Today’s tale is one for all the up and comers in our beloved industry.
Over the past year I’ve had many young ladies and gents come through my door asking if I was hiring for the shop, or if our salon would take an apprentice under our wing. For the most part, I’ve had to say no – and not for the reasons you might think. I didn’t say no because of lack of business, clientele, or budget. I had to say no because as I saw it, if they were not able to brush their own hair, how were they going to be able to help our clients with their hair care needs?
One young lady still stands out in my mind.
I heard the chirp of the shop’s door chime and looked up to see a young woman wearing jogging pants, an over sized jacket, no makeup and her hair in a messy ponytail. “I just finished school and I need my hours,” she said. “Do you guys take apprentices?”
I decided that I was going to change this girl’s life. I took a breath, put a smile on my face, and crossed my fingers that the demo flat iron beside her would not become airborn. I asked her where she went to school and if part of the curriculum focused on how to apply for a position in a salon. “Not really,” she answered. I let her know that we were not looking for an apprentice at the moment, but I would take her resume. I also asked her if she had a minute to chat. She said yes.
I asked her if she loved doing hair, or just liked it. “I LOVE IT!” she exclaimed. I told her I was happy to hear it, because it is a lot of hard work and long hours, but if you love it, it’s all worth it. I then asked her if I could give her a few tips. I let her know that our industry is a visual one. That being said, she must always look like she is ready to cut/color someone’s hair, which means she needs to have her hair done and a little make up applied – even if it’s just lip gloss. I let her know of salons in town that were looking for apprentices and told her to go do the following;
1. Plan ahead and be courteous.
Call the salon you are interested in and ask to speak to the manager. Then ask to make an appointment to meet them. This shows professionalism and that you understand their time is important.
2. Look the part.
Have a shower, do your hair and apply a little makeup. Would you want to get your hair done by someone whose hair was not tidy and they smelled like the gym? Dress appropriately. Put on a pair of pressed pants and a nice shirt – preferably black because it compliments and puts the attention on the client.
3. Be prepared.
In addition to your resume, bring your tools along. You never know, you may be asked to give a cut so they can see your technique and composure around their clients.
I let her know you only get one chance to make a first impression, and that most people wouldn’t try to see past the jogging pants. I then told her one of my favorite sayings: “When you know better, you do better. So now, you will do better.” She laughed. (Phew…thank you Maya Angelou and the powers that be that left the flat iron in its place!).
After she left I found myself thinking that we are not educating the up-and-comers. Sure, they are learning cutting and coloring techniques, but these alone do not a stylist make. Students need to be taught customer service, interpersonal skills, how to communicate with their potential boss and coworkers, how to sell retail product to their clients, as well as how to dress for interviews and their career.
Not educating students or giving them all the tools they will need to get ahead is setting them up to fail, plain and simple. Starting out in this industry is difficult enough, and brings out it’s own roadblocks, emotionally, physically and mentally. Instead of adding another roadblock we should give them the green light.
Sara Stancu is the manager of a salon and retail shop, and has over 20 years of experience in customer service and sales. She blogs regularly as “That girl in the red coat” with the aim of educating and enlightening clients, stylists and salon owners. Her plain and simple approach to telling it like it is when it comes to all things salon-related comes from her experience as a customer and a decade of working in the beauty industry. She also used to be that woman who could not stand her hair (but now it is fabulous).