Top 10 Tips For Beauty Career Success

Posted by Sharon Esche Irving under Building Authority, General, Networking, New Media, Ramblings, The PR Mindset, Trends

Thia Breen – President,
North America,
Estee Lauder Companies

I love meeting amazing and straightforward people like Thia Breen.  She lifts me up with her own phenomenal beauty career success story but stops me cold with forehead-slapping simple solutions  to ‘OPSCOCC’ – other people’s self-created overly-complicated career challenges! (my term, not hers <g>) How does Thia know about all that? She was one of those ‘other people’ once! I recently inhaled (along with 300 others) every word that Thia shared as guest speaker at the Beverly Hilton for the Cosmetic Executive Women a while back.  It was all part of CEW’s ‘West Coast Women In Beauty’ Series addressing “Building Beauty, Brands and Careers”. I have to admit Thia won me over when she said …

… ‘bloggers are the new beauty editors’.

Remember that as you increase awareness of  ‘your’ brands: You, Your Salon and Your Services.

I figure that if anyone can keep any of us from catching OPSCOCC’, it’s the person who oversees 29 of The Estee Lauder Companies’ brands for their North American operations (including our salon world giants Bumble & Bumble and Aveda). Surely, stress and hard work are no strangers to this role-model beauty industry career pro in the retail world and now professional side of beauty. We would all do well to pick up a few career-building tips from her no matter who we are and what our level of experience within the beauty field. New stylist … salon or spa owner… seasoned colorist … aspiring student … corporate exec or publicist/writer like me … we can never forget that at those times when our career feels like we’re running in place but going nowhere fast, it’s probably ‘little ole me’ who is standing in my own way and self-sabotaging my advancement.

Now in her later 50’s, Thia Breen remains a knowledge ‘sponge’ and a passionate powerhouse every day at work, be it at the office or most often, on the road and in department stores.  She inspires others to work smart – not harder, be organized and above all, ‘get a life’. Carving out quality, nurturing personal time is key to performing great on the job and getting ahead.

We all know we can get to feeling ‘sluggish’ at times and can easily drift toward blaming other people and things for our own ‘ho-hum status quo’ career.

  • I have no time.
  • I can’t work any harder than I do.
  • My boss doesn’t notice my good work.

Or the flip-side classic:

  • I know my boss sees what I do and will promote me soon.

These statements are all the ‘self sabotagers’ But after listening to my newest ‘fav’ role model, phrases like these are officially ‘shunned’ from my vocabulary, brain waves, and from this blog forward!

Allow me to share how Thia got through to me … and maybe you, too.  Let’s start getting out of our own way and unleash  that career path!  As Thia quipped to us that night: “The beauty business is a great business to be in. Just think of what you looked like this morning – and now, how you look tonight.”

Top 10 Tips For Greater Beauty Career Success:  Inspirations from Estee Lauder’s Thia Breen

  1. Compartmentalize:  –  Thia keeps her amazing focus on many different things during the day by ‘leaving work in her mind’ at night. She loves being home and turning off her Blackberry at 8pm to just relax and ‘be’. At 8am the next morning, the Blackberry is back on again and Thia is back at work and focused 100% on the work at hand.  (Thia admits that early on in her career, she was th essence of “all work and no balance”.
  2. Make Something Happen: Thia encourages us all to not be afraid to make decisions. She says ‘Be Fearless!’
  3. Don’t Be Afraid To Make Mistakes: You don’t want to move too fast or quickly but just look around the corner, anticipate what’s coming, and MOVE.
  4. Be Sensitive To Other People’s Feelings: It’s great to be an achiever and successful, but avoid that ‘killer instinct’ and the desire to be #1 at someone else’s personal expense. You don’t have to be ruthless or hurtful to get ahead. Be very aware of other people’s feelings!
  5. Be Aware Of How Your Customer Is Responding: Thia reminds us that the consumer or client today has been changed forever by a number of things…technology, the economy, media, etc. She/he is thinking differently about everything. Some consumers just want information when she wants it and doesn’t want to be ‘sold’. Others love the element of ‘service’ like the ‘beauty advisor’ at the department store counter (and certainly the professional in the salon and spa!). Everyone today loves ‘value’ – and many love ‘options’ (like having choices of smaller-size products to try  before committing to the big size of something).
  6. Manage Yourself, Too – Avoid the ‘24/7 Mentality’: You need down time! From the management perspective, Thia wants her team to have ‘non-work’ on their schedules to really look forward to. In my business, those who are working that 24/7 schedule are just plain working too hard. “They ‘crash and burn’ when I really need them…like over the holidays when things really get busy, etc.  I tell them: “Your jobs aren’t that hard!”  A good manager has to manage herself, too. You just get duller and duller with a 24/7 work mentality.
  7. Give Feedback To Others: Thia shared that a good manager has to give consistent feedback to be effective. According to this ‘ultimate manager’, good feedback means saying things ‘whether people like it or not’.
  8. Get A Mentor: If you don’t have a career mentor, then get one. Thia reminds us that very often, you need mentors to advise you along your career path.  Says Thia: I had mentors … and remember one in particular early on in my career  who really believed in me…who took a chance on me. It made a big difference.
  9. Make Your Own Career:  Sad but true…there are a lot more bosses that are ‘not great’ than bosses who are.  Don’t assume they are always going to recognize your talents and pave the way for your career promotions. Thia remembers learning a critical lesson in her first days working in a small-town drug store in Benson, MN. – “I learned the hard way that I am totally responsible for my own success.  Up until that time (that I first got fired’), I kept expecting – believing — that there would always be someone else there to take charge of my career. I also learned that it is entirely up to you, and you alone, to ask for what you need.”
  10. Customer Service Reigns Supreme:  I couldn’t agree more with Thia … and what she says is as true of our professional side of the beauty biz as it is of her retail beauty world and brands.  “The only thing that really matters is customers coming to the beauty counter,” she says. “If someone gets great service, that’s the reflection of the brand.”

