One of the (many) reasons you likely entered the beauty profession is because it's not like the typical 9 to 5 where you work in a cube and follow a conventional career path—think the entry-level employee who’s promoted to junior level. Then, the junior-level employee moves into management. The management star becomes a VP. And the talented VP moves into the C-suite.

Career advancement in the beauty industry isn't so neat and linear. For one thing, most beauty pros need to chart their own career trajectory—a trajectory that rarely looks like anyone else's.

And while this can be thrilling and exhilarating once you figure out what you want your trajectory to be, getting to that point can often feel mystifying, intimidating, and frustrating. Even more so when you're first starting out or if you've stalled somewhere along the way. 

Sound familiar? 

If so, you're in the right place. Because below, we offer practical advice on how you can grow your beauty career starting right now. 

Don't just dream—scheme. 

One of the biggest obstacles for people who struggle to take the next step in their career is finding time to focus on just that: advancing their career. 

Most people don't fall short on dreaming. Our minds can easily keep those big dreams bubbling. The challenge? Figuring out how to scheme our dreams into reality.

What do we mean? Well, dreams are important, but they're not enough. Even the so-called Law of Attraction—with its promises of easy dream manifestation—reminds people that they still need to act. Dreams seldom come to fruition if you do nothing.

The lack of action is often where people falter, particularly in the beauty industry since it's not always obvious what actions you need to take (or when) to turn your dream into reality. 

One strategy: Pretend you're giving advice to a colleague who has the same dream as you. What steps would you advise this person to take? 

For example, if your friend's goal is to open their own salon, you might suggest that they reach out to a commercial real estate agent and look at storefronts for rent. Another step might be to write a business plan. Another step might be to research business licenses and permits. And so forth. 

Notice how it's much easier to tell someone else how to do something than it is to tell ourselves. But once you think of all the steps that you'd recommend to your friend . . . well, now you have a list that you can follow. Sometimes looking at things through a more objective lens can provide the breakthrough you need. 

Now, you might be thinking, "OK, sure. That's a fine strategy for 'normal' dreams like owning a salon. But what about big scary dreams like working on a movie set or doing makeup for Fashion Week?" 

Go through the same exercise. Pretend your friend is saying that they want to work on a movie set or for Fashion Week. Suggest what their first steps should be. Then, follow your own advice. 

Have a standing appointment with yourself. 

Another challenge people face when they want to grow their career is time—or the seeming lack of it. 

We get it. You're already busy building a client base and servicing those clients. Now we’re telling you that you need to add in dream-scheming time? Short answer: YES. You must carve out time in your schedule specifically for this task. 

If you do any sort of regular marketing, this tip might sound familiar. Just as you need to carve out a block of time on your calendar every week or month for marketing, you need to do the same for career advancement tasks. It doesn't need to be a big chunk of time. Maybe you devote one hour a week to specific tasks, like calling that commercial real estate agent, researching business licenses, drafting that business plan, and so forth. 

Career advancement is all about momentum. Keep it going. And it doesn't have to be super-fast momentum, either. Slow and steady can still win the race. 

Find a mentor and/or an accountability partner. 

Even if you've never formally worked with a mentor before, you probably still understand the basics and the potential benefits a mentoring relationship can provide. But like so many things, the hardest part about working with a mentor is getting started. Check out this quick read on finding the perfect mentor.

Another option is an accountability partner. In this relationship, you and your partner are often in similar situations—so in this case, two professionals who are ready to take the next steps in their careers. You serve as each other's sounding boards and cheerleaders. And, as the name suggests, you hold each other accountable

For example, if your dream is to open your own salon, you can report to your partner that you did indeed research business licenses and permits and that you’re onto the next task. Lather, rinse, repeat.

 Continuously learn. 

One of the best ways to make sure you don’t find yourself stuck in a status-quo mindset is by continuously learning. (Which we're big fans of!)

Forbes discusses why the most successful people never stop learning and how lifelong learning is the key to successful entrepreneurship

From formal courses (e.g., working towards a teaching certificate) to weekend conferences to online courses to the occasional lunch-and-learn webinar . . . so many options exist to keep your mental muscle strong. 

Keep in mind that you don't (and shouldn't) limit your learning to beauty-related content. Taking courses on how to run a business or how to master financing fundamentals can also inspire and make you feel more confident about taking the next step in your career. 

Check out all the certifications, webinars, and continuing education courses that we have available for beauty pros

Avoid common pitfalls that lead to stalling. 

Don't keep yourself in a box. 

Just because you started in one area, that doesn't mean you have to stay there. The key is knowing how far your current license can take you. 

Javaughn Rendleman, a Milady Implementation and Training Specialist, says that knowing the scopes of practices for the various licenses available in your state will determine if you need a second license.

