How The Industry’s Best Hairdressers Learnt From Mistakes as an Apprentice

Published 08th Feb 2024 by hjiadmin

All mistakes are lessons learned, right? To celebrate apprentice week, HJ has asked some of the industry’s best to recall their mistakes and what they’ve learnt since being an apprentice and to share some advice on how to progress from an apprentice to a successful hairdresser.

Sharon Malcolm - Past Northern Ireland Hairdresser of the Year at the British Hairdressing Awards

“I made my biggest mistake when I was 15 years old and started working in a salon as an assistant. The shampoo and conditioner was dispensed into bottles at the backwash and I shampooed the client's hair with conditioner by mistake. Worst thing was she was getting a perm and I realised when her rollers were in that I had used conditioner. She had to come back to get her perm redone. I never did that again and learnt to always double check everything and never take anything for granted.”

Jordanna Cobella - London Hairdresser of the Year at the BHAs and Wella Colour Digital Craft Expert

“The best lesson I’ve learnt since being an apprentice is to enjoy the journey. My biggest mistake was trying to rush through things to get to the next level or the next creative project. What I’ve learnt is to really take the time to enjoy the incremental progression while waiting to arrive at the destination. You never stop learning as a hairdresser. I’ve assisted some amazing people at fashion week including Eugene Souleiman, Sam McKnight and Richard Phillipart and they all sing from the same hymn sheet; knowledge is power. When you stop learning, you stop growing.

"I’ve learnt to stop and reflect on every experience, whether I am teaching a masterclass, delivering a seminar, directing a shoot or at fashion week. What could I have done better and what have I done really well that I should celebrate? If hairdressing is your hobby as well as your career, it becomes second nature to take the time to read, watch, observe and constantly learn. I love learning from other industries too, listening to Ted Talks, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts and travelling that broadens my soft skill set. I believe that the emotional intelligence of a hairdresser is equally as important as our technical skill, so I am on a mission to celebrate that and empower other hairdressers too.”

Jonathan Andrew - Fudge Professional Brand Ambassador

“I would say as an apprentice I had an amazing time and loved my job. My biggest piece of advice I would give to an apprentice is to slow down. As an apprentice I was desperate to be a qualified stylist, I probably didn’t sit back at times and enjoy my surroundings, I was always trying to move as quick as possible, and I think the key is to not look too far ahead. This is the most exciting and creative industry and the opportunities are endless, so putting that work in early makes it much easier in the long term and more fun.

Karine Jackson - owner of Karine Jackson Sustainable Hair & Beauty

"I am in the percentage of people who will give things a go and try and try again to get it right. This came with complaints when I was an apprentice. I don’t like criticism, but I will always listen, and with every knock I was more determined than ever to get it right. One thing I do know is that you can’t please everyone, but as long as your skill level is where it should be and you have listened to the client, then you have done things right. Hairdressing is subjective, and different styles of hairdressing suits different people. Personality also comes into play within this industry and your sense of character will reflect you as a professional. If you feel out of depth with a client, involve another team member, stay calm and listen."

Chloe Jones - Educator

“The biggest mistake I see apprentices make today and something I did myself, is try and run before they can walk. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and see the bigger picture of what you're trying to achieve, don't be scared to ask for help or to slow down. I think in our industry we see this as a weakness rather than a way to develop. I learnt to steer my hunger and ambition in the right direction by remembering the fundamentals and basics of keeping a salon going. I realised that apprentices are the back bone behind the day to day running of a salon, which is something apprentices will later learn to appreciate once they’re on the salon floor themselves.”

Brad Wrightson - Director, Gina Conway Academy

"When I was training, I took so long to do my model’s bob, she fell asleep. I was so busy concentrating on getting a straight line, I didn’t think to check her head position so I continued cutting, so much to her surprise when she woke up, the front and sides of her hair were missing! I learnt to make sure that I engage and communicate with my clients to keep them awake.”

Joe Mills - Owner Joe and Co, London

"I think my biggest mistake was about expectation; that I was owed something and thinking I was ‘there'. Eighteen-year-old Joe thought he had all the tools in the box he needed! I now know that the journey never ends and you never stop learning. Lesson learned: look up and around you - open your eyes and be humble!”

Darcie Harvey - Session Stylist

"When you start your apprenticeship it is because you want to be a hairdresser - but the thing is you're probably not going to be one for a couple years. You’ll be an assistant. A reoccurring mistake I made as an apprentice was running before I could walk. I’d even refer to the client I was shampooing as ‘my client’. I was doing photo shoots before I’d even passed my blow dry test. If I could offer any apprentice a word of advice it would be “if you're going to talk the talk, you’ve got to be able to walk the walk”. It’s an amazing thing to be passionate and want to do everything - but slow down, learn your craft and when an amazing opportunity comes your way you’ll be able to deliver 110%.”

Leigh Kerr - Rainbow Room International Academy Director

“As an apprentice I made many mistakes, this included taking off the wrong clients colour and shampooing the wrong client before they even had a consultation. I also did a full head of highlights instead of a tint regrowth on one of the salon owners clients, as I misread the record card. My advice to an apprentice, which is what I’ve learnt over time, is to understand what is required for your job, listen to instructions and if you’re unsure don’t hesitate ask the stylist again and also carry a notebook in your pocket!”

Raine Gannon - Freelance Stylist

“When I was an apprentice I was blow-drying a colour client with a hairdryer which had no filter on the back, obviously the hair got sucked in and in my state of panic I couldn’t find the off button. My friend, another apprentice, had to pull the plug from the socket and by this point I was supporting the weight of the hairdryer which was an inch away from her scalp. We had to cut the hair out. It was horrendous! The client was very relaxed thank goodness! She was given some products and all was ok, but I am now the filter police as a result of that!"



Published 08th Feb 2024

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