I get this question all the time. In my role as a director of education my job was to identify, recruit, train and manage educators. Haircutters would approach me all the time (and still do) asking, How do I become and educator? The question was put forth as thought there was a single, simple answer, as if there was s check-off sheet. Do this thing or things, in this order and you will then receive a tap on the shoulder with a sword and you will be anointed as an educator. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are different paths. There are different destinations. Every potential educator candidate is a different individual bringing different things to the table.
Over the years I have developed a few general guidelines for prospective platform educators. Below are a few of the top tips I offer up when presented with the question. I hope those of you who aspire to be an educator can find some guidance and direction from my comments below.
What are you waiting for? If you want to be an educator, educate! – Haircutters seem to think they need to be picked, blessed to be an educator, or that some outside authority will confer upon them the status of educator, that they will be anointed. Odds are overwhelmingly high that will NEVER happen. If you want to be an educator, educate. Get busy doing what you claim you want to do. There are opportunities everywhere to be actively educating.
Pitch in to help train new cutters in your home shop. Do demos at a local school. Help out on the clinic floor at a school in your area. The most important thing you need to do is to get experience as an educator. Get buys educating.
Get busy posting videos to the web. Start your Youtube channel. This is a great way to begin to share. This is a great way to see how target audiences respond to your message. This is a great way to build your following and presentations skills.
Start blogging. Share your ideas, vision and concepts on the web. Post links in your social channels. Open a dialog in comments and feedback. This is not just preparation. This is educating. This is REAL.
Write a book. If you do not have that much material at first, write a pamphlet. This will help you solidify your ideas and structure your presentations. Pass, share or even sell this content to interested professionals and students. Give them away to coworkers and friends.
Posting pictures of haircuts to instagram is NOT educating. Commenting on other peoples content is not educating either. Stop engaging in self congratulation, back slapping and cheerleading, that is, unless you want to be a cheerleader.
Bring something new to the discussion – You can clipper cut a fade. Really? Wow! We are not impressed. Everyone can do that. It is no big deal. Stop posting pictures of your next, latest, same-old, same-old fade clipper cut. Some of the posting on instagram make me want to scream… or at least unfollow.
What are you bringing to the conversation that is new, different or groundbreaking? We need new. We need to be inspired. We crave the next thing. We have zero need for more of the old thing, the last thing, yesterday’s thing. By the time you see 50 guys posting a particular look or style to the web it is over. It might not be over with the client population, but it is over in the pro beauty education discussion.
If you are to stand up and stand out you must take the collective conversation to the next level. I have a track record of innovation. I have brought new techniques and new ideas to clipper cutting and men’s hair. I have selected educators who brought new ideas, fresh perspectives and challenging concepts to the conversation. If you only offer more of the same we do not need to hear from you. Raise the bar. Raise your game. Inspire us to raise ours.
Challenge us with new thinking. Show us how to make more money. Teach us to do something we have never seen or done before. Identify and work out a solution to a problem. The more common the problem and the simpler the solution the more interested we will be. If your solution to a problem is more complicated than the original problem then that is not a solution.
Develop a personal style, voice and unique presence – The key to bringing something new is for YOU to BE something new. Developing a personal style means to decide who you are and what you believe and then let us see, get to know and understand YOU. Only you can sing your song your way. Only you can be truly you.
There are a few cutters out there trying to be me. It does not work. It comes off as kind of sad, empty, goofy. Even I cannot do a good impression of me. I appreciate the compliment, but do not try to deliver my lines my way.
I have told education team members in the past, “we are all singing the same song, but we must carry the tune differently”. You do jazz, she does country, he does hip hop. Some of the message might (and should) overlap, but the tune must be different.
Personal style includes what you wear, how you write, even how you handle yourself in live interactions with others. People crave connection with genuine, real people. Fortunately, or unfortunately your web postings and social media presences give us a really good idea of who you are and what you are long before we shake your hand. Keep your image and presence consistent. If you are a jerk on the web, be a jerk in person. We will respect you for it. If you are warm, genuine and engaged on the web, we expect the same when we meet at a show or class.
Our industry has a reputation for being very accepting of differences in style, appearance and culture. Use that acceptance and the freedom it imparts to develop why you really are and want to be. But, be careful. Just because we are very accepting of differences and uniqueness as a stylist or an employee, things can change hard and fast when you choose to step up to the microphone and ask to become a public figure. You are now asking for acceptance on a broader plane. You will need to connect and appeal to a wider audience. Politicians know this all too well. Move too far left or right of center and acceptance and warm and fuzzy feelings fall away quite quickly. Education is sales. Sales requires connection. You cannot afford NOT to connect with people who are very different from you.
Find a fit – if you are to offer education independently you can skip this part. If you are seeking a patron, a source of funding, someone to pay you to educate, this will be a very important step. You need to connect with and become a part of a brand that represents a good fit with who you are and what you share. Businesses and brands have personalities. Not necessarily the personality they think they represent, but the personality that their customers, friends and fans decide they represent. You need to make sense with this fit.
If you are covered with tattoos and wear funky clothing you will not be a good fit for a conservative brand… But you might fit right in somewhere else. Learn about the brands and companies that interest you. Seek out a good fit, one that makes sense for all.
Brands have mission statements. These missions speak to who they are (or think they are), who they wish to become and what they hope to accomplish. Know their mission statement. Understand their mission. Believe in their mission. Adopt their mission as your own. Be able to tailor your presentation and content to fit and support their mission.
If the brand mentions environmental consciousness in their mission you had better be a hard-core tree hugger or you just will not fit. Sometimes it is as simple as if they are a hair color company you must sport world class hair color. I have joked for years never to purchase a clipper from a guy with a pony tail.
The most important element of this posting is the idea of stepping up and stepping out when you decide you have something to say and something to add. Do not wait to be picked. That probably will never happen. Pick yourself, be yourself, take control!