Next Steps: Start Off on the Right Foot and Successfully Launch Your Career

by Jenny Flanagan

Transitioning from student to licensed professional can be tricky. There are seemingly endless possibilities in front of you, but it doesn't have to be scary. Begin with these steps to start off on the right foot and successfully launch your career.

Create a professional email account. No more Your email address should either be some form of your name or a reflection of your business name. A first impression can mean the difference between getting a job and getting rejected.

Review and update your resume. Is your contact information correct? Has someone else reviewed it for spelling and grammar? Do you have all of your relevant school info? If your resume seems a bit thin, consider volunteering for a local, industry-related nonprofit.

Craft a professional image. Print professional business cards and carry them with you everywhere you go. You never know when you might meet a business contact. Include your new, professional email address! You can also build a professional website and use it as an online portfolio, featuring pictures of your work. Include your resume, and present yourself as a savvy graduate.

Get online and research yourself. Employers will likely do the same, so be sure you know what's out there, and manage anything that won't help you get a job. Google your name (including any former names/nicknames) to see what comes up.

If party pictures from last weekend show up, you've got some work to do. Google the email address listed on your resume. Only your professional information should appear when you do this. Look at the image results from your search. If any unprofessional photos appear, find out where they're stored online and remove them. If any unused social media profiles appear (that MySpace account you posted all those crazy pictures to), close your account.

Protect yourself with liability insurance. You never know when an accident might happen, even one that's not your fault. If your client slips on a wet floor, or gets a burn from a chemical service, you could be on the hook for a settlement and legal fees. Make sure you're protected with a policy that covers you personally. One great way is to join a professional association that includes liability insurance.

Read the rules and regulations of your license at your state board's website. Before you start working on clients, you must be clear about the services you can and cannot legally provide under your license. Visit for the contact information for your state board and look up the official rules.

Contact your local city hall as well, as the city may have additional restrictions, such as not allowing you to practice in your home or operate a mobile business. It's your responsibility to know what you can and cannot do.

Understand your state's requirements for infection control. You've learned the importance of proper disinfection and sanitization, but you also need to know exactly what your state requires in practice. A helpful way to keep learning and stay up on all of the latest news and trends is to subscribe to at least one industry publication. Not sure which one would be best? Visit for a list to choose from.

Build your referral network. Find estheticians, fashion designers, massage therapists, photographers, etc. who have clients that could use your services and work out a mutual referral system. Or, if you're looking for a job, let everyone in your network know that. You never can tell who will be the person to connect you to the job of your dreams.

It's difficult out there for a graduate, but by focusing on acting like a professional right out of school, it will be easier for you to transition into a rewarding career.

Jenny Flanagan is director of membership for Associated Hair Professionals (AHP), a professional association supporting hair and nail students as well as licensed professionals. Reach Jenny at or at 800-575-4642.