I am a millennial.

….. I bet you just had a negative thought towards my word ethic when you read that.

I am a millennial and I also hate that word. It has developed such a bad rep over the past few years that sometimes I contemplate lying about my age when I meet someone new just so they don’t think I’m a lazy, entitled young adult.

I don’t think being a millennial is a bad thing. I think having a lazy work ethic, needing constant reassurance, and being entitled due to having everything handed to you prior in life are all bad things. However (this may come as a shock to some people) I work in the service industry and have come across a very wide variety of people of all ages, backgrounds, and social statuses, and I can tell you that those bad qualities that I just listed are not attached solely to one generation or age range. I have seen people my age who posses the bad qualities that seem to be attached to the word millennial, and I have also seen some people who are twice my age with all of these same qualities.

So what does this mean for me in the industry that I work in? It means that I have to prove myself even harder. It means that I have to pay my dues with a smile on my face.  It means that I have to be willing to learn and to be taught. It means that I have to prove myself to be taken as seriously as I take my career. Basically, what it means is that being a young adult in the 21st century (being a millennial) you’re most likely going to go into whatever career you’ve chosen and your older bosses or coworkers are going to have some preconceived notions about you. Not trying to ruffle any feathers, just speaking the truth.

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Particularly having to prove yourself to your older peers. Why is this? Well I’ll tell you what it’s like to be a millennial in the hair industry. When you first start out as a hair stylist you are going to have a lot of slow days before you see yourself making any kind of money. You have to build up your clientele, and that does not come quickly or easily. You are taught the basics in cosmetology school, but you also have to participate in a lot of continuing education after school to try to perfect your craft and get comfortable with other techniques.

In a lot of cases, continued education is not offered for free, or offered at all. What I did in my career was I worked at a corporate salon for a few years before I found my way to a privately owned salon (where I am currently at). Education was offered at the corporate salon that I was at, but keep in mind that it was a corporate salon, so whatever they did for one salon- they had to also be able to provide for every other salon in the region – which means it was very expensive for the company to offer any free education, and there was very little offered. For the most part it was up to me to get comfortable with interacting with clients, cutting, styling, and coloring all on my own. There was also some trial and error involved. I’m very thankful for this, and I’m not saying that as a hair stylist you have to start out in a corporate salon before moving onto a privately owned salon, but it worked for me and I can only share from my personal experience.

At the first salon that I worked at I learned how to become comfortable being uncomfortable. I learned how to hold my own during difficult situations with all different types of clients because I had to. There was such a high volume of clients coming in and going out that you had to be able to take control of your appointments or else you would miss out on all of the other walk ins because you took 5 hours to do a color that should only take 2 hours. I learned how to ask for help or assistance when someone sat in my chair wanting a cut or a color that I hadn’t had experience executing before. I learned how to watch other more experienced stylists working and ask them how they did certain things and why they did them that way. I learned all of the things that I needed to learn in order to have a good solid foundation to work in a salon and to be able to execute my job properly. Eventually, more experienced stylists that had been working there for years had moved on, and with the experience that I had gained I became one of the stylists that other new stylists came to for help with difficult or disgruntled clients, cuts, or colors.

The problem is that I eventually got too comfortable in the spot that I was in. I didn’t think that I had much more to learn and I didn’t have a clear goal in mind as far as where I wanted my career to go from there, but I knew that I didn’t want to stay in the corporate salon forever. It was time for me to move on and to start the next chapter of my career. An opportunity presented itself to me to work in a privately owned salon (the salon where I work now). As soon as I walked into the new salon for my shadow day I knew that this is where my career could really take off. Everybody there was so cool and knowledgeable about the basic techniques as well as the latest trends. It was so appealing and so intimidating at the same time. I knew this is where I needed to be in order to further my career and take it to the next level. I was too comfortable where I was at and I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable again.

I bet you’re wondering where this all ties into the whole ‘millennial’ title to this post. Well the new salon that I started working in was a good 40 minutes away from the salon that I was moving from. That means that there is a very small chance of my clients following me to my new salon. Yes, a couple followed me to my new salon however for the most part I had to start over completely building up my clientele. This was a very slow process and it was painful as well. There were many days while I was building my book that made me question whether I had made the right choice or not, switching from an okay-but-not-great paycheck to a small and not guaranteed paycheck that I knew I could make into a great one with enough patience and hard work. Being in that spot was so unsettling. It was so tempting to either quit or to cut my long hours back and to go get a job that wouldn’t pay well but had guaranteed money. Many days, I wanted to blame the salon for my book being slow. I wanted so badly to say ‘well it’s because I’m starting over.’ or ‘they should be giving me tons of new clients I don’t know why I have to go out and get them myself’.

I would sit outside and chain smoke cigarettes and worry if I made the right decision and complain about how I had spent more money driving to work than I would make that day. I was turning into the typical ‘millennial’ that all of the old-timers had talked about. I don’t know when something changed, but it did. On my long days instead of wanting to leave early, I would stay at work for my 10 hour shift even if that meant I would only get one kid’s cut at the very last hour of my day. On my downtime I started standing behind the more experienced stylists and watching them work. I watched everything- including the interactions they would have with their clients from their consultations at the beginning of the appointment to the way they walked them up to the front desk at the end of their service. I work with a couple stylists who are only a few years older than I am and had full books that I wanted. I wanted my career to look like theirs. So I followed what they did – assisted them whenever I could – took every piece of advice they gave me (and still give me) and soaked it up like a sponge. I learned that no stylist is too good or too experienced to continue their education. And the ones that think they are, are only depriving themselves of new techniques or new clients. Sometimes it’s important for education to take you ‘back to basics’ as well. There is no such thing in the hair industry as being the most experienced or being as taught as you can be. There is always room to learn more.

Fast forward to 2.5 years later. Current day. I work 45-50 hours a week on average. I have a full book at work and I try my best to continue to get new clients as well. I have used social media and client referrals as a means to promote my work and to gain new clients. I still watch and learn from the same stylists that helped shape and mold me when I first moved to this salon. I have never felt ‘too comfortable’ at my job because I know that every client is a gift and there is no assurance that my book will be as full tomorrow, in a week, or in a month as it is right now. I am still challenged on a daily basis and there is no day where I go in and I think that I deserve or am entitled to all of the clients on my book. That is what my mindset needs to stay in if I want to continue to be grateful for every client on my book. I’ve been asked to teach color classes at my work, and even then I know that if I am teaching a class at work I can still learn something new in that class myself whether it be from the stylists participating in the class or from my mentors giving me advice for future teaching opportunities.

I am a millennial, but I am not a ‘millennial’. I work very hard for my paycheck, and while I allow myself to spend selfishly every once in a while, I save money as well while supporting myself. 2.5 years ago I didn’t know how I was going to pay my rent or buy groceries. I had horrible spending habits and my outlook on my job was completely different than it is today. I have first hand witnessed people who are twice my age move salons because they didn’t feel that the salon was handing them enough new clients. I have also watched people twice my age being supported by someone else because their 25 hour work week didn’t pay enough to support their luxury lifestyle. I have also seen people my age who work just as much as I do, support themselves, and put themselves through school at the same time.

So what’s the point of my post? I don’t know if I have an answer for that, but I do know that I’m a millennial who works her ass off and knows the value of a dollar. I also know that there are a lot more like me out there, and being a millennial in the hair industry can benefit you in so many ways if you know how to work hard and use modern technology to your advantage.

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