Rendleman offers this example: "I am in North Carolina and am a licensed cosmetologist, and I can perform all services that a manicurist and esthetician can do. However, if a person with a manicurist license wants to perform lash services in my state, they are required to go back to school and get an esthetician or cosmetology license to perform that service." 

Psst. Read more about whether you need a second license

Don't forget to think outside the box as well. 

In beauty school, you're focused on learning the fundamentals related to your discipline. The goal is for you to develop the technical expertise to ace your licensing exam and the confidence to land that first gig—and thrive in it. In other words, you might not even be aware of everything you can do within the industry since you’ve been so focused on the basics. 

While you mull over options, make sure you educate yourself on ALL the avenues that exist. A good place to start is this article on the many amazing careers beyond the salon and spa

Don't be afraid to embrace your niche. 

When beauty pros first start out, some try to be everything to everyone. And that's OK in the beginning since you need to discover what you love doing most. But at some point, finding your niche can be an excellent way to figure out how to grow your career. For example, maybe you open your own salon that specializes in your niche. 

Rakiah "Raki" Polk, a cosmetologist who owns Raki Loves Hair, agrees that finding your niche can serve as a great stepping stone. 

"First starting out, we try to do just about every service we know how to do, even trying all the trends," she says. "This can make it difficult to get the best use of your time. As your clientele picks up, examine the services that you do most, least, and occasionally. Then, find out what needs to go. This can make your workday flow a little better because the styling options offered will be more consistent, giving you a more accurate start and stop time." 

Give yourself permission to want more—even if it's inconvenient for other people. 

Sometimes the very things professionals are taught in beauty school—for example, the importance of building and maintaining a loyal client base—can cause a person to inadvertently stall. 

Beauty pros will spend so many years building this client base that by the time they realize other career paths exist, they worry about how going for this dream will affect their clients, especially if the beauty pro needs to adjust their schedule or take two months off to be on a movie set. 

Rendleman says, "They become afraid of losing clients [and] rightfully so because this is their income. But this feeling of fear is what oftentimes can stifle a beauty pro from moving forward." 

She says that honesty and open communication are essential to overcoming this issue. 

"My advice for a beauty pro that finds themselves in this position is to ask for support," she says. "Explain to your clients that you are trying to better yourself and you need their support by being flexible with whatever schedule you need to explore your newfound journey. Get the buy-in from them that doing this will make you a better professional. Most of the time, your clients want to see you win, and they take pride in being a part of your growth journey." 

This is also true for family and friends. You’ll need to be open about why this change or adjustment to your schedule or your availability is critical to the next step in your career. 

Don't allow yourself to "not know." 

If you want to take the next step in your career, but you haven't figured out what that next step is, don't give up simply because you don't know. Challenge yourself to figure out what you want. Then, work on a plan for getting it. 

How can you figure out the answer to the vexing question "what's next for me?" 

  • Attend tradeshows and conferences. Go to sessions outside of your wheelhouse. Talk to people. (This can be a great place to connect with a mentor or accountability partner.) 
  • Network with other beauty professionals. Networking with colleagues is an excellent way to learn about opportunities and find support. 
  • Work with a career coach. If you're really stuck, working with a career coach can be a smart strategy. 
  • Step out of your comfort zone. For example, experiment with doing more on Instagram and TikTok. 
  • Don't assume there's only one path—or that some paths are right or wrong. Thinking in such binary terms can be limiting. Allow yourself to try different things—even if it means discovering what you don't want to do. That knowledge is still valuable. 

Accept that messing up can lead to moving up.

 Erickamonique Brown has been a cosmetologist for 20 years. She operates Erickamonique Hair Therapy Clinic in Orange Park, Florida. Considering she's been following her dream for over two decades, she knows a thing or two about taking the next steps—and scary steps at that. 

"Don’t be afraid to start over," she says. "I moved to a new state and built a new clientele." She also urges newer professionals to make sure they're charging what they're worth. 

Rendleman echoes these sentiments by reminding beauty pros to not be afraid of failure. "We never learn anything from doing everything right. If taking a few steps backward is going to allow you to make a big leap later, DO IT! Look at your mess-ups as mess-UPs! (You are moving upward). Setbacks propel some of the greatest comebacks." 

Reevaluate, reevaluate, reevaluate. 

Taking regular steps back and reevaluating where you're at is always wise no matter where you are in your career. But it's especially important if you find yourself floundering or off track. Polk offers this smart advice: "If your career has stalled, reevaluate why you chose to do this, realign with that purpose, and create a strategy that will help drive you to your new or original goal." 

Remember, every big move begins with one small step. 

If you've been looking for a sign that it's time to focus on what's next for your career, consider this it! Schedule regular time into your calendar to focus on where you want to be in a year—or five or ten—and what you need to do to get there. Dream big. Plan small. And keep going. You got this!

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