Career Code: How Paula Begoun Called Out the BS and Shook Up the Beauty Industry

Updated 07/21/19
Product Disclosure

In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($21), we’re kicking off an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honor of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational leaders in the beauty industry.

When Paula Begoun originally released her book, Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me, it was a game-changer in the beauty industry. Not only did it call out so much of the marketing BS, but it armed women with knowledge to walk into a department store, cut through all of the noise, and instead spend their money on products that would actually benefit their skin. Fast forward to now, and Begoun is still a force to be reckoned with in the skincare space. Her brand, Paula's Choice, is continuously innovating and launching new products, and spreading the message about skincare, ingredients, what works, and of course, what doesn't.

 

Begoun recently visited Australia to promote her newest Defense skincare line, and we were fortunate enough to steal some time to ask her all of the best career know-how she's picked up over the years. Honest, out-spoken, and unashamedly herself, Begoun speaks openly about her greatest lessons, biggest regrets, and all of the advice that's seen her through over the years. Keep scrolling for our Career Code with Paula Begoun. 

Over the years it’s changed quite a bit from running every aspect of my company to what I do now. I knew I was successful when I had the right team around me to handle the “business” so I could just formulate skincare products, research journals about skin physiology and ingredients, and write about beauty. I also get to travel the world meeting women and beauty editors to talk about beauty myths and skincare. I LOVE my job.

I couldn’t live without pubmed.com and downloading relevant studies. It sure beats the days of going to the library to research using microfiche (only people my age would even know what that is) and working with cosmetic chemists that are far smarter than I am. (I always say if I’m the smartest person in the room, I’m in the wrong room.) I also try to avoid fashion magazines, as they often make me hate the beauty industry.

I was never very good at hiring people to run my company so I could concentrate on what I love most. Thankfully I’ve also made some very good decisions and I have a brilliant team around me now. 

Integrity, flexibility (rigid people are scary), appreciation of a woman’s desire to look beautiful, belief in the work we do, and being 50% serious business and 50% fun. I also value my team being able to have intelligent and respectful debates. I believe in a flat management structure where no one is more important than anyone else; the CEO is NOT god and the warehouse worker is not the lowest person on the totem pole.

I feel empowered most of the time and it’s rarely affected by my clothes.

Blatantly honest (to a fault), too brash, willing to laugh out loud (I love laughter in an office), generous, decisive, that I can admit when I’m wrong, and that I am passionate about what I do.

I enjoy uninspired time—it’s exhausting being inspired all the time. I watch TV, play video games, zone out, and then wait for my mood to change—which it always does eventually. 

Not just entry-level employees, but any employee who doesn’t take the time to learn what we value as a company, and embrace what we are really trying to do for women is a problem in my eyes. 

I don’t do Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. They are time sucks for me. However, I know many women rely on these and other social media sites to stay connected to the world of beauty, their friends, news, and so on, and that they can be a fun distraction from the stressors of daily life. My recommendation is just to keep it in balance and don’t get lost in it.

Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done!

Don’t go into debt—it is the number one killer of small businesses.

Being a struggling entrepreneur is better than worrying if your job is secure in a company you don’t own (this one helped me go through so many ups and downs working through the hard times of creating my company).

Don’t worry about leading a balanced life, because it’s not possible. Life can never be in balance, all you can do is to try and wisely choose priorities.

New fascinating formulas, and bringing the Paula’s Choice Skincare mission of truth in beauty to more women around the globe.

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