"Salons want image professionals. They want people who are knowledgeable about every aspect of fashion because they love trends and fashion. They know how to make hair part of the overall look, and they themselves look the part."Ã¢â¬âSalon industry coach Susan Papageorgio
New cosmetology school grads, and visual artists in general, have one huge advantage over the other people out there trying to settle into new careers: they've got styleÃ¢â¬âa certain flair that says on first glance, "This is who I am"? Whether they're slaves to the latest fashion trend, regulars at the vintage clothing shops or sew-it-yourselfers, hairdressers tend to have the whole image thing going on.
It's a blessing, because that spirit and self-awareness will serve you well in an industry that's all about finding a look that suits each individual client. But be careful.
like attracts like
"You will attract what you appear to be," says Pierre Goneau, vice-president of Goldwell and KMS parent company KPSS, Inc. "If you start out with a real edgy look, you'll begin to attract that type of client. You will build this box that says, for example, 'I'm all about grunge; I do only grunge hair.' If that's what you want to do, okay, but make sure that's all you want to do."
Maria Ascher agrees. "It's just a choice," says the director of education for Regis Schools. "In general, people want to be around people who are like them. But there may not be enough people like you to make a living off it! Instead, if your appearance appeals to the masses, you won't turn off a segment of clients."
Your first opportunity to test your image is when you check out a salon to explore the possibility of working there, whether that involves a formal interview or just a casual visit. To hire you, the salon owner will have to believe that you will fit into the culture and be able to service the full variety of clients who come into that salon. So the image you project for your interview and the one you present to clients after you're hired are really one and the same.
"Personally, I wouldn't have an issue with piercing and tattoos," says Ascher. Still, she adds, the safest bet is to find a look that fuses hip with professional.
"You're in an industry that's trendy, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be boundaries," Ascher explains. "You don't have to wear a suit. But your clothes should suit your body type, and you should not expose too much skin."
take it black
Goneau observes that black is the salon industry's color of choice to express this artistic-yet-professional approach to life and work. "'Dress for success' doesn't mean you go in with a suit and tie," Goneau echoes Ascher. "It refers to a creative/casual look. If you wear an open blouse that looks as if you're on your way to a nightclub, your clients will be men and women who are focused on the look and feeling of sex. They'll want a sexy hair style, and they'll be interested in where you buy your clothes. Nobody wins then, because the focus is not on their hair. So your attire influences your experience with the client."
Black was the color of choice at the grand opening of Hedonism Salon & Day Spa, a Paul Mitchell Focus Salon in Santa Monica, CA.
And the client's experience is what it's all about, Goneau continues. It's not about you. "To maximize your potential, go with blackÃ¢â¬âthe artsy version as opposed to the sexual version," Goneau recommends. "Hairdressers should try to blend with all walks of life. Black speaks to that."
key word: professional
Beyond your clothing, you must be professional in your demeanor, attitude and language. This industry has no patience for bad behavior like showing up late, still wearing last night's make-up, slouching, chewing gum, mumbling, being rude or anything you really know better than to do. A simple smile goes a long way.
"Have a 'happy' attitude, because owners want happy people in the salon," advises salon industry coach Susan Papageorgio. "Salon owners' most common complaint to me is, 'How do I get them not to bring drama?'"
To be a successful hairdresser at SportClips, for example, you should "be on time, be enthusiastic and provide championship quality service to each and every client," says the chain's director of career opportunity, Julie Vargas. "Do what's right, do your best and treat other people the way you want to be treated."
The talent for hair styling and a pleasant personality may come naturally to you. All the rest is built through confidence. Clients can smell confidenceÃ¢â¬âand fearÃ¢â¬âa mile away, say the experts. Improving your skills is the surest way to become self-assured. You can do that two ways: through education and through experience. Attend advanced classes, watch DVDs and read industry magazines like Modern Salon. To gain experience, try asking friends and even grabbing people off the street. Practice those things you find difficultÃ¢â¬âmaybe color correction or texture services. Confidence isn't cockiness, however. In a salon environment, be aware that you're part of the team.
To a certain degree, you can customize your image to fit the client. "I've heard that if you mirror a client's behavior, chances are good you'll keep that client," says Ascher. "With a client who's shy and reserved, you don't want to be wild and loud