To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Spa News: Your Spa Career—Climb the Spa Ladder to Success,” by Ilana Alberico, in the November 2010 issue. Article summary: Navigating the move from spa concierge to massage therapist was no different than my navigation of massage therapist to spa supervisor, or spa supervisor to spa director. It’s not always easy to move up the ladder—but you can do it if you follow seven specific steps.

by Ilana Alberico

1. Find your passion. Don’t attempt to move up if you aren’t moving from the heart. If you aren’t authentically exuberant about where you want to go, you won’t get there.

2. Commit to learning. If you want to advance, you won’t do it in your 40-hour work week. Invest in learning everything you can about your industry. Take as many continuing education classes as you can. Get a library card and read everything you can. Listen to audio books in your car. Squeeze in as much education as possible.

3. Build relationships. Find and join an industry organization. Participate in meetings and events. Ask questions of successful people you admire. Find a person who is where you want to be and ask him or her to mentor you. Simply having someone available to run things by will be a huge help on your path to success. Take time to thank people who help you. Send a handwritten card and recognize their support. 

4. Take calculated risks. Don’t be afraid of a pay cut. Sometimes the only way up is longer hours and lower pay. I took a 33-percent pay cut going from a massage therapist to a spa supervisor, but it was the best decision I ever made. I had to budget carefully and plan accordingly, but this temporary cut in pay ultimately resulted in being headhunted for the well-paying position of spa director.

5. Work hard. Don’t allow down time at work. If you are between appointments, go the extra mile for your team. Organize, fold laundry, clean up. People who are constantly participating and utilizing their time well get noticed and promoted. Volunteer for extra projects and coordinate extra events. 

6. Believe you can do it. Everything starts in the mind. Talk to yourself in the mirror, the car and before you go to sleep. Speak in the present. If you want to own your own business say, “I own a thriving and successful business.” You will start making decisions that will support this affirmation.

7. State intentions. This is often the most overlooked step in trying to move up. Tell your leader what you want and where you want to be. As a massage therapist, I sat across from the spa director in my review and stated, “I want to sit where you are. So, tell me what do I need to do to get there.” Within four months I had been promoted to spa supervisor. Don’t be afraid of being perceived as too confident; simply state where you want to be and you’ll be surprised at how people will be willing to help you get there.

Moving up the ladder takes hard work and dedication. Most importantly, you have to believe you can do it. In the words of Brian Tracy, a successful entrepreneur, “When you develop yourself to the point where your belief in yourself is so strong that you know you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, your future will be unlimited.”

Ilana Alberico is chief operating officer of Innovative Spa Management, a spa-design, consulting and management firm, and founding partner of Privai Academy, which offers licensure programs and advanced training for estheticians, massage therapists and spa managers. To open a spa or learn about spa education, visit