How I Chose a Career In Cosmetology
Why did I choose a career in cosmetology as a hairstylist? I was 16 years old, a junior in high school, and wondering what I wanted to pursue as a career after graduation. I sat down with a notepad and made a list of all the possible career choices that I had an interest in. This completed list had one common denominator: every career option was in a creative industry. Making this list helped me to see that I am a visual, hands-on, creative individual.
It was about that time when I discovered a program that offered trade school courses for high school students at the local community college. This program allowed students to attend high school half-day and trade school half-day. I looked at what was offered and, lo and behold, cosmetology was on that list! I thought to myself, “Should I give it a try? I don’t know if it’s the right choice for me. Would I even like it or be good at it?” Then I contemplated, “What do I have to lose?” It was too late to enroll for my junior year so I enrolled my senior year.
My first-day attending beauty-college, I was nervous and still wondering, “Is this the right choice for me?” That same day after the orientation, we got our hands busy working on mannequin heads. The first lesson was shampooing and sectioning the hair for a simple blow-dry. I noticed some of the students were having difficulty with their sectioning, but I found it to be very natural and handled it with ease. At that moment, I realized that I just might have found my calling. As beauty-college progressed over the course of that school year, I continued to learn the skills required for the program. I fell deeper and deeper in love with cosmetology.
To complete the cosmetology program offered by my high school, attendance was required for both junior and senior years. I had only attended my senior year, so when I graduated from high school, I began visiting cosmetology schools. I had a plan for an exciting career as a hairstylist!
Shortly after graduation, I had an opportunity to move from Seattle to San Jose, California. After moving to California, I began my research on schools and state board requirements. There were some logistics that needed to be worked out in order to transfer my Washington State credits to the California State Board. Because of this complication, it took another year before I was a licensed California cosmetologist, and that was over thirty years ago—yes, thirty years! I am blessed to have found my calling and passion so early on.
If you’re thinking about a career in cosmetology, I will tell you it can be an amazing and rewarding career. First, you must discover if it’s the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
Who am I?
What is my work style?
Am I creative?
Do I like working with people?
Do I like being of service to others?
Am I a hands-on worker?
Am I a hardworking person?
Can I self-promote?
Starting your new career in the field of cosmetology is not an easy path. It’s important to understand that when starting out, you will be making minimum wage and working really hard for that minimum wage. The best advice I can give you is to plan ahead. Save some money: work out your living arrangements so that you can sustain yourself with little money for the first two years of your new career. The only way to be successful in this industry is to hustle. I know the word “hustle” is overused today, but it’s very appropriate for this industry. All successful hairstylists hustle and hustle hard. Don’t be disillusioned by the hairstylists you know that work part-time and are making a great living. Instead, ask them about their early journey. They will tell you how hard they worked, the sacrifices they made, and that it was worth it, and how they still are hustling hard.
Once you get your cosmetology license, you don’t have to have it all together just yet. It’s okay if you don’t feel confident if you feel that your skills are not where they need to be and it’s okay if you’re not sure how to promote yourself. This career is a journey about personal growth and your education never ends. All master stylists continue to go to classes to work on their skills. There is no arriving or resting on your laurels. The good news is that it is fun and exciting to learn new techniques, new styles and to be inspired by great master stylists. Find a salon that will mentor you and offers ongoing education.
I have been blessed to be a part of this exciting, creative career. I have developed lifelong relationships with people that I would have never met otherwise. We are in a service industry, we are of service, we are there to listen to others, to uplift and to care for our clients. No matter how much you give to your clients, they will give so much more to you. They will give their loyalty and their patronage, they will share their lives, their journeys, their knowledge, their experiences and they will cheer you on in yours. I have seen the world through the eyes of my clients and that has been the greatest gift of all.
I will leave you with this final message: if you love people and the creative art of hairdressing, this will be a great career choice. Remember that this is a career of service, but most of all in this career, the secret sauce is relationship building. You can give a client an amazing new hairstyle, but if you don’t also make that client feel amazing, you haven’t done your job and you will not see them again. More important than your skills in hairstyling is your ability to build trust, make people feel comfortable, listen to them and assure that they leave feeling better, not just looking better. That is how you build relationships and a great business as a hairstylist.
About the author
Kerrie Brandau, Cosmetologist for 30 years and Fonder/CEO of Salonch is passionate about helping beauty establishment owners and beauty industry professionals find their ideal work tribe with the Salonch app.