The Former Clinique Consultant

I have a recurring dream that I am selling cosmetics and it is going horribly. There is chaos: too many customers, the products are in disarray and I cannot find what I need. I am unsure what to do and I scramble through the drawers trying to find a lipstick, or a cleansing cream. My hair is a mess and my make-up is faded. My co-workers are unwilling to help me, and my frustration builds until I wake up.

I don’t know how to analyze dreams, but I suspect that this one does not have an underlying meaning that relates to my career. It has been almost 20 years since I left the cosmetics business, so it is not a part of my daily thought process. When I have the dream, it is probably more a reflection of what I ate that day, or the temperature in the room. Still, I cannot help but think that I harbor some subconscious connection to the days when I wore the white lab coat with the silver “C” pinned on it.

Back then, in my 20’s, working for Clinique was a dream job. I had been promoted to cosmetics from the men’s department, and immediately took a liking to it. While not a superstar sales consultant by any means, I did well overall because I worked hard and offered good customer service. I liked staying busy, organizing everything and studying the new products. I quickly learned that everything in the famous light-green box with silver C emblem was a high-quality product: Clinique, after all, is the number one prestige skin-care line in the world.

When Clinique began in 1968, they were pioneers. It was un-heard of at that time to talk about exfoliation, sunscreen, and facial soap at the fancy department store make-up counters. Even today, the strength of the brand is that it is always unique and innovative. I was proud to be affiliated with that. Despite standing on my feet all day, and working through holidays and weekends, there wasn’t much I didn’t love about the gig. I especially loved the product and the customers.

The best thing about my job, however, was the training. This company was impeccable in their consultant education. They had Account Coordinators to visit stores and share product knowledge, and a Training Manager to facilitate comprehensive, hands-on classes. My training with Clinique is some of the best I have had in my career- and that is saying something, considering that I have worked for some impressive companies, including Hilton Hotels and Lexus. I still recall Melanie and Nancy, the trainers during my 7-year tenure in the industry. I admired their sharp presentation, their confidence in the product, and their dedication to the company.

The lessons I learned from my Clinique training would stay with me forever. I once had an Account Coordinator (LeeAnn) tell me that she bled green-that is how much she loved the company. At the Macy’s store in Athens, I can still remember how she responded when we made a comment about a new eye-shadow color. The shade was Yellow Moon, but it should have been called Obnoxiously Bright Lemon, because that is what it looked like. It was color #50 and I can picture it to this day. We were concerned about our ability to sell this color, and she told us, with complete conviction, that “everything Clinique makes is wonderful”, and that we would grow to love Yellow Moon as much as Bronze Satin or Silver Peony or any of the other top sellers. Now, you need to understand that Leeann wasn’t selling us a story, and the lesson wasn’t even about Yellow Moon as a color. The lesson was that we should ALWAYS be positive about EVERYTHING. If Clinique does something, it is awesome. Period. I realized then that if you tell yourself that something is great enough times, you will eventually believe it. This was a lesson in “The Secret”, decades before any of us would hear anything about the power of positive thinking. I would never, from that point on, say anything less than enthusiastic about a Clinique product.

I rarely said anything less than enthusiastic while away from the Clinique counter, either. It became a mind-set. That concept of keeping things positive would eventually bleed into the rest of my life, and years later, when people would comment about my proclivity to see the glass half-full, I would tell them my Yellow Moon story. I wish I could find Leeann today to thank her for the heart-felt company passion, and for her faith in a color that should have really been reserved for ice cream or wall paint. Color #50 was, of course, discontinued within a year, but it certainly was not from a lack of Leeann’s attempts to save it.

Another concept I picked up from Clinique was the power of the open-ended question. Clinique knew that the secret of successful selling was a healthy dialogue with the customer, and the way to do that was to ask them a question to which they could not give just a short “yes” or “no” answer. We all came up with open-ended questions designed to keep the conversation going. “What do you like about this Balanced foundation?” “How long have you been using this Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion?” and “Tell me more about your skin care goals” were some of my favorites. When I began selling cars in my 30’s, I would use this skill again, and later came to realize that healthy conversations and open-ended questions are at the core of all productive relationships. The key is to show a genuine interest in people, let them talk, and care about what they say. This is not a selling technique, it is a life technique.

For Clinique, though, the technique was a rule, along with the positive outlook axiom. I like to think that their rules were a large part of Clinique’s success. The rules all seemed like common sense, but they were good habits for us, and we were held accountable to them: always look polished, no earrings larger than a dime, long hair pulled into a ponytail, always use full product names, always capture customer information on a file-card, always offer your customer a sit-down consultation and always skin-type your customer on the Clinique Computer. Successful companies set expectations of their employees, and this clear structure worked well for Clinique.

I say “worked” because I really have no idea if any of these rules still exist. I tend to think that they do not, because I have been purchasing the products for the last 20 years and rarely have anyone offer to put me on a card file, or skin-type me, or sit me down for a consultation. That’s not a bad thing, cultures change, and maybe those strategies don’t apply to today’s busy consumer. But in my heart I know what the person in the white coat should do when I ask to purchase some Balanced Make-up, and I’m disappointed when they don’t ask me what I like about it. I’m dying for someone to get to know me like I knew my customers, remembering their names and their favorite colors, and where they worked, and what their skin-care goals were. It makes me think that if I could do the job again, knowing what I know now after growing up, and working for places like Hilton Hotels and Lexus dealerships, that I would completely rock it. I fantasize that I would rise to the top as a Sales Consultant superstar, following all the rules and breaking all the sales records. And just when I start to become convinced of my enormous potential, I have this recurring dream…..

45 thoughts on “The Former Clinique Consultant

  1. makeupqueenqd

    Your story is similar to mine in reverse. I ended up at Clinique after working for Hilton, Toyota, Dodge and Publix. I am so happy to have ended up at Clinique because they truly are wonderful to work for. I am sorry that you have not been asked for a consultation, because that is still our philosophy. Clinique hasn’t changed much from your days. If you are ever in the Tallahassee area stop by Dillards and say hi to me at the Clinique counter of course!

    Reply
  2. Chris Cary

    Angela, I just wanted to share with you that I found this post about a month and a half ago as I was getting ready to return to Clinique as a business manager in the Albany, GA market. I actually began my love with Clinique as a consultant at the very same counter—the Macys in Athens—while in undergrad at UGA. After doing a stint in corporate PR in Atlanta and Manhattan, I decided to come back home, professionally and personally, and ended up giving this to my consultants, my account executive and our regional education manager at my new location as a “Day 1” piece of inspiration. Needless to say, we all love it.

    Yes, everything Clinique makes is wonderful, but that especially includes its consultants…past and present. Thanks so much, from one fellow Athens Macys kid to another. 🙂

    Reply
  3. SJBerrier

    WOW. 🙂 I found this today and I really enjoyed reading your entry. I was just hired to work for Clinique and while I’m nervous, I’m very excited. I also like Chris and Qedrin’s replies. I have a natural loyalty about me. I find something wonderful- a company, a product, a restaurant- and I’m a lifer. Thank you for this!

    Reply
  4. Jeni

    I just received a phone call today to start my interviewing process. Reading this is so helpful and encouraging to me to realize what a great company Clinque really is! I have personally been wearing Clinique makeup since my grandmother brought me to the Dillard’s counter at 15 🙂 I already love their products!

    Reply
  5. Melanie

    I, too, love the Clinique products! I have been using Clinique for years and I especially love the great customer support and ability to return and exchange products if something doesn’t work for me. I am now 55 and am still LOVING the products. The last couple times I have been in Dillards to the Clinique Department I have beeen thinking about the possibilty of looking into working for Clinique part-time. I am especially passionate about helping women look and feel their best with a very natural look and that’s what I find with Clinique! Any suggestions or helpful information on how I might go about getting started with Clinique? Thanks so much! Your post was very helpful!

    Reply
    1. angelamaskey Post author

      I was promoted to cosmetics from another department when I worked at Macy’s , so I would think that applying to Dillard’s HR dept and requesting that department is your best first step. Hope it works out! Glad to hear of your enthusiasm for the product and wish you all the best.

      Reply
    2. makeupqueenqd

      You can also apply to be a promotional consultant. This is a consultant that travels the different stores when they are having events. You would apply directly with Clinique for that 🙂

      Reply
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  7. Penny

    I was a young fresh eyed Clinique Consultant in 1993. I found this post after googling the last name of a trainer I had back then. She was an elegant woman I wanted to emulate & did. I was so impressed by visiting exclusive hotels in South Florida for our top notch sales training. I was 20 and the sales training was thee most essential beginning to my lifetime of entrepreneurial marketing skills. I acquired my Esthetician license and opened a Day Spa that I owned and operated for 15 years with Skin Care as the main focus. A classic wonderful experience where I passed on my mentorship to many young women that all moved on to be great successes. I so fondly, no more than that…I so deeply was breed and polished to be a classic beauty and elegant that I added to as I matured. Working for Clinque was almost like finishing school. I am grateful very sincerely and wholeheartedly. Thank you Estee Lauder your divine passions live on. A sincere blessing was gifted to me through you and I have been a good steward in this gift. Amen.

    Reply
  8. Kim

    I have a interview on Monday 22nd. And I wanted to know a little something about how the
    employees past and present feel about Clinique. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    1. makeupqueenqd

      Good luck on your interview. I have since moved on and work for AT&T now, but Clinique will always have a special place in my heart. I thought I would be part of the company forever. But, I made a move cross country and the market was very different. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

      Reply
  9. Katie

    I just got moved to Clinique from jewlery in Macy’s and I was looking for info on what it would be like when I stumbled across this post. I was so excited when I saw that you worked at the Macy’s in Athens (which is where I work) that I just had to drop a comment just to say hey! Your post made me even more excited for what’s to come. Thanks!

    Reply
  10. Virginia

    Thanks for taking the time to share your passion and knowledge about clinique. Such an encouragement to here stories about “the cup being more than half full”
    I may be going to join the team as counter manager. It so wonderful to know thete are people who areneo positive about their work. Stay tune.

    Reply
  11. Andrea

    Hello Angela,
    Let me just begin by saying, WOW!!! I am a current Estee Lauder Account Coordinator and I would be honored to have a Beauty Advisor with your passion and drive!

    Reply
  12. Claire

    I started at a very small Clinique counter 8 years ago in Toledo, OH, and believe me all those standards and expectations you spoke of are still what every Clinique consultant should be striving for! After moving on to run two different larger Clinique counters through the years I left to work as a store manager for a clothing store. I missed the connections I made with my customers and consultants almost the second I left Macy’s. I also very much missed the wonderful account executives, coordinators, education executives and cosmetic managers I had grown to love and learn from. I barely lasted a year out of cosmetics and am happy to be home working as an Account Coordinator for Origins now. There is no better group of talented people than those we are blessed to work with in the cosmetic industry. Thank you for reminding me of how my love for this began!

    Reply
  13. Jenn

    My name is Jenn and I am a Counter Manager at Macy’s in Portland, OR. I just finished reading your story and was inspired to write to you. I have a very special Consultant on my team, her name is Joanne. She has been a Clinique Consultant in the Portland area for over 40years, a true “classic old school” consultant. And let me tell you that is a great thing! Everyday at least one customer asks for her personnal and many times won’t shop with anyone else if she is not there. She offers service to every customer who crosses her path. She inspires me everyday and I feel blessed to have her on my team. I just wanted to share with you that these Consultants do still exist and that the next generation such as myself strive to achieve the standards they have set for us. Thank you for sharing:)

    Reply
    1. angelamaskey Post author

      This is awesome! I am happy to hear about Joanne and the relationships she is building. How rewarding that must be, for her and her loyal customers. Thank you so much for sharing her inspiring story!!! A true superstar she is, as you must be also for aspiring to the same.

      Reply
      1. angelamaskey Post author

        Thanks so much for sharing your story! The best part of this blog has been connecting with past and current members of the Clinique family. We all seem to share a respect for their core values, no matter what changes transpire along the way. My best to you.

