If you “have skills, will travel,” a career as an educator can be a rewarding alternative to the salon.
WANTED: Nail technicians eager to share knowledge and experience with other technicians. Must be self-starter and enthusiastic. Outgoing, friendly personality a must. Ability to speak in front of a group and think on your feet essential. Endless patience and some travel required. Career opportunities available. Interested applicants should call favorite manufacturers.
Due to increased demand for continuing education, manufacturers and distributors have intensified their search for qualified nail technicians to teach product knowledge and application techniques.
In return for enthusiastically sharing their knowledge and time, educators receive in-depth training themselves, free or discounted product, peer critiques, additional job opportunities, travel, extra income, and professional growth.
“Some nail technicians have been behind the chair for a long time and are looking for something more advanced,” says Mona Townsend, vice president of education for Backscratchers (Sacramento, California). “They get deeper into the industry and look around. It’s a different side of the coin.”
Many nail technicians teach part-time to augment their income and continue their own training. “When you’re teaching people to work with a product for the first time, you always encounter new questions, application problems, performance problems,” says Sharon Sanders, education director for Amoresse (Riverside, California).
The extra income can be a great motivator---manufacturers pay educators $70-$200 per day, depending on experience and the class length. The average is $90 per class, plus expenses. In addition, many manufacturers will pay the technician a percentage of all product sold at the class as a sales incentive.
Becoming an educator can open a new career path for a nail technician. For technicians who can’t afford or don’t want to open their own salon or who are unwilling to assume the burden, education is another career option. Joey Brown, western regional manager for OPI Products (N. Hollywood, California), started out as a nail technician and became an educator to supplement her income. Today she oversees OPI’s sales and education in the Western United States.
Says Brown, Distributors are starting to hire people who have been educators as department heads. Schools would love to hire educator nail technicians as instructors, depending on the state. Manufacturers want people with nail experience for management positions. There are national, and local positions.”
SET YOUR OWN HOURS
Most educators are part-timers supplementing their salon income. They teach classes for distributors, trade shows, beauty schools, or salons, but they continue to work out of a salon doing nails. More experienced educators might also conduct presentations at sales meetings.
Companies are usually flexible about part-timers’ schedules and are considerate of technicians’ salon positions. Classes are usually held when the salon is closed because the attendees often work full time as well. Distributors schedule classes on Sundays and Mondays when salons are traditionally closed, and trade shows are also usually held on weekends. Beauty schools are flexible with scheduling, and salons often prefer to hold classes after-hours.
While manufacturers are willing to accommodate schedules as much as they can, they ask that educators do the same for them. They expect flexibility if a class suddenly arises in the area. Most part-times work one or two days per week, and most companies limit air travel unless the technician is especially eager and proves her talents.
IT TAKES ALL TYPES
People skills are much more important than technical skills in an educator. Technical skills can always be improved, but a friendly, outgoing demeanor cannot be taught.
The most successful educators are people-oriented and can get along with almost anyone. Difficult students are frustrating, but educators can do nothing but smile and explain again. Says Sanders, “When you get a group of people together, you get all types of personalities. The educator needs to be able to deal with the differences on the same level. And she cannot come across as a dictator.”
Outgoing personalities make good educators, but don’t dismiss yourself just because of natural reserve. Says Brown, “Some of our wallpapers who were just looking for something else to do have become dynamite educators.”
You must be a self-starter and dedicated to your field. If you believe in your product, are confident in your skills, and go out of your way to help students improve their skills and expand their service menus, you will be a successful educator.
Looks aren’t everything, but companies stress the importance of your appearance when representing them. You must be professional in all you do, starting with your appearance. Educators should be well-groomed. Tailored suits are not necessary, but your clothes should always be businesslike, clean, and pressed. Likewise, an attractive hairstyle and top-notch nails are a must.
Surprisingly, technical ability is of lesser importance to many companies. You may do great nails, but you have to be able to teach others to do them just as well. “You have to have a desire to share. You have to have mastered the technical skill. And you have to have the ability to demonstrate,” explains Jacquelyn Randolph, an independent educator and owner of Nail Expressions Salon in Washington, D.C.
“There’s a difference between working on a client and demonstrating to students. You have to have the verbal ability to break down what you are doing into minute fragments that are understandable to the people observing you.”
THEY WANT YOU
Manufacturers are always seeking new educators. Territories expand and educators move on so don’t hesitate to initiate contact with a company. And don’t feel rebuffed if a company acts uninterested; some companies will ignore applicants to see how hard they’ll try to get their attention.
“I tell people who call to send me a resume. Then I file it and I don’t do anything until they call me several times,” says Melodee Lange of Tammy Taylor Nails (Orlando, Florida). “If they don’t keep calling, they don’t have the persistence I want in an educator. I discourage them and give them the worst scenarios.
“If they persist, I tell them the next training available and when to be there. They are responsible for all their expenses. After they are with us for a certain time period, they get reimbursed with product. It’s like a probation period. If they are willing to put the money out, then they’re serious.”
