Advice, Career Conversations

Courtney’s Career Conversations – Meet Rachelle

Introducing Rachelle!

Well everyone, this is an extreme honour for me today to introduce you to Rachelle! For those of you who don’t know… this is my big sister, my best friend, and my hairstylist! Having been around her my whole life I know how hard she has worked to excel at her career. The going has not always been easy, but it has been extremely fulfilling for her. I was so happy when she agreed to write this post, as I think this isn’t a career path that many people think about pursuing, but it is also one that many people have misconceptions about. So without further ado, here is Rachelle’s career story, in her own words.

The Passion Begins

When I get asked what I do for a living I tell people I’m a hairstylist.  Usually that results in a hundred questions about their hair, or any good/bad experiences they have had with their hair and hairstylists.  It’s funny to me that people think hairstylist just cut hair all day for a living.  Yes that’s part of what we do and what the public sees. But let me tell you what we really do!

First, let me tell you a bit of my story and how I became the hairstylist I am today.  I got my first taste of the whole makeup, facials, crazy fun hair-do’s as a young girl.  No, I was not cutting my Barbie’s hair, I wouldn’t dare cut Barbie’s beautiful long hair!  My Aunt and Uncle came for a visit from Vancouver when I was in grade 6 or 7 and my aunt had brought all this fun facial and makeup stuff to use on my mom, sister and I for a fun girls night.  I was a bit reluctant at first, I don’t like doing things to make myself stand out but my mom told me I had to.  She did my sister and my makeup and hair. Then she took some pictures and I thought… OK this is actually kind of fun!

Soon after that my parents bought me the movie The Beautician and The Beast with Fran Drescher.  I fell in love.  Not with the movie it’s a bit cheesy but that’s when I knew, I want to be a beautician when I grow up.  I was pretty set and determined that was what I was going to be.  In Grade 8 we had Take Your Kid to Work Day.  It’s to help children start to think about what they may want to do when they grow up.

My parents both work office jobs and that did not interest me at all.  I’d rather go to school for the day than sit in an office learning about a job I had zero interest in.  I told this to my mom and asked her if I could go to my hair salon instead and shadow my hairstylist for a day.  We called them up and they graciously allowed me to spend the day there.  I had so much fun watching her interact with her clients, and seeing what she got to do every day.  After that day I was not going to do any other job.  That was it.  My parents were a bit skeptical but only because they cared.

Learning The Way

First, I’m the shyest person around. How am I going to talk to clients if I can’t even ask someone at a changing room in a store if I could try a shirt on?  Second, it can be extremely low paying.  Yes, you may think you pay so much for your hair, but we don’t take all that home on our paycheck.  Sometimes it’s just half, 50% commission.  Then deduct all the taxes for the government. Sometimes we get deducted product costs like the shampoo we use to wash out your hair colour or the gel, or hairspray we are using on your hair (yup all that can come off our half!). Sometimes you split your tips.  There’s no such thing as paid time away from work, if you want or need a day off its without pay.  Some of these are dependent on where you work and who owns the salon as well.

My mom and dad knew this by talking to my hairstylist, so they always wanted me to look at other options just in case.  I took Cosmetology in high school as my parents wanted to make sure that this was what I wanted to do as a career before they forked out all the money for school.  It’s not cheap, and I always appreciated that my parents would pay for any education I wanted to take.  My parents as skeptical as they were, were still my biggest supporters, and still are.  My dad was my very first haircut not on a mannequin. If that’s not love for your kid I don’t know what else is!

New and Different Experiences

There’s a few different ways you can become a hairstylist and achieve your license. I decided on 1400 hours of schooling then 1400 hours of apprenticing at a hair salon.  We are a trade so it’s much like becoming a welder, electrician, etc.  After I finished my schooling I was out to find a job and was so excited.  My first job was at a salon close to home that will remain nameless.  I only worked there for 2 and a half months and it was horrible.

