No Experience, No Job: How to Break the Cycle
After studying you can't wait to start working and gain that all important experience but how is that going to happen when you can't get a job in order to start gaining the experience. It is a vicious cycle that most college leavers feel they get stuck in.
Firstly, there is hope- not all salons require experience. While a lot of jobs will state a minimum amount of experience (usually at least 1 year) not all of them do, so go ahead and apply for as many as you can find that don't state a minimum amount of experience. Sometimes smaller salons purposely look for college leavers as they cannot afford to pay higher wages for a more experienced therapist or they would just prefer someone that they can train from scratch and gradually train up to higher levels.
Even some bigger salons or spas look for college leavers to employ temporarily for busier periods such as during the summer to cope with the demands of more basic treatments that are popular just for the season such as pedicures and spray tans. However even if the job doesn't state a minimum amount of experience there may be other people applying for the job that have the advantage of experience over you so how do you compete with this? There are ways to gain experience within the industry and make yourself more employable to help you get that all important first job to start building your working experience.
A lot of jobs will also state treatments that they require a therapist to be trained in as well as or instead of experience. These treatments will be extra things that you do not usually learn as part of your beauty qualifications but can be taken as day or week courses once you are qualified, such as gel colour, intimate waxing, product house training (Such as Dermalogica, Decleor, Sothys etc.), semi-permanent eyelash extensions etc. This training can be just as important to the employer as experience. For example if a salon is extremely busy with gel colour they will probably choose a therapist who is already trained in this rather than choose one who isn’t it as they would then have to train the therapist themselves then allow them time to practise whilst the therapist who is trained would be able to start helping with the demand of gel colour straight away. So if you have the opportunity to train in extra treatments alongside your qualifications then I would advise you to do this.
Your college or training school may offer training courses as additions to your qualifications or you can go straight to the product suppliers for the training, obviously this will cost you extra but if it helps you to get a job then hopefully it will be a good investment.
Once you are trained in the treatment, practise as much as you can on friends and family (I'm sure they won't be complaining!) and if it is a treatment in which you can see an instant, visible change such as gel nails, make up , lashes etc. then take pictures of your work too to build up a portfolio. Doing this is gaining experience in the treatment. You will come across problems and learn how to deal with them and how to treat different clients. Moreover, you will build up your speed and the quality of your work so that when you do start working on paying clients they will be getting an excellent treatment from someone who is confident and experienced in that treatment. If you take your portfolio to a potential employer or do a trade test for them they will be able to see your experience in the treatment, even though you have not been doing this in a paid job.
When you do get a job most salons will have a training programme and will gradually send you on product training and training for additional treatments. This will usually be after you have been there a certain amount of time, unless it is something they are desperate for you to do straight away. Similarly, the salon will usually pay for the training then you will then have to stay for a certain period of time otherwise you will have to pay the money back.
Always take training opportunities that are offered to you as this will develop your skills as a therapist and give you more experience if or when you decide to move on.
As part of your course you may need to complete a certain number of hours work experience. This is always good to find out about how salons or spas run; what working there involves (it is very different to your college environment!) and also to help you decide what part of the industry you would enjoy working in the most.
You can also try to get your own work experience in addition to your college course. If you can find a salon that is willing to take you on for work experience on a regular basis whilst you are doing your college course this would be really beneficial and will be a good addition to your CV. You would not be able to do treatments as you will not be qualified yet so you may end up doing cleaning, setting up for treatments, reception duties etc. but it is all valuable experience. Work experience is usually on a voluntary basis so you don't get paid, but if you are willing to give up a few hours of your time a week it will be worth it to gain the experience and a good reference from the salon. There is even the possibility that then salon you are doing the work experience for would even be able to offer you a position once you are qualified if you have impressed them and they have positions available.
As well as work experience there is other volunteer work you can do within the beauty industry to gain experience. Some charities take on volunteers to help them with events, projects or workshops. Look Good Feel Better is a charity that provides make up workshops for cancer patients, they have volunteers from within the beauty industry to demonstrate to and help patients during the workshops. Some hospitals and hospices also have volunteers to provide massage and beauty treatments to patients to help with their wellbeing. This is all good experience for doing your treatments and also working on different clients, in these circumstances though you must be prepared that the people that you are working on are ill so make sure you feel mentally strong enough for this. In your local area there may also be fetes, fashion shows etc. going on. Often these are fundraising events or put on by organisations with a low budget so they will often look for volunteers to help out with hair, beauty treatments and make up for the events. If you're looking to get into a specific area of beauty such as make up or nails you could also try contacting make-up artists and nail technicians and offering to assist for them on photo shoots and shows etc.
CV and cover letter
When you are applying for jobs make sure your CV and cover letter are really well written with no mistakes and are also clear and easy to read! Focus on the training that you have done and the experience that you have gained in other ways, give a concise description of these and stick to the things that are relevant to the particular job. You can include other work that you have done and your work history in other areas however don't focus on these too much just give a title, place of work on dates you really want to concentrate on the parts that are most relevant to the job you're applying for. A well written CV with lots of clear information on training and experience relevant to the job will be what is attractive to the employer and will hopefully impress them enough to distract them from the fact that you have just qualified and give you a chance. You can also send your CV out to salons who aren't advertising as they may contact you if and when a position arises, I always keep hold of CV's that are sent to my salon and contact the ones I am impressed by instead of advertising straight away. Usually we find a member of staff this way and don't even need to advertise. So it is worth doing but bear in mind the salon may be contacting you at a much later date not as soon as you send the CV in, all depending on when they have positions arising.
It can be frustrating when you first leave college and feel like you're never going to be able to gain the experience that is being asked for. It is a position that every therapist has been in, don't worry, you will get your break so don't give up! It might not be your ideal job straight away but we all have to start somewhere; all you need is your foot in the door and you can start gaining experience, developing your skills and through hard work and determination you will eventually get to that dream job.