Most companies conduct interviews before sending educators for training, and they will usually pay all costs. And while a few test your interest, most are encouraging, asking only that you be dependable, enthusiastic, and dedicated to their product line.
Says Jack Sperling, president of Alpha 9 (Van Nuys, California), “We are not looking for salespeople and we are not looking for a technician who uses another product but who can sell any product. We want someone who truly believes in Alpha 9 and who can convey that.”
Most companies prefer licensed technicians and require a minimum of one year’s experience as a working nail technician. No matter how good your technique, salon experience gives you the background to answer students questions about salon situations.
Technicians may go through one to three interviews before they are accepted in a manufacturer’s educational program. The resume and interview process is designed to weed out technicians who are not sincere, eager, and motivated.
Manufacturers deliberately make this stage difficult because they want only the most eager and motivated technicians representing them in the field. Educator training is often expensive, involving airfare, hotel, meals, and the training itself, and they want to ensure a return on their investment.
EDUCATING THE EDUCATORS
While specific programs vary, each company trains educators before sending them out to teach. Some companies have elaborate training programs. According to Stacy Jarboe, technical administrator and educator for Creative Nail Design (Carlsbad, California), prospective educators must attend all workshops and then go through an interview with the area’s regional manager. They are evaluated for personality, people skills, technical ability, and their ability to adapt to all situations. All educators attend a 4 ½ day pass-or-fail “boot camp.”
Says Jarboe, “They’re being watched throughout the entire seminar for people skills, how quickly they think, learn, and respond--- everything from punctuality to the way they dress and the way they talk. They always have to be on their toes and loving it.” Student educators also give a 10-minute video presentation and endure numerous pop quizzes during boot camp.
Backscratchers qualifies educators at 10 levels of expertise. Each educator’s teaching ability is evaluated when she enters the program and is reassessed periodically. There is always the opportunity to move up. As an educator progresses upward she qualifies to teach more difficult classes. For those with an eye on advancement, step 10 is a management position within the company.
Most educator training programs are less stringent, but all stress the same points. Educators must know the company’s history, product line, and answers to common questions. Manufacturers also stress that educators must teach the manufacturer’s recommended technique, regardless of any shortcuts they may know.
Most important, manufacturers also evaluate and improve your teaching skills during training. You must talk as you work, translating your actions into words. As you demonstrate technique, you must explain each step and be ready to answer questions. Expect to repeat yourself and to explain one step in several different ways because students comprehend information differently. In hands-on workshops you will have to critique students’ work without being judgemental.
Most manufacturers will tell you questions commonly asked in classes and they will clue you in on the answers, if you don’t already know. Many also provide training manuals. You can study these and carry them with you to the classes you teach, just in case.
Technical abilities are also tested in training. Most manufacturers accept average technical skills from an enthusiastic technician who can communicate, diagnose, and work with a variety of skill levels and personalities. If your technique needs work, your training educator will work with you one-on-one until you are technically qualified.
Once you play the role of student, observer, and educator, you should be ready to teach your first class. If you’re not ready, you can ask your regional manager for additional instruction in your weak areas.
After you finish educator training, which can last anywhere from one to five days, you may observe another educator conduct a class. You then teach your first class, usually with another observing educator who’s ready to assist. If all goes well, you are sent out on your own.
Educator training is generally updated at least once a year. Some manufacturers, like Backscratchers, bring all educators together once a year to update training and so that peers can share problems, solutions, and other information. This way, says Townsend, they are all teaching the same information and using similar techniques. Others update training more often, or as they make product changes or additions. Many also periodically send educators to observe other classes to ensure consistency and to keep enthusiasm high.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP
Before a company woos you with promises of great money and a good time, make sure your expectations are in harmony with their intentions. Do some preliminary checking. Obviously you should already support the product line, but also be sure that you and the company are reaching for the same goal. Be prepared with your own questions during your interview. What is the company’s philosophy? Its goals? Can you set your own schedule or must you be on call? Are there growth opportunities with the company? How many other educators are there in your area? Do they supply the product you’ll use in classes? Do they teach you about the product’s contents and how they work together?
Says Kym Lee of Galaxy Nail Products (Huntington Beach, California), “It should be a company whose product they use and swear by. The bottom line with an educator is the product. They need to decide what they’re willing to give the company and what they want from the company. Don’t compromise too much or you’ll eventually be unhappy.”
Know what the company expects from you. Don’t just say yes to travel; find out how far, how long, and how often. Travelling may sound great until you realize you’ll be gone two weeks at a time. That’s fine for some, but do you have children or elderly parents who depend on you? Even a pet is a consideration if you travel for extended periods.
You can, and should, consult with educators in your area. Ask them about the company and ask them some of your interview questions. If they respond differently than the interviewer, you’ll need to dig up more information.
Without education nail technicians can become stagnant and their work lacks excitement. To be a part of educating new and veteran technicians is to place yourself at the heart of the industry’s growth - to be, in a sense, the heartbeat of the nail industry.