April 2013

Jacqueline Munoz

Strictly for Students| by Maggie Cruz


Your First Year: Where to Begin?

As a newly licensed hairdresser, you probably think you are going to go out and land that dream job.

Sorry, it just doesn't work that way. You may have been the school prodigy, praised by your teachers and looked at in awe by the newbies, but now you are just a little guppy swimming in a big pond full of experienced and extremely talented hairdressers.

There are choices to make, such as do you go to a salon and immediately start working with clients and making an hourly wage, or are you able to assist in a salon with a mentor who will train you in all the finer points of our industry so that in six months to a year you are working in a high-end salon and have your own chair?

You need to ask yourself, what is your dream job and how do you get it?

If you decide to assist or join an apprenticeship program for licensed hairdressers, your best bet for finding people willing to mentor you is by networking, usually through your school.

Your school should have contacts with salons in the area, and they know the salons and the hairdressers who are willing to mentor young stylists. They can guide you through the process of finding a good mentor and also make sure you are not just going to be used as the salon flunky.

When looking for an assisting position, you need to know who you will be assisting, one person or the whole salon? Also, if you are assisting more than one person, are you working an hourly wage or for piece work, which means you need to keep track of each shampoo you do, each color you apply, etc., and you are paid for them at the end of the day or week.

Most assisting jobs are at minimum wage, but if you are in a busy salon and you are making tips both from the stylist and from the guests, you can make a good wage. Be cautious, though, because in some salons the stylist will buy you lunch and think that is your tip… it is NOT!

A six dollar lunch is not your tip for eight – 12 hours of hard work. If you are an assistant for the whole salon, are you also able to observe, work and learn from them, or are you just sweeping hair and cleaning? You might work like a dog, but never be treated like one!

Assisting is hard work, and this is how we pay our dues to work in those high-end salons. You should be a sponge in the salon, soaking up new skills and knowledge. Every day should be a day in which you come home exhausted but motivated knowing that in that day you honed your skills in order to become a better stylist. A good assistant program will even have you bring a model so you can practice all you are learning in order to one day be offered a chair in the salon.

A great mentor is someone who will be in your life forever. My mentor is still a friend after 25 years. They are the people who give us the knowledge and confidence we need to build clientele and even open our own salons. The relationship of the assistant and mentor is special and cannot be stressed enough. Imagine being the mentor and watching your assistant a few years down the road in a chair next to you, fantastically successful! That is really paying it forward.

If you are a stylist and you would like to mentor a young stylist, the best way to do that is to contact your local beauty school to get involved. Some beauty schools, like Marinello Schools of Beauty, have externship programs, so students come to your salon and work for one day a week while they are still in school.

In this externship, you can observe their work ethic, the way they interact with you and with clients, and just generally see if they would be a good fit for your salon. Make sure you are part of the schools' advisory councils and career fairs, so you can meet the staff and the students in order to learn about them before they graduate.

We all need mentors and this is the best way to find a great mentor in our industry. Those of us who have been in our industry for a while and have so much to give to the younger stylists should mentor. It is one of the most satisfying things you can do for yourself, and as a mentor, you keep your skill set even sharper!

They say that there is no better way to learn than to teach, and as a mentor, you are teaching every day. As a school director, I mentor more than 100 students and having them come back year after year to tell me how I made a difference in their lives is the best reward of all. Get a mentor and be a mentor, and if you really want your dream job, assist someone who has it.

Maggie Cruz, is director of the Marinello Schools of Beauty, one of the premier beauty schools on the West Coast offering a variety of cosmetology and esthetics programs with 62 campuses located in California, Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Utah and also offers affordable spa and salon services performed by student stylists under the supervision of instructors. For more information, go to www.marinello.com.