I remember it so clearly. Almost ten years ago I was a young Midwesterner in hair school, perplexed by every single thing that came my way. How do I use this blow dryer, what is the cool button for, why are there different sized brushes, why do I need different combs?! I needed to learn and I needed to learn fast.
That may have been the lone distinction that separated me from my peers in school – I understood I didn’t know anything about doing hair. While others in school would tease their hair into humungous mounds on top of their head, I would observe in amazement. How are they doing this? And why? Humbled, I went to my School Director and shared nervously that I was behind. She calmly explained to me the two Golden Rules that would propel me through the next four years of my career.
-You don’t know what you don’t know.
-Find a mentor.
In a world where Instagram ‘likes’ give us an actual rush of endorphins, there is a rush to become a “Master Hairdresser”. This idea that we know everything about your hair is coming from a place of ego and desire for approval. File that fun fact under the “fake it till you make it” motto. While that may be completely fine for your social media persona, when in the salon there is another phrase to remember.
Real Recognizes Real
Appreciating the work in your actual physical salon will get you further than solo practice ever will. Stealing the moves of those near is an endless source of inspiration. Nothing is original, so embrace influence. Take Austin Kleon's book 'Steal Like An Artist'. Check out his Ted Talk of the 10 things he wish he knew starting out.
If you don’t like the work that’s happening around you, maybe it is time to move on to a salon with a culture that more fits your vibe and aesthetic. Keep your eyes humble and you will be amazed by the good information and tricks that will come your way.
For those who are students, assistants, or young hairdressers who have found themselves stuck, finding a mentor IS the best way to get your mind back on track. I’m not talking about taking a class by a famous educator who you will see for a day or two then vanish from your life. I’m talking about someone who will be there, in the fire with you, watching the little things. Finding someone who will be compassionate and firm when necessary. There are two qualifications – Someone you want to learn from equal to someone who wants to share with you.
Usually this person is best when not a salon owner (unless owning a salon is a the goal of mentorship). In my experiences I sought out the technical talent. I asked if they would share their story with me.
Picture someone you work with. If you are a student, pick a teacher or a fellow student. If you work at a loft, pick someone in the city you work in. Tell yourself 'I will ask them for mentorship.'
Here are some simple icebreakers and steps to help you start the relationship.
1. “Hey _______, Im a huge fan of your work. I am a young stylist and I am curious how you got from just starting out to where you are now.”
2. Put together some thoughtful questions but please skip those which you can good (i.e. where are you from?, what do you like to do) Rather go with “Being from ______ and your you’re in ______, can you share a little about that moving process?
3. Ask what hair shows they attend each year. If they don’t go to shows, are there any classes or seminars or webinars they recommend.
4. Forth and final, share a little bit about yourself. You want them to know about you but this conversation is not about you, it’s about them. Remove ego and your personal agenda and you will find you get more than you ask for.
Don’t forget, putting yourself out there is such an attractive quality. Hairstylists are people, even the popular ones. Reach out, we love it!
Guest Writer @DrewsDos.