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Career: Cosmetologist

A Day in the life of a Cosmetologist

Cosmetologists are often the initiators of style and change. Cosmetologists help their clients improve on or acquire a certain look with the right hairstyle and hair coloring, manicured nails, and either a properly trimmed beard or carefully chosen makeup, depending on your testosterone and estrogen levels. Cosmetologists also shampoo, cut, color, and style hair and advise clients on proper hair care between appointments. They add permanent waves or straighten hair in addition to giving manicures, facials, and scalp treatments and caring for and styling wigs. This is a profession that requires considerable tact and diplomacy in dealing with patrons. Cosmetologists are people-oriented and must be able to inspire the confidence of those they service. With an emphasis on personalized care and services, cosmetologists must understand the individual characteristics of their clients to be able to choose the hairstyles and makeup colors and tones that are uniquely suited to them. One New York City stylist remarked, “It’s simply important to get to know and understand your clients . . . their likes and dislikes . . . and you work with that, finding styles that enhance aspects of their personality.” The move toward more personalized care and services means that cosmetologists with charm, good communication skills, and the ability to inspire trust in their clients will be very successful. For cosmetologists who work in teams where each member has her own specialty—hair, nails, makeup, etc.—interpersonal skills are crucial for success. Constantly updated skills in new hair treatments and techniques give the ambitious cosmetologist the edge. Many cosmetologists regularly attend classes to improve their trade. Cosmetologists must keep on top of the latest styles and trends in hair fashion and beauty techniques. If you knew next year’s hot hairstyle, you’d be a hit. If you created next year’s hot hairstyle, you’d be a star. The hours in the field are flexible, with some professionals working nine to five, others working nights, and some working only weekends. What’s not flexible is the considerable amount of time cosmetologists spend on their feet. Professionals are also exposed to hair and nail chemicals that could possibly negatively affect their health.

Paying Your Dues

Cosmetologists face varying licensing requirements in different states, but essentially a high school diploma, formal training at a cosmetology or vocational school, and, in some states, completion of an apprenticeship and passage of a state examination constitute the educational requirements. For most cosmetologists, professional training continues throughout their careers. The recently certified stylist can expect to perform duties that amount to sheer drudgery. Newcomers are left to washing, blow-drying, and setting customers’ hair, occasionally being given the task of a simple hairstyle pattern. New workers should perform these tasks with glee, knowing full well that practice makes perfect, and soon enough they’ll develop followings of their own, make better wages, and collect bigger tips. New cosmetologists should be especially careful in following the instructions of patrons and seeking help and direction if unsure of a particular procedure. Remember: This is an industry that relies on the proper use and application of chemicals. Hair and nail disasters can make the cosmetologist and the management of the establishment vulnerable to lawsuits.

Associated Careers

Cosmetologists can virtually step into any area of the beauty business. Hairstylists, hair colorists, nail technicians,makeup artists, estheticians, and massage therapists are in constant demand to help the public look and feel their best. People looking to combine their experience as a cosmetologist with a strong business sense can attempt salon management or ownership or positions in the sales,marketing, and distribution of hair care products. Some cosmetologists become personal consultants to celebrities and VIPs. There are many opportunities for cosmetologists to share their professional knowledge teaching at a cosmetology or vocational school.

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