Almost anyone can learn to be a competent hair dresser or cosmetologist by completing the required course work and practicing, but becoming a good, professional hair stylist is not just about accumulating the required hours. As in many other professions, being an exceptional stylist is a calling. Success as a stylist requires creativity, hard work and vision.
This is not the right career path for the undisciplined, lazy, or indifferent person. The time it takes to complete the course work for a cosmetologist license varies from state to state, but generally speaking ranges from 1000 to 2000 hours. If trying to meet the state requirements as an apprentice, that time may increase to as much as 3000 hours. Once the student finishes school, he/she must pass a comprehensive written state board exam that covers a wide array of topics from diseases and basic anatomy to business ethics; and complete an intense practical exam demonstrating the basic skills needed by a stylist. Practicing and being prepared is the best way to overcome the stress that this phase of the process puts on the aspiring stylist.
Some schools are affiliated with salons in their areas and help students with placement, but many others are left to their own devices in trying to land their first jobs. Depending on the area, this can be the most difficult part of becoming a stylist. Many salons want to hire stylists that can bring a clientele to the salon. Others prefer to hire stylists with experience creating the Cosmetology Catch 22 of “I need experience to get a good job, but I need a job to get the experience!”
One might think that once hired, learning is over, but the fact is-learning has just begun. Good stylists are constantly learning and improving their craft. They learn from one another-trading skills and knowledge acquired at trade shows-or through contacts in the business that may include meeting with vendors introducing new products, reading industry books, and/or attending workshops featuring top stylists.
Determining what your primary goal is in the business will provide you with direction and focus. If you became a stylist to have a regular income, then focus on building good word-of-mouth advertising to draw business, be reliable, and provide good, solid cuts, colors, and styles for your customers. If you are looking for fame and the freedom to be highly creative, concentrate on learning the foundational skills for platform work and don’t be timid about entering contests to showcase your skills and become known in the business community.
Regardless of the path you select, be prepared to work hard and take criticism with grace when it comes your way. Even the most gifted stylist has encountered the occasional customer he/she cannot satisfy-it goes with the territory. But conversely, the feeling gained from making a difference in a person’s self-esteem, or seeing the satisfied smile on the face of a young girl on her way to her first dance is indescribable and well worth the effort it takes to become a good stylist.
Roger Ubik has extensive experience in the salon industry in Austin, TX and is passionate about informing consumers. There are many hair stylists available. Finding the right treatment is crucial to a successful outcome.