Beauty Career Mastery: How to Map Your Way to Success

When you began your journey in this industry, presumably you did so with a plan, right? If that plan began with “go to cosmetology school” and ended with “find a job,” you’ve been doing it wrong.

“Success is all about effective time management. Don’t believe me? For one month spend less time bitching and more time executing.”

Many beauty professionals seeking career guidance often have the same complaint. “I’m working hard but getting nowhere.” When you lack a plan and lack direction, that feeling of pointlessness will never go away. To make progress, you must set measurable goals and focus your efforts so you will know where you’re going and how far you are from where you want to be. Whether you’re starting your career or trying to correct your course after a few wrong turns, this article is for you. Your time has immense value–don’t waste it running in circles and driving down dead-end roads.


Covet your resume. Treat it as if it’s something sacred because it is. Every position you accept and every salon you work for will end up on this document for future employers to see, so be selective. Refuse opportunities presented by salon owners with poor reputations or those who don’t seem competent during the interview.

Don’t sign anything you don’t agree with. Successful people aren’t lazy, impulsive, or careless. They don’t take risks when it comes to binding legal documents. They read and evaluate contracts with shrewd, critical eyes. Should any stipulations not work in their favor, they attempt to renegotiate. If they can’t reach a compromise with the salon owner, they reject the agreement.

Nobody has the authority to force you to put your signature on anything. Don’t allow others to pressure or manipulate you into making a commitment you aren’t comfortable with. Have the confidence to present your own terms and walk away from arrangements that put you at a disadvantage.

Always leave on good terms. Colleague references are great assets, but glowing references from previous employers are invaluable. You’ll never be able to collect letters of recommendation if you’re setting fires on your way out the door. Even if the reasons for your departure make it difficult to separate amicably, do your best to remain professional and cordial.

(If you want more information on how to make intelligent career decisions, there’s plenty in my book, The Beauty Industry Survival Guide. In it, you’ll find an entire section with information about evaluating potential employers and opportunities. It also includes a list of questions to ask and warning signs to look out for.)


Have a plan. While it’s tempting to take interesting classes for fun, it’s best to spend your time and money strategically. If you plan to become a renown color specialist, take classes in color theory and technique. Keep up with product chemistry and new technologies. Join networking groups and education forums that focus on that specialty. Don’t waste your time or money earning erroneous certifications. (Sure, lash extensions are cool, trendy, and profitable, but they won’t get you any closer to your goal.)

You’re licensed to perform a broad range of beauty services, but that doesn’t mean you have to learn every technique.

Be willing to pay for value. It’s important to thoroughly evaluate all learning and growth opportunities. This industry has a wealth of experts who are willing to share their knowledge–for a price. If you’re committed to achieving your career goals, don’t expect a cheap shortcut to mastery. Training under experts like Beth Minardi, Kim Kimble, or Martin Parsons costs serious cash, but the time you spend with adept artists pays off (and will look very impressive on your resume).

Stay engaged. Being at a workshop or continuing education class isn’t enough. You have to be present. Leave anything capable of distracting you from the educator in your car. You’re there to learn, so put your phone away and pay attention. Ask questions and write down some notes. Take advantage of the time you have with the educator and get as much knowledge as you can from the course.

If you aren’t going to pay attention, you may as well stay home and resign yourself to a mediocre career.


Mind the company you keep. Throughout your career, you will meet a lot of fellow professionals. Those you associate with professionally have the potential to reflect poorly on you, so choose well. Surround yourself with people committed to career advancement, ongoing education, and professionalism.

Don’t associate with people who don’t share your professional values.

Maintain important relationships. It can be hard to stay connected to professionals you value, but dedicate time to communicating with your colleagues. Network in your local area and make it a priority to touch base with the people you meet from time to time. Create a Facebook group for local professionals and organize meetups and skill exchanges.

Cut ties when necessary. Should a professional or brand you associate with present issues that may compromise your reputation, break it off.

Be loyal to yourself before others.

Don’t let your sense of loyalty influence you to act against your best interests.  Whereas friends and family are quick to forgive and forget, colleagues and companies you do business with are certainly not.  Mistakes and errors in judgment you make early in your career could follow you forever. Think very carefully before allowing a charismatic shit-disturbing coworker to recruit you for a mutiny against your employer.

