Are You Hitting a Slump in Your Career? Fix it!

by Patrick McIvor | October 2, 2017

About 3 years ago I hit a slump in my career, and I actually was afraid of coloring hair, never mind being terrified of getting a new guest! Today, I am doing some of the best hair of my life. I have even had multiple guests that I have cared for their hair for more than 15 years that have people tell them this is the best hair they have ever had.  So what happened? Honestly, I don’t know, but I will share the story and what I did to get it back.

I have had 2 times in my career where no matter what I seemed to do I just couldn’t get it right. The first time was when I was 25, I was already teaching internationally as an independent artist and as a senior technical specialist in New York City working for the big US color company at the time with the top salon in New York City—we are talking super models everywhere at these salons!  One day I woke up and could not figure out what I was doing that everyone thought was so good, why was I hanging out and doing classes with John Sahag, Pierre Michele at the Trump Tower, LaCoupe, Louis Licari and more!

These were famous hairdressers, and I became so afraid that I didn’t know what they liked about my work or why they liked it at all that I had a breakdown and couldn’t even leave my apartment for 3 days. I knew that first, I needed to fix this, and second, I needed to figure out how I know if my work is good.  So I called the free hotline the company I was working for had available and said I need to talk to someone. Honestly, after the first visit I was about 80% back and after three, I had the tools I needed to get over that hump.

The problem for me was other people’s opinions started to matter in my life and my mind and for the first time I was thinking more about what other people thought and not even if I liked it.  After this I learned it doesn’t matter if someone else likes it or not first; I needed to first. And just because everyone has an opinion, doesn’t mean I had to listen and take it personally.  Instead, I can accept everyone’s opinions, professionally, and then discard the ones that don’t help me to be better professionally, and never take them personally—it’s just their opinion.

I continued working with a performance psychologist who taught me how not to let nerves interfere with how good I can do and how to visualize success before I start. These two tools helped me work in systems and the industry where we are constantly judged. Being constantly judged is hard, every guest judges our work and every class has an evaluation available.

But unlike most people who mess up one time pretty much know what went wrong and what to do next time, it was not that way for me.  In our industry, and my life specifically, every one of our guests has a different opinion—never mind wide variations of what is short or how blonde is blonde and we need to get it right every time. To add to that, I was teaching internationally in over 15 countries on five continents and sometimes what we do at home is not what an international audience wants. So, learning to visualize success and to communicate what that looks like to my guests or at educational events really helped set me up for success. Heck, I was stacking the deck!!!

 Up to about 3 years ago, those skills served me well and then I hit another slump.  I could not figure out why.  It became so bad that I finished a head of hair and I looked at my wife and said, “It’s a six” (on a scale of 1-10), she looked at me and said, “It was a 5 or 6”. It was like I was in a hitting slump as a baseball player that was used to hitting over 500 and now I was hitting in the low 100’s. I knew I could do it, I could see it and I just could not create it any more.

First I spoke with my wife and family, including my parents and let them know what was going on, then I told the companies I was working with (I was working at ARROJO) that I was afraid of doing hair and having new guests  I even told my guests I was caring for at my salon and many of my long time guests were shocked, including the guests I referred to in the first paragraph. 

So I made a plan. First thing I did was I got mannequins out and started working on techniques to get more muscle memory back and back to the basics like a musician practicing scales. Then I got some mentees to train which challenged my skills that I had been working on and gave me a good measure on my work verses the constant comparisons I was doing with my friends in NYC.  And finally I enlisted my family to get some models for me to really push myself on not only creating the best work I can, but also the work I need to push myself to learn and have confidence in. 

Now it is three years later and I feel so good! I love doing hair, I am fully booked, and honestly can’t even take all the new guests calling for appointments. My journey has brought me new ideas including new color tools, more classes at our education center and a real love for our ever changing industry. Most importantly, I want to share because the more we share, the more we learn everyday people have these challenges too! And life has its ups and downs, but it’s what you do to make things better that works. Hiding these challenges or challenging times can make you go from bad to worse, and no one’s life or career is all good, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it a great life.

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