After a long day the salon owner walks into her office, coffee cup in hand. As she situates herself behind her desk, she turns on the answering machine. There can’t be any interruptions while she tackles the task at hand. The ad has run in the local newspaper and the word is out. Many have called to inquire or stopped to drop off resumes or fill out applications. It’s time to make that all important decision — which nail tech to hire. She looks at the two stacks in front of her: one contains resumes and the other contains standard job applications. She reaches for the stack of …

Applications vs. Resumes

A well-written, professional-looking resume shows you care about your career. It gives you the chance to express yourself and gives your prospective employer a more detailed insight into your personality, your experience, and what you are looking for in a position. Filling out an application is easy enough, but it may not allow you to provide information that will make you stand out from the rest of the applicants. There is no single right way to compile a resume. We are all unique, and our resumes will reflect the elements in our background and experience we want to highlight.

“I should have had a resume from the beginning, but no one ever discussed this in school,” says Minneapolis-based nail tech Jessica Zastoupil. “I made my first resume when I’d been doing nails for more than two years. I think what makes it stand out is that I have all of my continuing education listed — which gives me two full pages for my resume.” Zastoupil also lists all the product brands she has used, along with her memberships to the NCA and INTA.

“I wrote my resume as if employers were reading a quickie bio, letting them know that I have been interested in nails since I was in eighth grade, but never had the opportunity to do them until I was 36 when I went to school for nails,” says Lynnette Madden of Salon 29 at Main in East Greenville, Pa. She opted to include information on her family, interests, accomplishments, and community service. “Along with the typed version of my bio, I also sent a photo of myself,” she says. Madden sent her resume to three salons and all three called her for an interview.

Is a resume necessary for you? Only you can answer that question. But if you do decide to create one, here are a few guidelines to get you started on your journey.

Three Key Features

A good resume has three essential ingredients: valid information, organization, and creativity.

Gather all of the information that you feel is important to an employer. Include continuing education classes, trade shows, seminars, demos — anything that shows initiative. Stick to the facts. Lying on a resume is a major mistake. It is a bad sign from the beginning and something that can cost you your job in the end. Do not try to be someone you are not.

Avoid going overboard with flamboyant or boastful wording. You only want enough to get the employer to bring you in for an interview. There is no need to give all of your past jobs unless they pertain to the position you are applying for.

If you are newly graduated, inexperienced, or have been licensed but never worked in the industry, don’t worry. If your license is active, you attend trade shows, read the trade magazines regularly, or take continuing education classes, you have not been idle. Some employers look for inexperience as well as experience. Some salons want recent graduates or less experienced techs so they can train the tech their way instead of having to try to break years of bad habits.

Make sure your resume includes the following:

Personal contact information. Include day and evening telephone numbers and your e-mail address.

Objective. This is where you get to tell the employer exactly what you are looking for in a place of employment, whether it be a salon or spa. Mention the kind of environment and position you are seeking.

Education. List it all: where and when you went to school, continuing education classes or seminars you have attended.

Experience. List prior work experience beginning with your present position and working backwards. List all products you have worked with. This will give you an advantage over the other applicants who have no experience with certain products.

Professional Help Is Available

You have the option of creating your own resume or hiring someone to do it for you. For a fee, professional resume companies will do a beautiful resume and portfolio for you using the information you provide and adding some suggestions on things you may not have considered. Having a professional do your resume will take the guesswork out of it for you. All that you will need is to supply the information. No need for you to agonize over what color paper, how to word information, or even what font to use.

Of course you can also create a professional-looking resume at home on the computer. That desktop publishing program on your PC is good for more than just creating those adorable greeting cards. These programs have different resume layouts to choose from as well as the option of starting from scratch and designing your own. They also offer suggestions as to what information you might need to include and where to put it in the resume. Use high-quality paper and envelopes.

For some employers cover letters are a vital part of your resume. This will be the first thing an employer sees and may determine whether she looks at your resume or not. It helps to know the name of the person who will be interviewing you so you can personalize the cover letter. You should briefly tell about skills and experiences that are relevant to the position. If you have researched the company, now is the time to include why you are the perfect fit for the job. Tell them something they won’t find in your resume. Ask for an interview. The cover letter should be brief — a half-page to a page should be sufficient. Use the same stationery that you use for your resume.

Assembling a Portfolio

Having a portfolio that showcases your work gives you the opportunity to show off a little. Portfolios can include awards, diplomas, continuing education certificates, networking events that you have attended, and, of course, photos of your best work.

Some techs keep a disposable or digital camera at their station to take pictures of the work they are most proud of. Don’t think you have to do enhancements or extravagant nail art to put together a portfolio. Use those natural nails. If you did a wonderful manicure or pedicure that you are proud of, take a picture and add it to your collection. Before-and-after photos are particularly effective.

Laura Campos, a booth renter in Gainesville, Fla., keeps an album of her work in the waiting area of the salon. Rather than being geared to a prospective employer, it is for her clients. Clients can sort through their options as they wait for their appointment with her.

Most often, nail techs use a photo album or a binder to compile their most treasured accomplishments. Individual page protectors are a good idea.

Ann Marie Keeney, an educator for Star Nail International, has a portfolio that she has organized into a black three-ring binder. It contains copies of all her certificates of continuing education, diplomas, and copies of magazine clippings she has been featured in. She also includes copies of her booth renter license and a copy of rules and regulations from her state board. She keeps it in a bag in her car so it is accessible at all times. When she educates at schools, she talks with the students of the importance of a resume and uses hers as an example. When Keeney finishes a class, she gives her students a certificate and tells them that this is the beginning of their portfolio.

Another option is to copy photos to a CD. You can use a digital picture program to add life and captions to your work. Put that CD in a case with a uniquely designed cover and drop it off with your resume to impress any potential employer.

There is truly no one out there just like you. No one does the same services, has the same technique, or even the same touch. A resume and a portfolio are great ways to convey what it is that is special about you. You have the skills and the tools to create the best resume for you, so get going.

Dos and Don’ts of a Successful Resume

• Don’t use overly cute or ornate fonts. Make it as easy as possible for the interviewer to get the information she needs without having to try to decipher what the words are.

• Don’t use a lot of icons or design elements that will be distracting to the interviewer. You want her to see the information in your resume, not the art.

• Don’t go for bright neon paper. Although you want your resume to stand out in a stack, the interviewer may have difficulty reading that beautiful yellow color that you so love.

• Do be creative — but opt for a classic style over glitz and glamour.

• Do use spell-check. And have someone proofread it for you as well.

Hope O’Connor is a nail technician at A New Dimension Salon & Spa in Ormond Beach, Fla.

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