Know that others are watching. Not to make you paranoid, but people in the industry will be watching you. On a local level, potential clients and salon owners will become aware of you and your reputation. On a national level, if you’re participating in the industry community by competing or educating, brands and potential associates will be monitoring you.

You never know what opportunities you are being considered for, or what doors your professional alliances and behaviors are slamming shut.

Brands and companies have recruiters out there watching, waiting to snatch up fresh talent. Don’t give them a reason to cross your name off their list.


Give yourself deadlines. Nothing will light a fire under your ass like impending deadlines. Planning your annual goals in advance is great, but you aren’t likely to achieve them if you don’t attach a due date to them.

It’s not enough to have a plan

Even the most daunting aspirations can be broken down into simple, achievable steps. Those steps can be put on a calendar. To form a strategy, think about how you’re going to get where you want to be.

  • What skills will you need?
  • What kind of career experience can you gain that will help you?
  • Which classes and books can teach you what you need to know?
  • Which professional associations and groups can you join?
  • Who would be the most appropriate mentor to help guide you?
  • What professional relationships should you pursue and maintain?
  • What can you do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year to get closer and closer to accomplishing your end goal?

You can’t get from one side of the world to the other in a single day, so don’t pressure yourself with unrealistic expectations.

Find an accountability partner. Should the deadlines not be enough to motivate you, have someone else hold you accountable. This person can be a friend, relative, spouse, mentor, or professional colleague. Pick someone who won’t tolerate your excuses or enable your laziness. You want a drill sergeant, not a cheerleader.

Success is a resource management game. By far, your most valuable resource is your time.

Once you map your career path, always continue moving forward. Commit to diligent self-management and take your career seriously. Every month, reevaluate your intent, motivation, and progress so you can adjust course when necessary.

Attaining success really can be as simple as getting from Point A to Point B, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy ride. (If it were, everyone would be successful, right?) You will hit roadblocks that force you to take detours, but don’t let your failures discourage you. Learn from your mistakes, let them shape you into a better professional, and keep going.

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Tina Alberino
Tina Alberino
Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and Salon Ownership and Management: A Definitive Guide to the Professional Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.

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  1. Hi Tina!

    I’m so glad I’ve come across your page! Everything has been so helpful!! You’re a saint!
    I have a couple questions I hope you don’t mind me asking! Last year, I worked half the year in retail as an employee for a cosmetic line. Then, half way through the year I changed my job, also working in retail for a different cosmetics line, but this time as an independent contractor and working my freelance business as a Makeup Artist. I took a extremely brief course on Legal Aspects of a Small Business and was able to go somewhat in depth into what being an “independent contractor” meant. The class was only a week long and I’m trying to take more classes on it, because I feel like I’ve already forgot some key elements. My question to you is: Where can I apply for an EIN number and all the proper documents needed on my part claiming to be a independent contractor? Correct me if I’m wrong, I should have one being self-employed and filing a 1099, right? This will also gain me access to deductions as well, correct? I don’t imagine I can get that number for last years taxes, but I definitely need one for this year seeing I’ll continue to be with the company. This is my first time working full-time “self-employed” and I’m a bit overwhelmed when it comes to taxes. I’ve already started logging my mileage, tools, and saving at least 20% of each check for taxes, but if you have any other helpful tips on what I can be deducting that would be greatly appreciated! Please, let me know if this is too much to ask, so I can get proper guidance!! Thanks so much!


    • Applying for an EIN is super simple now, because the IRS allows you to do it online through their site. (Click here to apply for one.) You don’t require one, but it helps mask your social when you’re submitting W-2s to people you freelance for. You’re eligible for deductions no matter what, but the EIN is useful for security purposes. For this year, just claim your business deductions on your personal taxes the way you normally would. (I recommend seeing a tax professional since you aren’t really tax savvy yet, that way you’ll be certain to get every penny you can back.) You sound like you’re on the right track! When it comes to deductions, as a general rule, anything you have to spend money on to make money is deductible, but talk to a tax professional in your area to get more specific guidelines just for you.


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