Are you interested in a fragrance industry career? Lauren shares her insights and tips.
As a fragrance evaluator, the question I am asked most often is: How did you get into that career? Some people mean this in a non-literal sense and are really asking me, What on earth made you decide to turn your interest in perfume into a full-blown profession? This is casual conversation, amusement expressed plainly through twinkling eyes and grinning lips. But there is another set of people who ask me this question literally. They want to know how they can get a job in the fragrance industry, too. They want to turn their passion for perfume into an everyday reality, and I recognize what we have in common: they want it is as badly as I wanted it.
When I was in college, I loved writing, so much that I considered pursuing it as my main profession. My professor said, “Don’t pursue creative writing unless you truly cannot imagine doing anything else.” Now, I would offer the same advice for those interested in a fragrance career: go after it only if you cannot imagine doing anything else. If you keep this in mind and stay open to what you learn each day, there’s really no way to fail. No matter what your job title may be.
Speaking of job titles, there are several different types of careers you could pursue within the fragrance industry. Perfumers are probably the most well-known players, but fragrance creation requires a wide variety of skills and talents:
- evaluators, which I have written about in a previous post
- lab technicians, from mixing perfume formulations to actually applying the fragrances into whatever medium is required (detergent, body wash, candles, alcohol)
- regulatory & safety personnel
- marketing & trends professionals and graphic designers
- business & administrative leaders
- R&D scientists, from creating new fragrance molecules to working on particular applications of fragrance technologies
- consumer insights professionals and statisticians, to help perfumers, evaluators, and marketers understand the current market demands and develop new ideas for future trends
- IT and software experts
Those of you with design, chemistry, or pharmaceutical backgrounds can also pursue careers related to product formulation, color creation, or packaging design & engineering. Even fashion and clothing design is related to the fragrance industry. In fact, many of my previous coworkers hold degrees from FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in Manhattan.
My basis of fragrance knowledge began at ISIPCA, a fragrance and cosmetics institute located in Versailles, France, which is where I met my initial group of contacts, teachers, and industry professionals. Several large companies such as Coty, L’Oréal, Revlon, and Firmenich offer internships that can be a great way to start a career. Or, if you live around New York, you can attend networking events such as CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women) and WFFC (Women in Flavor & Fragrance Commerce). If you went to college, I would also suggest attending your local alumni events, because you never know who you will meet!
I wish, more than anything, that I could provide a guaranteed formula for how to make your dreams come true, or simply, how to land an interview. But I can’t do this; I believe a lot of life is simply based on luck. I can, however, share my own experience, which I believe encouraged luck to smile on me. There are 5 things that helped me get a job in the fragrance industry:
Number 1: Passion.
Like my professor advised, I could not imagine doing anything else.
Number 2: Willingness to fail.
No matter what you pursue, it has to be a conscious decision. State your goals clearly to yourself, own them, and don’t be afraid to fail. So what if you fail? Stay open to repeated rejection. I told myself, If this doesn’t work out, I’ll just try something else. I was willing to accept failure because I believed the simple act of trying was the best that I could do. And I decided from the outset that my best was good enough for me, no matter what the outcome.
Number 3: Determination.
But, I did not accept “no” as a final answer! Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. When I was 23, I disliked talking to strangers. I felt awkward needing things from other people. I hated asking for favors. I was willing to be lonely. I was willing to move to other countries and other states where I knew not a soul. I was willing to push out of my introverted comfort zone by literally asking every contact I met, “Do you know anyone in the US to whom I could send a resume? Can you share her email address with me?”
With my goals in mind, I forced myself to be uncomfortable every day. Because I was passionate, I didn’t get discouraged and ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I going on like a broken record?” I wanted something, plain and simple. Do not allow “no” to be the end of your road.
Number 4: Humility.
I was willing to start somewhere – anywhere. I accepted an entry-level marketing position when I wanted to be a perfumer. I needed to start learning, and frankly, I met a lot of people who were simply not willing to do this. They wanted to be instant perfumers instead of learning other things, and while they may have gotten interviews with great companies, they did not receive job offers. You have to take what you can get and continue asking for what you want. And you must accept the fact that some people are not going to like you and they’re not going to like your approach. Stay humble and be kind to everyone. You must maintain the fine balance between knowing what you want, yet allowing yourself the flexibility to learn as you go in order to realize your full potential. I quickly learned that I did not want to be a perfumer, after all.
Number 5: Other people.
I got a job in the fragrance industry because I dove head-first into a lot of scary stuff. But I didn’t dive into a vacuum. I jumped into a small sea of people who recognized this passion in me; helped me; connected me; hired me; taught me. My fate has in large part depended upon others – and a lot of them are really good people.
Tell everyone about your goals, hopes and dreams…you never know where other people can lead you. I got my start speaking to a tour guide when I was visiting a fragrance house in Grasse, the historical French perfume capital. As I mentioned, at the time I felt very shy, but those five minutes of making casual conversation turned out to have changed my life. When you joyfully and shamelessly pursue your goals, there are a surprising number of people out there who want to help you succeed.
I hope this has provided you with a good place to start. If you’re a fragrance industry professional and are willing to share your tips, I would love to hear them.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin