From Cosmetology To Psychology: Connecting The Career Dots


When University of Toronto Psychology student Orielle Wybrow looks back on her four-year career as a drug store Cosmetologist, she sees more than just beauty and skincare products.

She sees it as an important opportunity to develop the skills she will later use as in her psychology career.

I sat down with her to discuss the connections between her current job in cosmetology and her desired career path in psychology as well as her tips for balancing school and work and staying passionate about what you love to do.

Why have you stayed in the retail industry for so long?

Orielle: I like working in retail because I go into work every day not knowing what kind of story I’m going to leave with, and communicating with people is far more exciting than sitting behind a desk all day.

Retail is fun because people come into the store with the intention to buy, so from there, I can feel like I’m shopping with them. I think I’ve stayed in retail because I’ve become so comfortable. I have a solid grasp on all the products, the selling procedures, and the store standards. Toronto is a big place, but when I started at Shoppers Drug Mart, I strangely felt like I was back at home.

What do you wish to do eventually career-wise? What steps will you take to get there?

Orielle: I hope to do something in clinical psychology or neuropsychology. Although those fields are huge, I don’t want to narrow it down quite yet because I don’t want to close my mind off to anything.

While I’m not in school during the summer, I try to increase my knowledge of the subject by reading articles and books by psychologists and neuropsychologists about their work and their personal experiences.  I also speak with people I know who work in mental health about their careers and listen to any advice they give me. 

How do you find balance between work and school, and remain motivated to follow your chosen career path?

Orielle: Between work and school, there is definitely stress that arises. My managers have always understood that school comes first, which is proof that my bosses have always been great. However, it still isn’t easy to balance the inevitable stress of both. A necessary thing for me is to take time to meditate in order to reduce anxiety and stress.

I continue to study psychology because, for me, it is more than just an area of study. I feel that a passion for something is undying and if I ever left the field of psychology I know I would be overwhelmed with regret. My love and passion for the subject matter is what keeps me motivated, regardless of the tribulations I will experience on the quest to reach my goals.

What has been your most memorable experience working as a Cosmetologist?

Orielle: My most memorable experience couldn’t possibly be summarized into one moment. Although I merely work for a drug store, it feels like so much more when people with severe acne, painful redness, embarrassing scars, or any other facial or physical skin ailment come in and ask for my help.

When a customer leaves hopeful, trusting my suggestion, and comes back smiling with their skin clear and comfortable for the first time, there are no words to express the feeling. It makes me smile for the rest of the night.

What I’ve had to learn over the years is that there is always one thing that stands out in a person’s mind as being their most embarrassing element, and if they come to me for help, it inspires me to be more brave.  Sometimes, amazingly, people just need to be reminded that they’re beautiful, and no one is staring at them or laughing at them like they may think. We’re all human, and we all have deep-set anxiety about other people. But if we could just acknowledge that even in our anxiety we’re not alone, perhaps our insecurities would dissipate.

What commonalities do you see between what you learn in your psychology classes and your experience as a Cosmetologist?

Orielle: The most beautiful part of my working at Shoppers Drug Mart is the overlap between what I’ve learned about people while working versus what I’ve learned about people while studying psychology. I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to have hands-on experience with some people at their most fragile emotional state because those are the experiences that can’t be taught.

While I’ve learned an immense amount about the brain and human behaviour, definitions only remain definitions until one can apply them. I have had the chance to learn about various degrees of human insecurity and not only do I believe this makes me better able to relate to those with visible insecurities, but also, because of my work at Shoppers, I can now help fix them, whether literally or emotionally.

Through her work as a Cosmetologist, Orielle has had the opportunity to focus on what she is most passionate about: people. She has discovered the importance of being compassionate and understanding both to those you work with as well as to the customers or clients you meet throughout the day. She keeps up with new innovations both in cosmetics and skincare as well as in the world of psychology.

At times, we become discouraged when our work opportunities have little to do with our desired career path. However, skills are often transferable from one industry to the next. Selling cosmetics has given Orielle the opportunity to communicate with people and assist them in coping with their insecurities.

Each odd job or opportunity is a stepping stone in the right direction. Regardless of the job, we can acquire useful skills, such as communication or leadership, that can transfer into our future careers.

How do you ensure part-time student jobs provide transferable skills for your future career?

Photo credit: Red Lipstick by Jerine Lay on Flickr
About the author

Kelsey Goforth is a Recruiter at Public Outreach and recent political science graduate from the University of Toronto. Her interests lie mainly in human rights and international development. She enjoys volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross and hopes to one day go on an international mission. Currently based in Toronto, she is enjoying all the experiences the city has to offer. Follow @kelseygoforth on Twitter.