It was a bigger salon with receptionists, and techs (people that help clean, sweep, fold towels, etc.) and about 10-15 stylists.  None of which were nice to me.  I stuck to myself trying to help the techs make rip foils for colours, fold towels but I was told that wasn’t my job.  I barely got booked clients because they went to the top hairstylists first, so I’d be booked last.  They would pile colour bowls on my station to clean for them and never helped me if I had a question.  I stood all day working on a mannequin practicing perming or roller sets or round brushing.

After being there 2 and a half months the owner called me and fired me.  I was devastated.  She told me I was a horrible stylist and needed to go back to school.  This was all I ever wanted to be how could I be so crappy at it?  I had worked so hard in school?  A week later my mom made me go hand out resumes.  I didn’t want to I was embarrassed at what happened, talk about a crushed dream!  Well what do you know, the same day I dropped off a resume I got a call from a salon also close to home and went in a few hours later for an interview.

Two very nice, friendly ladies interviewed me and I was relieved that at the time only 7 hairstylists worked there, 1 massage therapist and 2 estheticians that worked opposite of each other so it was nice and small.  They hired me that same day and I started the following week.  That was 13 years ago.  Every woman there helped me excel as an apprentice.  Told me I didn’t suck, that I was great for someone just fresh out of school.  They built up my confidence, helped shape the hairstylist I am today and for that I am truly grateful for the woman, past and present that I’ve worked with.

The Truth About What Hairstylist Do

Being a hairstylist is so much more than just cutting hair all day.  Like I said I’ve been at the same place for 13 years.  Some of my clients I see more than I see my own family.  I know about their lives, their children, what they do for work, and I have a lot of families as my clients so then you really get to know everyone.  Yes, we talk about their hair, what new cut they want to try, what colour they think they should do but some of the appointment is chit chat about life.  I’ve given a lot of girl advice to my male teenage boy clients who don’t understand teenage girls. I’ve been there to listen to them vent about their husbands or wives. A shoulder to cry on through a breakup, divorce, a death of a pet or family member. Sadly, I’ve have also had to shave a few heads for my female clients going through cancer which is hard on both of us.

Not all appointments are sad though most are happy talking about their travel plans, crazy animals or kids, and exciting things they may be doing in the future.  Just like any job, I have shitty days where maybe you had a crazy client or someone that was rude to you, but that doesn’t happen often.  I don’t get paid a lot, my hairstylist growing up was right in warning my parents, but I go to work every day and love what I do.  I never wake up in the morning saying, damn I don’t want to go to work today.  Not many people can say that.

My job is forever changing and that’s also exciting for me.  There’s always new trends to learn about, which if you have a good stylist they should always be up on their education.  At the salon I’m at we really push education, and it shines through all our talented stylists.  We will travel all over Canada to attend them, on our days off, out of our own pockets.  It’s 100% worth it and I personally always come back fired up and excited to tell and show my clients who are interested what I’ve learned to keep them trendy and looking awesome.  I mean they are my walking billboards and there’s nothing better than seeing one of your clients in public and thinking, wow their hair is on point!

Building and Growing

Now you can make money as a hairstylist for anyone that is curious.  Since we are a trade there’s many roads you can take.  You can teach at a school. Such as, high school teaching cosmetology or at any of the hair trade schools.  You can work for a company such as Redken, Bed Head, Sexy Hair, etc. being an educator.  Some people like being on stage as a platform artist teaching big classes all the new up and coming trends.

For me, I love being behind my chair.  It’s my happy place where I get to talk to people all day, make them look fabulous and have them leave feeling amazing.  Do I want to have my own salon?  I get asked that a lot.  Most definitely I do!  I’m only 32 I have a lot more to excel at in my career but I’m extremely proud of how far I’ve come so far.

Rachelle: Vest (old) – Similar Here and Here | T-Shirt Here
Courtney: Sweatshirt (not online) – Similar Here, Here and Here | Jeans Here

Special thank you to the Cutting Edge Hair Company for allowing us to use the salon. Please check them out if you are local to the Edmonton area.
Website: www.cuttingedgehair.ca | Instagram: @cehaircompany | Facebook: The Cutting Edge Hair Company
Check out my last Career Conversations post here. | Check out my New Year’s Goals here.