If you want to succeed in the world of cosmetic science, it typically requires more than knowing raw materials and being a brilliant formulator. Success in any company will require general knowledge of business and people skills. Here are some of the most useful skills to develop.
1. Getting along with all people
As far as career success goes there is nothing more important than learning how to deal with other people. In truth, the people who succeed best at a job (even cosmetic formulating) are the ones who know how to get along with as many different people as possible. This means you do everything in your power not to make enemies with anyone at your company. There will be plenty of people that you may not like but never let that be known. The better you get along with people, the more likely you will be to succeed at your job. This is not the kind of thing you learn in science classes but it is a lesson that everyone should learn. The classic book How To Win Friends and Influence People is an excellent primer on how to do this.
2. Motivating people to do things you need done.
It’s inevitable that when you work at a company you will not be able to get everything you need to get done by yourself. You will need to work with other people in your company to make things happen. And this means that you will have to learn how to motivate people to do things for you. Often you will not be in a position to give them any kind of reward as motivation either. The book I mentioned above has some great information about motivating people as does this blog post which lists steps to motivating.
3. Clear, succinct writing
As a formulator you will have to communicate experimental findings, the status of your projects, and hundreds of other daily messages that will crop up. While the phone used to be the primary way to communicate it has been largely replaced by email and text messaging. That’s why it is crucial that you learn how to craft a useful email that gets right to the point. These 15 tips for writing email are helpful. Make emails as long as they need to be but no longer! People probably won’t read them all the way through anyway so get the most important stuff up front.
4. Develop a knowledge of the cosmetic industry
While formulating is great it is not much use if you don’t know anything else about the cosmetic industry. You need to become an expert not only in the raw materials but also in the different brands and products for which your company competes. You should be looked to as an expert on the cosmetic industry not just the science. Pay attention to the advertising campaigns of your competitors. Become familiar with the top cosmetic companies and the products they make.
Since you can’t do everything alone, it’s helpful to gather a group of contacts with expertise in things that you don’t know. Building a network can make you more productive and successful. It can also ensure that you are never without work. One thing you need to learn quickly is that you work for yourself. Some company may give you a paycheck but a cosmetic chemist can not rely on that company to always be around. In fact, the company that I worked for for 16+ years has disappeared. They sold out to Unilever and was subsequently shut down after a few years. While the management insisted that the likelihood of a sale was low, it happened. It happens a lot. To ensure that you aren’t caught scrambling for a new job, you’ll need to build a network of individuals in the industry to help you out. Joining groups like the ACS or the SCC are great for meeting people as is a website like LinkedIn.com.
6. Ability to come up with new ideas
Learn to be creative. Learn to come up with ideas for new products, cost savings, and other novel things that other people at your company haven’t thought of. You want to become known as a person who has ideas. It’s helpful if you can make those ideas happen but as long as you have ideas that you communicate to other people, you’ll benefit. Practice weekly or daily brainstorming sessions. Spend 10 or 15 minutes just going through brainstorming exercises and stretch the limits of your creativity. If you don’t think you are creative, forget that nonsense. Everyone is creative. Creativity is a skill that can be developed by anyone. You just have to work at it. An excellent book on this subject is How to Think Like DaVinci.
7. Non-formulating expertise
Finally, make it a point to develop some expertise outside of cosmetic chemistry, and be sure that everyone knows about it. Don’t brag, but remember if you don’t toot your own horn who will? The skill can be anything from graphic design, cooking, playing ping pong, juggling, or anything you can think of. You never know when those skills will be needed at a company and when your department is looking for someone, you want them to think of you. You need to become as valuable as you can and you’ll want to stand out. This can lead to numerous opportunities that you would not otherwise have. Developing some non-formulation expertise will set you apart.
There is more to being a successful cosmetic chemist than just learning how to formulate. Develop some of these skills and you’ll be on your way to a much more successful and satisfying career.
During the month of March we are going to focus on a cosmetic science career. If you are interested in more about having a career as a cosmetic chemist, be sure to see our page on cosmetic science career.