Which One of of the Above is Your Nemisis?

4 responses to “Top 10 Tips For Beauty Career Success”

  1. Becci says:

    #2! Right now it’s not being able to make a decision! So many choices that cost a quite a substantial amount. What if I spend all that money and it turns out I made a wrong choice? I know that I need to close my eyes and just pick something that “seems” to be good for me at this point of my career. Just like jumping into a cold swimming pool – after a bit it warms up!By choosing a new direction for my career – I know I will learn something. It may not be what I thought or wished but I do learn and I do grow.
    I’ve gotten to the point of low enthusiasm. I’ve been pondering and studying that word and what it means for two weeks now. It’s an amazing word. I know it’s necessary to be enthusiastic about what I’m doing and I know when I am I’m very happy, my clients are happy and everyone around me is happy! BUT what if I don’t have enthusiasm? Where do I find it? Is there an enthusiasm store? WISH! I’m going to make my decision by Dec 14th. I pick that date because there is 20% off sale for what I’m considering that ends on Dec. 15th.
    The worst thing about this is knowing. I know what I need to be doing but I am having a hard time making myself do it!

  2. lynn says:

    Thia’s presentation was truly remarkable! I particularly liked what she shared about being fired early in her career . . . she spoke up for herself and got reassigned to another department that actually changed the whole course of her career. I, too, was once fired from a large haircare company, and the reason given was that I had tried to seek a position in another division of the company (the other division head had actually had approached me)and suddenly found I was “out” right before Christmas. I calmly happened to mention to the President (when I saw him in the elevator at lunchtime) that this might be my last chance to say goodbye, and when he asked why, I briefly explained, was called to his office after lunch and was assigned to a new (and better) position in a new division! So “speak up for what you need (and want)) is very good advice.

  3. Alex Irving says:


    Greatest advice anyone ever gave me was, “Deciding not to decide, is a decision”. The symptoms you wrote about say to me that your bellybutton (your instincts) isn’t convinced. If I’m not enthusiastic about any of my options at the moment, I try to wait for a bit. Life shuffles the deck regularly.

    I’m not talking about being afraid of failure, which makes me procrastinate, I’m talking about being undecided. We don’t give enough credit to our instincts and often feel we ‘should’ or ‘have to’ decide right now. Life and others (salespeople for example) try to convince us that if we don’t decide now we will lose out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    Someone taught me a phrase that has kept me out of trouble. My answer to those (including me) who apply pressure is … If I have to answer right now, the answer is no. Given more time to think about it … maybe.” That is a perfectly rational answer. That applies to pressures like, “the sale ends on the 14th” or, “act now, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity” … etc.

    Trust yourself and your instincts. Intellect, logic, and convincing sounding arguments from anyone else who may serve to profit from your decision are less important than your basic instincts.

    Thia said “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes”. I totally agree. Since you shared your final thought as “you know what you need to do”, it does sound like your bellybutton is satisfied and it’s only procrastination you are dealing with. Fear tends to mask enthusiasm. Come on in. The water’s fine.

    P.S. Life does allow ‘do-overs’ most of the time. All you lose is a little time. Go ahead. Be wrong. I dare you. 😉

  4. Becci says:

    All my choices that I currently have in my life don’t enthuse me. I’m not sure if it’s because my choices just aren’t what I “think” I’m looking for, if I’m afraid or if I’m just to the point of having I don’t care-itis and if I’d just pick something I would get enthusiastic… So today I am “deciding to decide”. I will make a choice and bring something new into my life. At the least I will have something new to focus on and at the best it will rock my world, ya never know! I certainly won’t know if I don’t get on the train, right?
    Thank you for taking the time to respond to this comment. It has given me a lot of food for thought.

    Have a great hair day! Becci