March 2011

Charlene Abretske

Beauty Business Buzz | Charlene Abretske


Your First Year — Determining Your Career Path

So there you are, after years of dreaming about making the world a more beautiful place and a career in the beauty industry; you finally have your license. All of your dreams of being creative and sharing your talent with the world are about to be lived out, now that you are allowed to make a living at it.

Of course, you want to succeed in this industry, as well as be happy living your dream. Take a cue from Ben Franklin, who said, "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."

Even though you have been in school for what seems like forever, more training is always necessary; in fact this is an industry where life-long learning is not only important but essential to attain any measure of success.

I remember attending a student beauty show a few years back and attempting to match potential employers with recent graduates. I was struck by the amount of passion I saw from students. I spoke with hundreds of recent graduates that weekend and found they generally fell into three distinct categories:

Category 1: I Need a Job

These students wanted to be working in a place A.S.A.P. They did not care where they went to work, they just knew they had bills to pay and were looking for benefits and an hourly paycheck. This group concerned me because, in their hurry to find that steady paycheck, they may end up missing an opportunity to explore their creativity and artistry. On the other hand, they will have the opportunity to hone their skills with cutting in a timely manner, and get their bills paid in the process.

Category 2: Get Out of My Way

This group was interested in jumping right in with both feet, intending to be commissioned stylists or booth renters from day one. They were getting their licenses, and felt the world would greet their newfound skills with a lot of cash and respect. This group had admirable confidence, but was lacking a realistic view of what was coming next. Getting your license does not make you an equal to the top names in the industry, or even equal to the top skill level in your local area. I feared these students were setting themselves up for failure quickly.

Category 3: Assistant at Your Service

This group knew for sure they needed more education and development of their skills before hoping to make a career out of the beauty industry. This was the group that will probably not only do okay, but also thrive. They had an idea of what it was they did not yet know, and they valued the learning process. This group was also clearly aware of where top-notch skills come from, and that is; from salons that are willing to invest their time and money in an assistant training program.

If you are newly licensed, you should begin by figuring out what you want from your career. You must also consider what your financial needs and responsibilities are.

You may fit into the "I Need a Job" group, and know you need to go right to work for an hourly rate, plus tips and benefits. If so, choose a salon chain that can provide you regular business and technical training, and truly use what they offer you. One of the biggest regrets many stylists have is not developing good habits from the beginning of their careers. It is much easier to learn, than to unlearn and re-learn. By following the practices you have been taught, you will allow yourself to advance in a corporate environment, and your job will quickly transition into a career.

If you feel you fall into the "Get Out of My Way" group, please slow down. You risk being taken advantage of by people who do not understand business at all. Rome was not built in a day and it takes years of professional development to create a great stylist. Getting into booth rental right after school has caused many a stylist to run screaming from the industry; do not be one of them. You may have been the superstar of your school, and your confidence may be inspiring and infectious, but even the best stylists have humility, and know there are still some things they need extra help with.

If you are in the "Assistant at Your Service" group ask the following:

How long is the training program? Six months to two years is a good estimate, depending on the time you spend working one on one.

Will I be able to see clients when I am in the program? The answer should be a resounding, yes. As you master each part of the program, you should be allowed to see clients for those services on certain days and times.

Once the program is over; is there a clear system for pricing, and are there clear goals set to help you progress to each new level? The answer should again be yes. This demonstrates to you that the salon owner wants you to build a career with them, and this will allow to you to continue to increase your paycheck.

Congratulations on your new career. By channeling your excitement and taking the time to determine your career path, you can create a long lasting career.

Charlene Abretske is an independent business advisor. To reach her email or call (760)453-1882.