Choosing the Right Work Environment
We all know in this industry there will be a certain requirement to work some ‘anti-social’ hours. It has become very much a 24/7 service industry, with clients expecting you to be available at all hours of the day and night, including evenings, weekends and bank holidays, especially now that lots of hotels have their own spa’s within and clients themselves are working longer/odd hours.
Most small towns and even some villages will have at least one salon or beauty room, maybe attached to another business like a hairdressers. This is a great place to start as they may be able to offer you a position whilst you are still studying, or have a part time position e.g. for the new mum returning to the role. The grey area here is your client base; as an employee, you are working for the salon. If you should ever choose to move on, or set up on your own, are you building your own clients? Or would you be seen to be poaching? This shouldn't put you off, but it is something to be aware of.
Spa - within a hotel
Lots of hotels now have their own spa facilities for their guests to enjoy during their stay. Some will also be open to non-residents. The spa within a hotel can often be misused by hotel guests simply because it's at their disposal (so they are just utilising it more because it's there, not necessarily because they want to enjoy it). My experience of this type of environment was that most hotel guests were reluctant to pay for anything within the spa, including specialist treatments, expecting that it should be included in their hotel stay. Whereas day spa guests were more than happy to pay as they had booked specifically to use the spa and were there purely to enjoy the experience. This type of spa often has a small scale staff and can be very enjoyable, especially if you have a good rapport with your colleagues. You can often be called upon to go above and beyond your therapist duties, often having to cover the spa reception as well and the hours are extremely long as there's less staff to cover the rota, making life a little more stressful for the discerning therapist!
Large Spa (like Ragdale, Hoar Cross etc.)
Working in a large purpose spa gives you unlimited knowledge and experience. Not just of the day to day running of a spa, but also how NOT to do things too! Every day you are met with new challenges and therefore are constantly learning. When I first started out 15 years ago, my first job was at a large scale spa. It was like being thrown in at the deep end as I was fresh out of college and not prepared at all for the enormity of a large spa. I personally feel this is the best experience you will ever have as a therapist as the only way to deal with it, is to just deal with it. You learn to think on your feet, juggling your duties whilst still maintaining your professionalism at all times with a smile on your face. This type of role was once described to me as being like a swan……… on the surface all you see is the swan gracefully gliding through the water, what you don't see is their legs paddling like crazy underneath! This is definitely how I felt during my time there and needless to say after 18 months I felt like I had to move on!
Rent a room (e.g. within a leisure centre, doctors surgery, hairdressers etc.)
The other option you have is to rent a room, work from home or as a mobile therapist.
I worked for years as a mobile therapist, treating clients in their own homes and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was like working within several different salons all in one day so you never got bored of being in the same treatment room. What became a chore with being mobile was having to lug all of my equipment to and from my car all of the time, up and down peoples stairs etc., sometimes several times a day! The main responsibility with this type of working environment is that you are responsible for your own clients, so basically need to ‘drum up’ your own business. If you have a day with no clients, you also have a day with no income.
The main positive for working this way is that you can be as flexible as you like around other responsibilities in your life, working as and when suits you.
For the newly qualified therapist - the one thing you will need is experience and lots of it! So basically wherever you can get a job that will give you that is a great place to start.
As you mature as a therapist, your requirements from the role change as your life does. So as we get older, we don't always want to work such long hours, or at weekends etc. Or you have children so don't want to return to work full time as you have a family to care for.
My most recent (and last) spa position, I absolutely loved when I started (I had just relocated to Wales from the East Midlands!) The spa manager was lovely, we got on really well, I was excited to have gotten a job within my profession, locally to where I was living and was full of enthusiasm, returning to the spa environment after over 12 years (during which time I had been self employed as a mobile therapist). The other therapists were great and I struck a close relationship with them all which made the working day all that more enjoyable.
One thing I always go with is my gut instinct, go to visit a potential workplace, several times, speak to other therapists that work there, try and get a feel for the place. For example, a spa may be promising you a higher hourly pay rate, but you may be required to work 3 weekends a month whereas a local salon may be paying slightly lower but your work life balance might be more regulated! When I first started at a spa I was more than happy to work weekends as I never really did that much and actually enjoyed having days off in the week. As time went on and the summer arrived I started to miss out on family gatherings, friends get togethers etc. and it became quite depressing.
So be true to yourself. Ask yourself what you want from this position. If you are young, fresh out of college and just want to gain as much experience as possible initially, then you probably won't mind working odd hours and weekends as you build up your professional portfolio.
Maybe you have retrained later in life to gain a skill set that's completely different to what you thought you wanted to do when you were younger. Or you’ve had a particular treatment yourself which you thoroughly enjoyed and have decided you’d like to train in it yourself.
Whatever your reasons or requirements and whatever you have to offer, you will find the right fit. Like with any relationship, I'd say use your head but follow your heart and don't settle. Sometimes the highest paying job isn't always the best. There's a lot to be said for job satisfaction and in my experience, that’s what I now thrive on.
View our latest beauty job vacancies
Visit the career hub for more workplace tips