Internships or Training Positions? What’s One of Your Favorite Memories?
“Yes. For two summers, I interned at a local advertising and PR agency in Cincinnati, near where I grew up. I started walking up and down the halls, knocking on doors saying, ‘I’m the summer intern. Do you need help with anything?’ One of the young female employees really took me under her wing and taught me all the basics: how to create a media list, write a press release, make a pitch call… I even ended up as a spokesperson on the local news!”—Laura Brinker, vice president of beauty brand partnerships at Influenster
“After my internship at NARS, I did an internship in the beauty department at Harper’s Bazaar. Kerry Diamond was the beauty director at the time, and she treated me like her assistant. I was a real member of the team, and she taught me so much. A few weeks after I graduated from college, I got a call that Bazaar was looking for an editorial assistant. They remembered my work as an intern and hired me for the position. I made some fantastic friends during my time there—women I’m still friends with today.”—Davis
“Yes! I interned at a daily newspaper and PR firm, which were both great experiences and helped me understand both sides of the editorial business. I remember days in college when I would go to classes in the morning, lacrosse practice in the afternoon, then head straight to the daily newspaper to hit evening print deadlines. It was the perfect training for a career in beauty PR when you’re always running around, multi-tasking and trying to make deadlines.”—Jessica Goon, senior director of digital marketing at KIND, formerly the director of digital and social media at New Avon
“When I was apprenticing for Pat McGrath, she used to tell me, ‘You may not get to do very much, but you should be like a sponge.’ Even on days where sometimes all I did was carry her bags and clean makeup brushes, I spent every other second absorbing technique and knowledge by watching her and her team do what they did. I think everything I do now shows what I’ve learned over years of observation.”—Turnbow
What Do You Consider Your ‘Big Break’ When It Comes to Your Career?
“When I flew to London to do the covers of Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan in the same day with Patrick Demarchelier and Angelina Jolie. It changed my career, my outlook; it changed me personally and professionally. I didn’t know what it would mean for me when I was there, but it was the event that changed my life.”—Gibson
“After six months at Bazaar, Kerry called me into her office and told me there was a beauty assistant job open at Lucky. She knew I really wanted to work in beauty, and she recommended me for the job. I’d loved Lucky since the magazine launched, and I was thrilled to interview—and beyond thrilled when I actually got the job. I spent four years there: two as a beauty assistant and two as an associate editor. My definition of success is constantly evolving, and I always want to learn more and do more.”—Davis
“I was a counter manager for a beauty brand and attended a training along with their director of international education. We got to know one another, and she really pushed and inspired me to branch out and consider utilizing my skills abroad. She became a mentor to me, and within four years I had worked in over 25 countries on three continents.”—Ciafardini
“I think you know you’re at another level when you see your work on the red carpet and on the newsstands. I worked with Mary-Louise Parker when she was nominated for a Golden Globe, and I always look back on that as a big moment. I also did a great Town & Country cover with Ivanka Trump that I always look back on as a big moment.”—Turnbow
In Your Opinion, What Are 3 Traits That Can Help You Be Successful in Your Industry?
“Find something that you actually enjoy doing and figure out a way to get paid for it. Build strong relationships and nurture them (most of the ‘breaks’ in my career have been because someone was willing to give me a chance, and now I try to do the same for others). Learn how to write well, which is sometimes considered a lost art in this era of social media; but at the same time, don’t forget how to speak.”—Brinker
“A great disposition. Smile! Be positive! Beauty should be happy. Also, the ability to make friends with brand representatives and other editors and, most definitely, your work ethic.”—Davis
“Creativity, writing skills and attention to detail.”—Goon
“Patience, humility and passion.”—Ciafardini
“Be able to take direction, constantly anticipate the needs of your clients, and have a nurturing instinct. Show your clients care and attention, focus on them and their needs; it will set you apart. Also, have a vision and help guide your client to help them grow in their own evolution of beauty and their ‘look.'”—Turnbow
What Are Some Tips You Can Give for Those Who Are Just Trying to Break into the Industry? Any Tips for Interviewing, Resumes, Looking for a Position?
“You should display willingness. Willingness means you’ll have the drive to succeed. Be sure to look the part: Be dressed appropriately, act professional, have your hair and makeup done. Finally, define where your home is going to be: Interview at a lot of places, pick up on the vibe of the spaces and the people, then decide where you want to spend the rest of your life. Think long-term.”—Gibson
“Looking for a job is tough. You really have to be persistent. Don’t be afraid to follow-up (respectfully and within reason, of course). Also, whether writing your resume or conducting an interview, try to be results-focused vs. task-oriented. Don’t simply say that you led media outreach for a new product launch; say that you helped drive new product sales by creating awareness through millions of impressions. Finally, try to think really broadly about your skills, even if not directly related to the job at hand. You can draw examples of leadership, creativity and analytical thinking from all types of life experience. Companies are not only interested in what you’ve done, but how you think.”—Brinker
“Read! Read absolutely everything you can. Read women’s magazines, read business stories, read blogs, read Twitter. It is so easy to be well-informed these days, and it can give you a huge advantage when it comes to breaking into the industry. When it comes to finding a position, it’s all about networking. Ask people for informational interviews even if they aren’t hiring, attend industry events and conferences. But please (please!) keep your emails short—people are busy! “—Goon
“Always stay connected and treat everyone you work with as a possible future reference. In this industry, it is also important to look the part. If you’re going to work for a makeup company, wear makeup. Always show up for interviews as prepared and knowledgeable as you can be, ask smart questions that show you’ve done your homework and never ever show up late.”—Ciafardini
A version of this article was originally published in December 2014.