Getting Started in the Beauty Industry: Advice for Sophomores

Alexis Rodriguez

It’s no secret that the job market is hard to break into these days, so every little extra bit can help as the years pass and the time comes for you to have to break into the “real world.” Over the next couple of weeks, Alexis Rodriguez, the Executive Director of Communications at Bobbi Brown, will be going through exactly what steps you should be taking each year of college to help you get an edge over the rest of your generation. Rodriguez has over twelve years of experience in the beauty industry, working with clients such as Stila, Sephora, MD Skincare, Kate Spade Beauty and Diane von Furstenberg Beauty. She also has her own personal blog, ThePRCloset.com, where she is constantly giving out advice on how to make it in the industry.

If you want to pursue a career in beauty and are going into your sophomore year, it is time to start thinking about how you are going to make that happen. No, it is not too early to start taking your future career into your own hands, and the best way to begin is to immerse yourself in the industry. In other words, start considering the all-too-important internship.

Get a Beauty Internship

You may be thinking that you don’t need to intern until your junior or senior year—and that may have been the case years ago—but the times, they are a changin’. The beauty industry is competitive to begin with, and in today’s world, the bad economy has made landing a job in beauty ever more challenging and competitive. So, to get a leg up over your competition, the more experience that you have working in the industry upon graduation, the better.

Internships are the best way to test the waters of a job or industry to see if it is right for you. You should try to secure as many internships as possible, starting as early as possible (your freshman or sophomore years are a great time to start).  Not only will this beef up your resumé, but it will help provide clearer direction as you decide what your major should be.

The reason I decided to go into PR was because I secured an internship at a boutique agency that focused on beauty PR, and because there were only three of us in the office at once, I was exposed to so much and had to learn quickly. I started talking to press and clients regularly and before I knew it, I was pitching stories, securing placements and making friends in the industry.

My internship solidified my passion for beauty and helped me identify my strengths. You, too, will learn a lot more about yourself and whether or not a career in beauty is a good fit for you.

The Different Types of Internships

As you begin to consider pursuing an internship, you’ll find that there are a few ways to go about this, so let me break down the different types of internships for you to avoid any confusion:

  • Paid internships – These are internships you get paid for, so they are harder to come by. Most paid internships are part of formal internship programs and are hosted by large corporations like Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Revlon, etc. They are few and far between and often involve a competitive application process with rounds of interviews and essay writing.
  • Non-paid internships – These are internships that you don’t get paid for that you take for the experience. Sometimes the companies will pay you a small stipend (I once got paid $8 a day), but that is like not getting paid at all, so it maybe covers lunch or your commute and that’s that. I have to admit that the best internships I ever had were non-paid, as they were smaller companies who couldn’t afford to pay me, but they had interesting clients and a lot of work to be done, so I was ultimately exposed to more.  This early on, I suggest choosing experience over money if you can.
  • Intern for credit – A lot of corporations will provide credit for internships as opposed to paying you. If you can spend your course credit hours working and figuring out if a career is right for you, then that is a pretty cool scenario. My very last semester in college was set up as a work study program, so I got a head start on entering the workforce while completing my course credits. Your academic advisors should be able to tell you what types of internships will count as school credit.

So now that you understand the structure, you can find these types of internships on sites like InternQueen.com, FreeBeautyInternships.com, WWD.com, CEW.org, mediabistro.com, and ThePRCloset.com (yes, my blog), which post internship opportunities regularly.

I always suggest that you think about the brands you love most and reach out to them directly to see if they are looking for interns.

If you love MAC, for example, and you find out they are owned by Estee Lauder Companies, you should research the Estee Lauder Companies website for opportunities or call the MAC offices and ask who the hiring manager is for internships. If there isn’t a formal program and you can afford to work for the experience, offer yourself out for that, or see if they will offer school credit. People will almost always take free help (if you are qualified).

Applying for an Internship

When you are applying for an internship, you should put together a formal resumé and a cover letter explaining your passion for the industry, your willingness to learn more about the industry, and how you feel you can contribute to the team.

As you apply for internships, be aware that employers will Google you and browse your social platforms to learn more about you, so you may want to clean up some of your Facebook photos, tweets, etc, and you may also want to consider starting a LinkedIn profile, which acts as your online resumé. Your social media activity will follow you wherever you go—good or bad—so try to keep in mind that potential future employers are watching.

Once you land the internship, it is important that you are the best intern you can be.  Here are some helpful hints for how to rise to the top:

  • Be on time, always.
  • Be enthusiastic and have a positive attitude.
  • Be hungry and proactive. Ask for work.
  • Be a sponge and absorb as much as you can.
  • Be accountable for your work and your actions.
  • If you don’t know, ask.
  • Do not act like you are entitled and do not name drop if you got the job because you know someone.
  • Treat the internship like a real job, because it is a real job.

So you should now be fully armed with all of the internship information you need to get started on your search. With summer here, there is no time like the present to start thinking about the future. An internship will ensure the future is bright, and that is a beautiful thing.

[Image via istock.com]

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