How to start a hairdressing career at any age

Published 08th Mar 2018 by laurahusband
How to start a hairdressing career at any age Katie Zapletal shares her journey of how she left a successful office-based career to fulfil her dream of becoming a hairstylist… My name is Katie and I am a 'hairaholic'. It has been 10 minutes since I last watched a hair tutorial, or stalked a stylist on Instagram. But this is a habit I am not looking to kick. A decade ago, I had a very successful career spanning 17 years, working for a FTSE 100 blue chip company.  A well-paid career that I spent a lot of time nurturing, putting in extra hours and growing my skills and experience, just the same as anyone would when starting out.  I enjoyed it, it served a purpose and I learned lots.  But, something was missing. I supressed my real passions. I ignored my creative urges. I did what I had to do because life was comfortable, and I was scared to take a risk. Until I was forced into a situation that took away my safety net – redundancy.  What would I do?  How would I cope?  I knew I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t know anything else. At the same time, I also knew I wasn’t truly fulfilled.  So, after agonising for a while, I finally hit the f**k it button and jumped. Fast forward almost 10 years since I decided to follow my dream and become a hairstylist.  In my mind, it was never about if, it was about when. Why not?  I’ll just do a course, get my qualification and then I can get a job in a salon and live happily ever after. Surely it can’t be that hard? In my experience building a career in the hairdressing industry is  geared towards younger people.  Initiatives that allow younger stylists to find a platform to shine are wonderful, but not so great for folk like me.  At 39, I didn’t see myself as 'old'.  I was experienced.  But as far as hairdressing was concerned, I am a bit of an anomaly.  Most salons are not equipped to provide the support I needed.  But this was exacerbated by the fact that even though I didn’t mind starting at the bottom, financially this wasn’t a viable option for me due to having a family and financial commitments. I can honestly say that had it not been for some of the wonderful people I met along the way, I am sure I wouldn’t have made it this far.  The Freelance Hairdressing Association, Trevor Sorbie Salon, Sassoon Academy, and Debbie G training to name a few. I have continually attended courses and training, in the hope that one day I would be able to get where I wanted to be. My ignorance was a blessing because I never truly realised how difficult the journey would be, I just kept going.  Ultimately, I believe you can make things happen if you really want it enough and you are tenacious in pursuing your goal.  I am also a bit stubborn. I've been given lots of opportunities in the past few years, but they never quite ignited.  Mostly due to my self-confidence and personal situation (finances) not being quite aligned.  Each step was a little closer to where I wanted to be, but I didn’t quite manage to grab hold of the lifeline I was being offered – until now. Being a course junkie, I was scouring around for my next fix. I approached Brooks and Brooks salon about some courses they were running.  I still wasn’t sure if I would get what I needed from the offering, so explained my circumstances in an email and hit ‘send’.  A short while later I received a reply from Sally Brooks inviting me for a chat to see what would be best for me. Sally Brooks, newly crowned British Hairdresser of the Year invited me into the inner sanctum for a chat, which was incredible.  By the end of our conversation, she offered me a role in the salon working on reception part time, while training as part of a mentoring programme on my days off.  I am still pinching myself. I am keeping a diary of my journey over the next few months so I can measure my progress.  Last chance saloon (or salon), is definitely where I am right now.  Let’s hope the stars are aligned this time. Week 1 Sally has organised for me to attend “Colour Keys” at the L’Oréal Academy in Hammersmith.  I am learning a new language today – well that’s how it feels. I'm surprised at how much generic knowledge I have accumulated along the way.  I just need to fine-tune the details and I am sure it will click with enough practice.  I really enjoyed the course, product knowledge and meeting new people.  Oli from Brooks and Brooks is also with me so it's been lovely getting to know one of my new colleagues. I have my first day in the Salon learning about the salon booking system and I feel very welcomed by the lovely Sophie who is helping me out today.  Everyone has been great, I feel very comfortable. The front of house team has a massive role in making sure each stylist's column runs properly and maximises their earning potential and the smooth running of the business. I really don’t want to mess this up. I think it went ok – I am sure I will find out if not. Week 2 I attended a course with Carolyn Newman who is a legend.  I have so much to learn from this lovely lady.  I'd booked this course before I started with Brooks and Brooks, through the Freelance Hairdressing Association.  I have been a member for a number of years, as I always wanted to offer a professional service to my clients. They are a fabulous organisation working hard to ensure the reputation of freelance hairdressers in the industry is upheld by insisting members are properly qualified and insured (amongst other things).  A lot of my ongoing training has been through this association and I am grateful for their support, particularly Sheila Abrahams the Director who has kept me on the right path. I have my first training models booked in this week.  A couple of blow-dry models and a cut to ease me in gently.  It is surprising how much you realise you don’t know when you really think about what you are doing.  Emma is in charge of training today and is being very patient with me and my ‘stupid’ questions.  I am very grateful. I picked up lots of little tips to finesse my blow-drying techniques. I felt a bit cack-handed at first but I'll keep moving forward! Self-doubt still engulfs me on a daily basis. I sit on the tube travelling to the salon questioning my ability and feeling anxious and whether that will ever change.  Everything has happened so quickly, it’s like I have been picked up by a whirlwind and dropped in a parallel life.  I haven’t had time to think about the final destination, but for the first time in a long while I am looking forward to the ride. See you on other side! If you're inspired to Choose Hair after reading Katie's story go to choose to find out how you could kick-start a career in hairdressing.   


Published 08th Mar 2018

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