I would love to be an educator. For a manufacturer, freelance, or even as an instructor in a school — as long as I get to teach nails. Because that’s pretty much the only thing I know at this point.
I sit through classes and listen to all the questions — especially from new techs and students. But even techs who’ve been in business for years often have questions. All kinds of questions. They need to know everything!
I’m not talking about a thirst for knowledge. I mean I hear questions that should have been answered by competent instructors while they were still in school, or questions that maybe should have been answered by nail techs back in the day when these people were clients at someone else’s desk. Sometimes, these questions should be easily handled by the manufacturer or even distributor. Not only is it amazing that I hear the same questions so often, but it’s amazing that these questions continue to go unanswered! Often, I see these questions get swept aside even at the educational events where I hear them.
I can’t (always) blame the educators. These people are at a trade show, teaching a specific class on a specific subject and they have 50 minutes to cover the information before they have to pack up and hand over the room to the next educator for the next class. It’s kinda tough to answer a zillion questions from frightened, desperate newbies about how long it should take to do a full set of nails when you’re trying to teach a class on a new gel product. It’s not much easier to get answers from the people manning booths at trade shows either. Best case scenario is that you are one of 100 people crammed into a tight space trying to observe an awesome educator rock out some killer demo nails while the other 99 people are also trying to ask questions at the same time. Sadly, not uncommonly, the person doing demo nails at the booth doesn’t have a flippin’ clue what you’re talking about, what the answer is, or how to field the question.
I know. I was there. I never had a mentor and the Internet was a series of imageless bits and bytes that only rich geeks had access to (that’s right, if you were online in 1992, I’m calling you a “rich geek”). Finding information to help me master my new passion was rough. I was lonely and destitute. I had learned about NAILS Magazine from the gal who did my nails in high school. By the time I went to school and had my own license in my eager little hands, she had moved away and changed careers, leaving me with only the memories of what I learned from her in the short time I knew her to get me started on the right path.
I remember sitting through countless classes, hovering at the booths at trade shows, desperately trying to absorb all the information, only to have my questions ignored, or have eyes rolled at me as though I were so lame I wasn’t worth their time. Not once did anyone I ever met at a trade show or in a class give me their business card and offer to make themselves available to me — not as a favor, not for a price. Even among educators who represented manufacturers, no one ever offered to mentor me.
Every time I am sitting in a class that gets hijacked by the questions of newbies, my heart goes out to them. I hate to see enthusiastic new talent leave our industry because they weren’t able to find support. Because they get through school feeling disillusioned and unprepared, and they aren’t able to get the answers and the mentoring they need and deserve. I love answering questions. I love finding just the right way to explain and describe things that makes something click for them.
I don’t want our industry to be populated with sub-standard talent because no one was there to give them a hand up to a higher level, and I don’t want to see good techs leave the business because they couldn’t find the support they were looking for. I want to help.
Problem is that I’m not very good at reciting company rhetoric. Representing a manufacturer requires believing whole-heartedly in that company — in its products, its techniques, and its policies. I’ve had a very hard time finding a company that I am that dedicated to and an even harder time finding a company that is so dedicated to mentoring that it is willing to overlook a rep who maybe doesn’t always stick to the spiel.
I suppose that’s why there’s been such a turn toward freelance education and non-product- specific networking events. Maybe a lot of people find themselves more dedicated to teaching than to selling or maybe a lot of people are more interested in learning than they are in buying.