There are many career options:
- Retail sales. The route through retail is usually Sales Assistant - Supervisor - Department Manager. Then you can either go into Buying if you're good with figures and have an innate sense of trends and likely consumer behaviour. Or you can apply to be a sales rep for a distributor, a trainer, area sales manager or a marketing executive. All of these options may necessitate some extra studies, but not full time - you can top up your skills with various distance-study or other part-time courses. Some companies hire just on a good sales and performance record - so say you managed to get your fragrance department to perform consistently better than in previous years and had some other convincing arguments as to why they should hire you, you could end up with a nice "Head Office" job for a manufacturer or a distributor even without extra studies or qualifications. PROS: Easiest job route to get into. Varied and interesting work, dealing with people, being at the front-end of new perfume launches and trends, lots of freebies and nice training days. The further into a retail career-path you go, the more multi-skilled you become and it's very exciting to be able to operate on so many levels simultaneously (man-management, stock control, merchandising, marketing, sales, customer service, computer skills...) CONS: Working in retail is physically demanding, your shifts will interfere with private life (like you can forget about having a Christmas holiday), some people belittle retail sales staff and consider them not much better than glorified servants with no skills or education (so you have to be prepared to ignore the prejudice and just smile sweetly), and finally, in the current economic climate, traditional retailers are suffering from dropping footfall (customers through the doors) and are losing sales to websites. If working with people is NOT your thing, this is definitely not the way to go.
- Journalism and writing. You can start researching and writing freelance articles and submit to sites such as Basenotes, submit to small local neswpapers and magazines and attempt to get an internship or some other permanent role in a regular publication on-or-offline. You could become a semi-pro fragrance blogger and/or start your own YouTube review channel. You could research and write a book about scent. You can also go into Public Relations, which is a cross-over between successful writing, salesmanship, networking, marketing and people-skills. PROS: Great if you already do a lot of reading and writing, great if you enjoy research, periods of solitude; have existing contacts in the field, or are extremely proactive about getting them. Freelance work can be extremely rewarding because you're your own boss and can manage your time exactly as you see fit, as long as you meet deadlines and bring enough money in to pay the bills. You can also forget about boring commutes to work. In-house staff journalism positions are rare these days, though they still exist. CONS: Traditional journalism is suffering because of the internet, so choose your route wisely. Many newspapers are in danger of closing down and magazine circulations are down. Some form of hybrid-career may be your best bet in this field. Freelance work is extremely stressful because you don't have paid holidays or sick leave, any guarantee of future work and you spend a lot of your "free" time searching for new job opportunities or trying to balance your finances. Sometimes you may get double or triple-booked and then suffer a long period of no work at all, so you have to be very controlled and sensible with your spending. Your credit rating may be poor because banks prefer people who are in full-time employment and have a consistent income.
- Science and technology. There are many possible routes here. Manufacturing; you find out what it takes to work in a factory or lab compounding fragrances or working in quality control and go in that way. You can study chemistry, or graphic design, or packaging design or cosmetic science and move on to a relevant specialist area after that. You can study perfumery without any prior qualification in chemistry, but it's quite hard to do it that way - that's one of the things I'm doing at the moment! PROS: Working behind the scenes can either be a buzz or a downer; if you always wonder how things really work, or are curious and want to dig deeper, this field may be for you. On the other hand, there are many manual-labour jobs (such as factory work) available through this route, which is another kind of satisfaction - to see the results of your handiwork in some kind of tangible way. Similar to retail in that sense (the results in retail are the sales, satisfied customers and happy staff!), but factory work will be more suitable to people who are less sales-oriented. You still need to be able to work with people, but it's not quite the same. In the design-branch of this broad category, you could enjoy great artistic satisfaction, though you'd also need to have the skills and nature to be able to satisfy the client's demands. It's very different from fine art. On the science-side, it can be very exciting to be right at the heart of fragrance and there are entire fields that cover just a small fraction of perfumery (chemical analysis, essential oil manufacture, buying...). CONS: These types of jobs can be difficult to get to unless you have the right qualifications, or go via the right route. Many companies wouldn't consider someone from the retail-side, for example (it does happen though, but it's harder than coming from the technology-side in the first place). Some of the jobs here don't seem so glamorous when you actually do them. You often won't be the shining star (successful store manager, figurehead of the company or a PR spokesperson).
- Entrepreneur. You could take a business studies course which would enable you to write a sound business plan, research trends, do a proper market analysis of where and how you should start your business and consider the options. You could start an online perfumery, retail store, or both. You could start a fragrance PR company or a fragrance distribution company. You could identify a gap in the market and design a service-based business or some other model that taps into the fragrance community. This is the route Dani and Grant have taken with Basenotes. PROS: Probably the most exciting option as you will have to BE multi-talented and have lots of multi-talented people around you to make this work. Could lead to fame and fortune! CONS: Also easily the most risky option because you will have to be super-shrewd with finances and risk personal bankruptcy; you may have several extremely lean years ahead before breaking into profit, you may never make the business into a proper success and just end up working much harder than you would have had to if you'd just been an employee, but with no extra money or affluence to show for it. You have to have good stamina, excellent health and a reasonable friends-and-family support network. You may have had to gain experience in some or all of the above categories (because starting a business taps into all of them!) before you can go down this route. You may not be able to hire people to do your accounts, sell for you, clean for you, package and manufacture, etc - so you may need to do everything yourself first. The enormity of this shouldn't be underestimated.
- Multi-disciplinary mixed bag impossible to define, but becoming more common - I've moved through almost all stages above in one ore more roles over a period of over 20 years. I've finally found where I belong and that's in Research and Development, which in my lucky case includes internal and web copy writing, reports, compounding, raw material research, studying on a perfumery course, practical perfumery work in the lab, marketing, some internal training and new product design. I've arrived at my dream job through a colourful route and the key to getting here was finding the right company to work for - one that was a good match for how I like to work. You could even get in at a lab assistant level, doing quality control and in a few yeas move on to study perfumery; all in the same company. There are millions of ways you could approach this. There is no formula for how to find out YOUR special place, but hopefully the above will give you a basic idea of the types of jobs available. I've left out things like accounts, human resources, law, haulage, import/export, factory management, etc, but obviously these jobs exist within the industry as well. In your specific scenario, you could enter via a related field - see what parallels there are in all of the above with social work and decide if that would be your best way to get in. Or you could simply start from scratch! I bet you have many relevant transferable skills though.
Hope the above was helpful! It was obviously rather over-simplified, but I tried to provide a cursory overview of what's out there.