July 2012

LeAnne Velona

The Beauty Professional| by Fred Jones


Opportunities in Beauty Abound for All Types and Backgrounds

I have learned in my 12-year history representing this industry, beauty professionals are profoundly passionate and intimately connected to their work.

This is a unique job market sector, with its participants not merely motivated by monetary remuneration, but inspired by artistic and compassionate instincts.

My goal with each of these monthly columns is to help raise the professionalism of individuals, salons and the overall beauty industry. That just happens to be the sole mission of the organization that I represent, so it's a nice fit.

As a forked-tongue attorney, however, these columns may occasionally seem personally aloof or a little technical.

So this month I wanted to wax personal about this industry through the eyes of an 18-year old cosmetologist. I think her story powerfully illustrates the professional opportunities this industry offers people of all backgrounds and the unique personal rewards that are readily accessible to its licensees.

Young Kaley is an introvert, a perfectionist and while going through high school, didn't seem to have a clue about her career plans. She was always a straight-A student, even dual-enrolling in her local community college during her Junior year of high school (where she also scored straight-A's).

And then what seemed "out of the blue" for her parents, she proudly and firmly announced that she wanted to be a stylist.

Her father was shocked, not expecting that choice from his quiet, driven daughter, but her mother quickly responded: "I wish I had done that when I was your age" (one of her mother's closest high school friends pursued cosmetology, and that wise decision is what financially sustains her to this day, working as a single mother in her licensed, home-based salon).

Kaley and her father set about figuring out which beauty college to attend (her dad was concerned about driving distances, while Kaley was focused on the quality of education). Fortunately for Kaley she found the right fit, and even more fortuitous, she was able to finish her senior year of high school while concurrently enrolling in her chosen beauty school via a Regional Occupation Program (ROP).

That meant that by her 18th birthday, she would not only graduate from high school with several community college courses under her belt, she would also be graduating beauty college, prepared to take her state's cosmetology license exam.

As an important aside, I am sad to report that Kaley's class was the last to take advantage of the ROP cosmetology program at her beauty college, which had accommodated ROP students in their enrollment for decades.

California policymakers recently decided to cut-back such vocational programs for high school students (placing more emphasis on 4-year college bound students and those needing remediation in English/math).

The Professional Beauty Federation of California (PBFC) has been struggling to convince our elected officials of the error of undermining rich vocational training opportunities for young people, as Kaley's experience buttresses. But that continuing struggle can wait for a future column.

Predictably, Kaley was successful in passing both our state's practical and written licensing exams. So then it became an issue of what salon setting was most appropriate.

While Kaley was privileged to "extern" in a high-end salon during her beauty schooling -- and they wanted her when she passed her licensing exam, she chose to begin her formal employment with a well known chain salon. She lacked the confidence to perform $65 haircuts and $150 colorings straight out of beauty college and she figured she could polish her client interaction skills (remember: while driven and quite accomplished, Kaley is an introvert). While her father disagreed -- preferring the opportunity to land a high-end salon position, her decision to start at a chain turned out to be most beneficial to this aspiring stylist.

She has now been employed nearly a year in a professional setting, honing her client management and technical skills -- and in the most recent month, she even lead her salon in retail sales (which she credits to simply "making a conscious decision" to inform her clientele about products they could benefit from).

Kaley has now moved into her own apartment and purchased a car, all from income and tips her chosen career pathway provides. She may be only 18, but her employability and self-sufficiency are heads-and-shoulders above her similar aged peers, even transcending many young adults possessing four-year college degrees.

The average four-year college graduate is now carrying $25,000 of loan debt (nationwide: college loans now exceeds credit card debt), and half are either unemployed or underemployed, driving far too many of them back to their parents' home with no hope of a gainful job. Their education and skill sets often don't jibe with actual labor demands, unlike beauty college graduates readily equipped for employment and usually carrying minimal education debt.

While I think Kaley is a unique and special person (after all, I'm her dad), her story isn't so unusual. In fact, Kaley's unexpected entry in the beauty field is probably more the norm than the exception. Our industry welcomes young people of various backgrounds, many of whom weren't straight-A students in high school, some of whom were even dropouts; but they all found their footing and passion in the world of beauty.

Fred Jones serves as Legal Counsel to the Professional Beauty Federation of California, a trade association singularly dedicated to raising the professionalism of the beauty industry. To learn more about the PBFC and receive further details about the subjects contained in his column, go to www.beautyfederation.org.