How I Got Here

A Response and Some Advice to a Newbie

By Dana Sear
Published: Jan 09, 2014 01:53 AM GMT / 
Updated: May 08, 2014 02:14 AM GMT

I'm an active member on a professional site. We gather there to discuss solutions and ideas. We look for continuing education and inspiration. A while back, a newbie to the industry was needing a hug. Being new to anything can be painful but growth that doesn't challenge you isn't really growth. Many of us responded with our own stories. The entire discussion turned into an amazing, tear jerking celebration of hope, inspiration and support. In our industry, we tend to dilute what we do into 3 short words; I do hair. Once we get into it, we discover there's so much more to what we do. It's personal, beautiful, difficult, scary, creative, artistic, abstract. It's PERSONAL. This particular stylist was struggling and reached out to a few of us who had helped her with questions and salon dilemmas. Most of us had no idea we had made enough of an impression on her to ask us how we started and if her struggles were unusual. We realized that people are always watching and listening. Here's my response:

I did not go to a school that prepared me well. Like many, I finished school and was ready to set the world on fire. I found out how ill prepared I was with my very first client and my very first and only panic attack. I did the consultation, excused myself with a promise to be right back so we could get started, tugged on the shirt of a co-worker and went into the dispensary and had a melt down.

The minute I realized that I didn't know squat, I latched onto every single stylist that would let me. If I didn't have a client in my chair, I was all up in their space. I would beg to mix their colors, observe their consultations, watch them as they performed their services. I was right there when they checked their chemical services so I could get an idea of what the hair was supposed to look like at different stages. I saved hair and practiced on swatches and would write my questions down so I wouldn't forget to ask. Fortunately, my first salon had several veteran designers who were more than happy to help me and allowed me to assist them.

Once I had a pretty good handle on the basics, at least enough to where I didn't have to breathe into a paper bag, I began experimenting on my own. I read every style magazine, every trade magazine and went to every class offered in my area. I still, do, by the way. It didn't matter what brand the class was. Even though classes tend to be product driven, I always got explanations of how things worked and why they worked which helped me to build on my foundational knowledge.

I read every Q & A I could find and especially Beth Minardi. Beth, to this day, just speaks my language. She has been a pivotal point in my career from the beginning. I checked out style books from the library, I did hair for free, whatever I had to do.

Here's the thing; work was my sanctuary. It was the one place in my life, particularly my early career, where I found acceptance, growth, and purpose. Without boring you with the dreary details of my personal history, in the beginning, I couldn't wait to get to work because it was my safe place. I could FEEL the potential.

Redken, literally, saved my life. The people connected to Redken in my early career didn't care where I came from, where I went to school, what was going on in my personal life. Every class I went to, I sat in front, feverishly taking notes, drawing diagrams, tearing up when I couldn't get something. About one year into my career, I went to a Redken cut and color class. It was waaaay over my head. I never thought I would, but I have forgotten the name of the trainer. I kept moving closer because I just wasn't getting the angles on the cut. The trainer, and everyone else in the class for that matter, was very patient with me. During the lunch break, that trainer came and sat with me. I was sitting in the room, agonizing over whether or not I needed to just give up. The trainer sat down and asked what I was thinking at that moment. I said, "McDonald's is hiring". She laughed, and I started to cry. She said there was no way she was going to lose me to a clown and we spent our lunch break one on one and she talked me though the hair cut.

Now, daily, I spend time on here, and at several other web sites including askmags.com and watching anything I can find from Sam Villa, Beth Minardi, and I visit education on demand regularly. My motivation, to this day, is in part a reluctance to disappoint the very first person who ever believed in me.

Now, I work behind the chair full time and teach advanced cut and color and business/motivational classes. And by the way, I spent the weekend at an awards banquet for being a top stylist in the high end salon chain I work for and was honored recently as trainer of the year. So my advice to you is, seek out those who know more than you, be observant, learn from bad examples as well as the good, and remember that the truth is the truth regardless of where it's coming from. Live gratefully. Study or practice something every day, and share what you learn with others. You can't own your information until you see it, do it and share it.

And thank you for reminding me that who I am, the things I do, and how I choose to live my life affects many more than I know. You, A--, are a gem. And you're already great. Thank you.

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