  14. JoAnne Utterback (@joanneu)

    I am JoAnne and one of my leaders shared this with me on facebook. I am with Clinique as an accredited consultant almost 6 years now. I loved the “EXPECTATIONS AND CLEAR STRUCTURE” part of the article. There are five points and I can work on at least three of them. Thank you Tiffany for bringing me this article and the author.

    Reply
  15. Brenda

    Thank you for writing this, it was a joy to read! I have been working for Clinique as both an associate consultant and a consultant on counter for 27 years in Canada. I love the product and the company, especially the training we receive and have applied much of that training to my personal life, as well. To all of you who are about to join the Clinique team, enjoy the ride, you will soon be part of a great, supportive group of people!

    Reply
  16. Melissa Harper

    I came across this today. A rainy, thunderstorm, high humidity, NYC summer day. And I loved it. I too worked for Clinique. I worked for them for many many years – first as an AC then I found my home with them at Saks NYC. Toward the end of my career, I was trained as a Clinical Consultant – Dermatologists and Plastic Surgeons sent me their patients to help with covering of scars and burns. It was a highlight for me. I left Clinique because of a lot of things that were going on at counter (Clinique had nothing to do with this.) Rules were being made into grey areas, things like buying multiple pieces were being overlooked and it overall just felt wrong to me. I left feeling hurt and burnt out because I’m not a grey area kind of woman. I did the best I could and my AUS (average unit sale) was fantastic. (on most days) 🙂

    I now have my own freelance makeup business. I love it. And I have to agree with you. Clinique does have incredible training. It is like finishing school. I still use open ended questions in my business – especially when working with a client who has a tough time vocalizing what she wants. Clinique school was fantastic too. I was in my element there. Totally loved every class.
    With a growing business and adding classes to my services – I find myself going back to what I learned from Clinique school. They offered the best training – the best support and I felt really proud to wear my lab coat and earn my pins (especially my diamond pin).

    Glad you wrote about this.
    Best of everything to you,
    Melissa Harper Makeup Artist

    Reply
  17. ladyshatto

    I’m so excited to start working at clinique. I have worked so hard for this for forever. Are there any tips that you have for a beginner? I love this blog so much. It just pumps me up more for my future.

    Reply
  18. makeupqueenqd

    I’m back at Clinique as part of the Special Events Team and I couldn’t be more excited. I missed the company so much. I have never felt more valued then I did with Clinique. Now, I’m in Dallas. If you’re ever this way let me know!

    Reply
  19. charlotte bailey

    Hi Angela
    Iv read your blog and you have inspired me more to work towards my goal of becoming a clinique technician. I would love some advice from you,iv been using this product since I was 18 or 19 now as I suffered terrible from acne thankyou for Clinique anti blemish foundation and numerous skin care solutions. I had awful blemishes and scars.Now I have skin where I feel confident enough to walk around the house infront of my partner.Iv always imagined me working on a Clinique counter the ladies always look so immaculately turned out and always give positive and helpful guidance to you as a customer. Anyways I’m going on abit. Can you give me advice to prepare for an interview with cliques. What type of preparation will I need to do? Your help with me very much appreciated 🙂

    Reply
    1. angelamaskey Post author

      Hi Charlotte-It sounds like you have a great testimony and a lot of enthusiasm which is a big part of it! I’ve been away from the industry for so long that I’m not sure I would have any helpful advice, but I do wish you all the best in pursuing your goals! Let us know how it goes!

      Reply
  20. S

    As a customer who knows virtually nothing about make-up, I feel comfortable going to the Clinique counter to ask my questions. I spend the extra money to purchase their products because the consultant took her time to give me a consultation, answer all my questions and really work with me. I don’t feel hurried, even though they are busy. She also takes the time to get to know me. She asks me questions about my job, etc. I know she is just trying to make a sale, but it is much nicer to have someone sell you something who acts like they care!

    Reply
  21. Amy Callahan

    Ah I love your story! I too worked at the Clinique counter in my 20s as a beauty advisor and loved it! I started a new career with them today, working at Belk as the counter manager this time. I’m absolutely elated at the career I have in front of me and I plan to rock it all the way as far as it will take me this time. By the way, I am 41! I will definitely keep your yellow eyeshadow story in mind. That is great! Best of luck to you and thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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