Do Therapists have a Shelf Life?

I left Technical college after three years of beauty training in 1991 age 19 years and at the time it was a struggle to gain employment in the relatively new world of beauty salons. To work in a spa in those days meant I would have to move far from home and be a resident therapist in a “ health spa” which was something I chose not to do as competition for posts was extremely high.

It took me a few unsuccessful attempts at the interview stage before I got my first foot on the career ladder. Mostly due to my then lack of salon experience, I found most salons did not want my skills due to the fact I was new to the trade.

Throughout my many years in many different spas and beauty salons I have become highly trained and experienced enough to have worked in salon management, training salons, and am currently working as an NVQ A1 assessor.

I am also a freelance beauty writer and career advisor.

I now find myself faced with a new career dilemma; after taking some time off beauty to have my second baby I’m looking for new employment. Do my advancing years and masses of experience help or hinder my chances of finding work in a beauty salon?

Let’s face facts here: the working day of a beauty therapist in a busy salon or spa is hard graft both mentally and physically.

Easy for the young fit therapists out there but can you imagine yourself at 50+ on your feet ALL day giving at least 8 full body massage treatments and having no time for lunch?

I personally know even at a fairly fit and active forty+ that sort of working day is a killer and may begin to question if the job was too much for me.

It’s a common known medical fact that beauty therapists are amongst the highest known group of professionals that suffer later on in life with arthritis of the hand joints along with many other degenerative physical ailments.

Myself included!

Youth vs Experience

Here’s another dilemma:

You’re an employer interviewing for a post of Level three beauty therapists in your new and trendy high street salon.

In front of you are two possible candidates:

One is a college leaver aged 18 years old with no in salon experience what-so ever.

The other is a thirty something year old with over 14 years’ experience.

Who would you employ?

The first response you would think of is simple …. you choose the older experience therapist as you feel she is reliable, has a good track record and has years of salon experience.

But here’s the problem: would she be happy to take the minimum wage you’re offering, perform the menial salon tasks such as cleaning and making coffees and how do you actually KNOW she would be more reliable than the younger therapist (we should not jump to conclusions should we?)

The older therapist may not be willing to learn new skills as she may be “set in her ways” and she may find it hard to take orders off younger staff.

The newly qualified therapist, however, would be accepting of starting on a minimum wage and low holiday entitlement and she probably would be eager to learn new skills to build on her limited college knowledge.

The young therapist also may suit your new trendy establishment better than the more shall we say “mature “ therapist, as she looks the part and would fit in with the team.

The employer is now faced with a problem who gets the job? And either way whichever choice is made on who to employ will involve a degree of ageism.

Common cases of ageism in salons

All beauty therapists employed past, present or future have and will witness this on many occasions from the worst offenders................................ THE CLIENTS!

More often than not an older client will prefer an older more experienced therapist to perform any treatments.

Likewise a young client may prefer a young therapist.

This client decision quite often is not based on the therapists skills or knowledge, after all an older therapist may herself have just finished her training, but it is based on who the client feels more at ease with or “a-kin “ to. They will be more likely to have common ground to begin conversation on and will probably feel that their chosen therapist relates to their individual needs. For example, what would a teen therapist know about wrinkles? Or even life in general?

I asked a fellow Therapist / Tutor Nicola Dent for her thoughts:

“I’ve been doing beauty therapy for 17 years now and have noticed a huge difference in how clients treat and talk to you as an older therapist. I feel at 30 + I am taken a lot more seriously when as a young therapist I felt clients thought that my chosen career path was just a hobby rather than a profession.

Also I feel you can get away with a lot more as an older therapist...... they seem to take honest constructive analysis seriously coming from me rather than my younger staff.

If I talk about our next Botox salon session its fine, but if one of my younger members of staff did this the clients may be offended”

Now an easy way for salons to counteract this is to employ a wide age range of staff to accommodate choosy clients, thus pleasing everyone and treating staff equally.

So back to my dilemma…

Should I consider, much like a professional footballer, early retirement?

Well unfortunately for me I do not have a footballer’s bank account to fall back on.

So here I am being paid to write about my profession and currently looking along the teacher training route as older therapists do.

But to be honest my days of 8 hours deep tissue massage on an empty stomach are behind me.

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