1. Certain personality traits are helpful for hair stylists.
Figure 12.2 Somehow they manage to gossip over the roar of those dryers.
Hair stylists should have a good sense of style and like people. Going to school for cosmetology will teach you the basics of the profession, but the stylists who are really good have their natural proclivities to thank. Some people just have an eye for style. In my book, the best stylists are the ones that you can tell, “I don’t know what I want; just do something,” and you end up with a fantastic haircut. They just know. They’re also friendly and like chatting up other people. When you find a hair dresser with all that, you keep coming back to them. As a stylist, you are in control of the appearance of other people; they should trust you.
2. After high school, sign yourself up for beauty school.
Hone your skills by completing a cosmetology program. There are schools that only teach cosmetology and related skills, and also tech schools and the like that will give you an associate’s degree when all is said and done. Either way, you’ll be knowledgeable in all things hair-cuttery. Generally speaking, you’ll just have to provide your high school diploma or GED and apply to your program of choice, and then complete all the courses. Cosmetology programs vary, but usually take around nine months or a year to finish. While you’re there, you’ll learn about hair care or other beauty services in nail or skin care, depending on your interests.
3. Get a license in your state.
Figure 12.3 When this guy schedules an appointment with you, you better block off a few hours.
You’re done with school; now jump through your state’s hoops to get a license to work. States will have different specific requirements, but they all require a license. You can’t have just anybody wielding those shears or the world would be full of demon barbers like Sweeney Todd. Or something. Anyway, to be licensed, you must be at least 16, have graduated from high school or gotten your GED, and completed a cosmetology program. You’ll take a written test for sure, but some states also have oral exams or even have you actually style someone’s hair. Some state licenses are good in other states, too. Every so often you’ll have to get your license renewed.
4. Get employment as a hair stylist.
Once you’re hired, your talent will have a heavy hand in your success. The only real way to advance in this career is to get better at it and make more money doing it. Knowing how to provide nail and skin services might give you more options. You’ll probably work some afternoons and weekends--more so when you first start out--and hours might be flexible. You won’t have to work full time if you don’t want to. This partially accounts for the low end of the spectrum in average salaries for stylists. A fair number of stylists own their own businesses, so that’s an option, too, but it’s a lot of work unless you’re really well established.
Advancing as a Stylist
When job hunting, added knowledge of nail and skin services will give you an advantage at some salons, whereas others will prefer that employees are specialized stylists, estheticians, or nail technicians. It all depends on where you want to work. Stylists can specialize in areas like men’s or children’s cuts, coloring or perms, or anything else to help build up their clientele, which is huge in this profession. Loyal customers not only give you repeat business, but might also bring in new customers for you by word of mouth. You might start out part time in any salon that will hire you, but as you get better, you can try and work up to nicer and nicer salons. Or open your own salon. If that’s your goal, taking business classes isn’t a bad idea, because you may be a great stylist, but a horrible businessperson. Really great stylists at high-end salons can charge ridiculous amounts of money for their services. And people pay it because they know that when they walk out those doors, they will like the way they look, which, after all, is the goal of a hair stylist. The money is just gravy, right?