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Strategies for Accelerating Your Career

By Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor | November 19, 2009

Cosmetic Executive Women panelists explain how to recession-proof your job.

How can recession-proof career strategies be built in the current economy? Three experts in the beauty industry took a good, hard look at the realities of surviving and prospering in today’s beauty business. With Carlotta Jacobson, president, Cosmetic Executive women setting the stage for the lively discussion to follow, attendees listened with rapt attention, as Heidi Manheimer, CEO, Shiseido; Lynne Greene, global brand president, Clinique, Origins and Ojon, The Estée Lauder Companies, and Claudia Poccia, president, Mark., Avon Products, Inc., discussed strategies for success in a challenging market. While Jacobson noted that recent research showed women currently dominating today’s work force for the first time, there are measures to implement to avoid stalling in middle management positions.

Citing a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, the results of which may be found at:, women were found to have held 66% of the managerial positions, but only 33% of those were as senior level executives. Jacobson noted the importance of mentorship as well as building a knowledge network, as being instrumental in achieving success. Both of these opportunities are available through Cosmetic Executive Women’s newly launched programs.
Heidi Manheimer, CEO, Shiseido Cosmetics America, Lynne Greene, Global Brand President, Clinique, Origins, and Ojon, The Estee Lauder Companies, Inc., and Claudia Poccia, President, mark., Avon Products, Inc.

Context for Success in the Cosmetics Industry

While many of the strategies suggested may be valuable in any business, Greene offered crucial advice about defining what you want your career to be.

“Understand the landscape of the business, decide what you want to do with it, and be able to enjoy it,” said Greene. “When you decide what you want your career to be reverse-engineer it. Don’t always look to just go up. Try to learn all the related disciplines along the way,” she added.

Manheimer urged the audience to evaluate their skill set and break out of their comfort zone.
"Be adaptable to different work cultures," she said. "It’s very important that in addition to having the qualities to do the job, you also have to have the confidence to assert yourself and get the job done.”

This was important for Manheimer, as CEO of Shiseido, a Japanese company, which has a different cultural perspective and approach. That said, Greene noted that, “Everyone who is running a business is looking for the best person to fill the job, someone with the capabilities, the common sense, and the desire to succeed.”

On balancing career and motherhood, Greene said, “With all the women who are coming into this industry, you have to say, ‘I’m planning my life,’ and put that in the plan. It’s fabulous that every woman in this business has the option to have both career and motherhood, but it’s important to know the constraints to that too.”

Poccia emphasized the importance of balance, adding, “Pro-active, self-starters will definitely gain recognition by taking the lead. This is a way to set yourself apart. Work/life balance is a workplace issue, not necessarily a gender issue.” She further noted, “At Avon there is a work/life balance and we have to manage that. I look at Andrea Jung, who is a working mother and a CEO of a $10 billion company. So, we’re role models for that. To have someone at the top walk the talk is empowering.”

Global and Generational Perspectives

“As a Japanese company we have other issues. We’re having a conversation about US women being stalled in middle management level roles. In Japan, we’re fighting to get to mid-level,” said Manheimer, noting that with Shiseido great strides are being made.

Greene addressed the global context in terms of understanding attributes of different countries. “If you want to be in a global position, the best way to prepare for it is to live all over the world. Travel, visit, learn languages, and understand the culture. We have just put together a profile of six countries, in terms of total attributes,” she said, acknowledging the diversity encountered in global business.

Poccia addressed the work/life equation in terms of generational perspectives.

“With Gen Y it’s about balancing obligations. Gen Y expects a work/life balance. Gen Y wants to know what is the specific deliverable and wants flexibility in work style and hours. You need to be more fluid now with how the job gets done. I do believe there’s more informality now in the workplace. There are generational nuances,” Poccia said.

Regarding professional development, Manheimer said, “We’re small enough so we can identify with groups and individuals and we try to look for solutions where needed. Maybe there’s a need for a class or a mentor. In our company we do professional development in a more organic way.”

Greene noted the company’s task force, which recognizes and finds talent to develop; and Poccia said, “We try to recognize leaders and provide mentoring and coaching, as well as formal training, domestically and abroad. This is part of a formal process; it’s done twice a year.”

All agreed that staying positive in trying times was essential.

“Stay in touch with people. Stay informed. Stay positive and energetic,” said Greene. “Keep reminding yourself, especially today, in a recession like this, that you are good. I think contact and maintaining knowledge of the industry helps you do that,” added Greene.

Manheimer agreed that remaining positive and connected is key.

"Think of anyone you know. Go through your contacts and reach out,” said Manheimer.

Greene emphasized the importance of obtaining skills that you might need.

“I may not have an MBA, but the principles of knowing how to run a business have to be there. You don’t need to be an accountant, but you do need to understand the principles of business. Seek out the skills you require.” Manheimer concurred, “It’s your job to learn what skills are necessary, and it’s ultimately your job to go and get these skills.”

While the subject of women in the cosmetic industry, particularly in challenging times, was at the heart of the discussion, several themes emerged. Empowerment, rather than entitlement, remained key; and emotional intelligence and confidence were also important. Manheimer concluded, “There are many people before us who have paved the way for women, and there are many more to come.”

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