Graduating from cosmetology school is only the beginning of what can be a fulfilling career in the nail industry — provided you take a step in the right direction. Knowing where and how to look for the perfect job and keeping up to date with trends are only a few things you can do to be successful right from the start.
So you’ve graduated from cosmetology school and feel ready to put what you’ve just learned to good use. Now it’s time to start working on real clients and making some money.
But if you think it’s as simple as graduating from school and stepping into a salon, think again. There is plenty of information you didn’t get in school that you’ll have to find out on your own. Before you start looking for a job, consider a few things, such as how you’ll build a clientele and how you’ll go about finding a job, not to mention what type of work environment you’re interested in.
“Nail techs need to be self-starters,”says Barb Wetzel, a LaGrange, Ill.-based independent educator and founder of NailSplash.com, an educational website. “If they’re not, then they’re gone from the industry in less than three years. National statistics show that only one in 10 nail techs is still working in a salon three years later.”
While developing good work habits and building a clientele don’t happen overnight, working on them early in your career will help you stay one step ahead of the rest.
Searching for the Perfect Job
The good thing about searching for a job is that you’re bound to find one sooner rather than later.
“Nail techs are in high demand,” says Tanis Darling, an instructor at Ottawa Academy and West End Academy in Gloucester, Ontario, and NAILS’ 2001-2002 Educator of the Year. “My class sizes have increased regularly in the past year. I find that the more the student has to offer, the better the rate of pay and the demand.”
When scouting for the perfect salon, do your homework, says Kristi Valenzuela, a “success coach” and founder of Crystal Focus in Ortonville, Mich. Some important questions you should be asking potential employers include:
• Does the salon offer continuing education?
• What kind of compensation schedule does it provide?
• How many nail techs are still building a clientele?
• How many nail techs have come and gone in the past few years (and why)?
• Does the salon offer superior products?
• What is the fee schedule for services?
• How often does the salon raise its service fees?
Start by visiting salons, but be sure they’re ones you know practice proper sanitation methods and have a good reputation. Stop by on their slow days (usually Mondays or Tuesdays) and ask the receptionist what their protocol is for hiring new nail techs — even if they don’t have an actual opening.
Ask for the best time to call the manager or owner to discuss career opportunities. Make it clear that you do not expect to be interviewed at that moment, and that you are simply inquiring about their hiring procedures.
You can also do a job search through a school. Many offer placement services or have a network of salons they refer new graduates to. Some distributors also post job openings.
Put a resume together, and list the skills you learned in school, as well as your grade point average. Make it clear that you’re a recent graduate and are willing to go the extra mile to earn a position in a top salon.
Also keep in mind what type of compensation structure you’d like to be on. “I tell new nail techs to first work as an employee at a salon to gain experience, even if their goal is to be selfemployed,” says Joanne Linck, head instructor at Cosmetique School of Nail Technology in Burnaby, British Columbia. “Start as an employee, then become a booth renter.”
New nail techs may find booth renting difficult, since they may not have the steady clientele needed to pay for taxes, supplies, advertising, and booth renting fees.
As a salaried employee, you can then switch to a commission basis, which brings in more money.
Once you have a job lined up, figure out a work schedule you can stick to, says Wetzel. It’s not uncommon for an employer to ask for six weeks’ notice or more for planned days off that are contrary to your normal work schedule. Your employer may be booking appointments based on your schedule up to six months in advance.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to take the first job you’re offered if you’re not completely satisfied with it. It’s normal to feel nervous about not finding another job, but with nail techs currently in high demand, the odds of that occurring are slim.