Journey to Be a Hairstylist
So, years ago I had a dream to become a world-renowned hair stylist!
Because what little girl didn’t love doing hair growing up? I know I sure did and when I got older, I pursued that. There was a time where my friends were going to traditional schools, but I decided to take up a trade. Honestly, I couldn’t stand school, so a trade better suited me. It required me to focus and work hard in a short amount of time. I could do that, no problem, I thought.
Going through cosmetology school taught me a lot more than I ever imagined. It taught me about a true grind, hustle, and determination. So my journey was a lot more than just hair. Continue reading below as I take you through my cosmetology journey.
Here is the biggest misconception about ‘cosmo’ school; the overall purpose is to help you pass your state board exams. That’s it. Nothing else.
Before I started, I thought I would be trained to become the best hair stylist in the world and get exposed to great people, in a year. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Also, when you’re looking for a cosmetology school, they don’t do a great job in explaining the purpose either. I watched a lot of people come and go throughout my journey because of that.
So, needless to say, my first few weeks were a little rough because I had to change my mindset. I felt I was getting scammed. Don’t get me wrong though, I did learn about hair, but it wasn’t to the extent I thought it would. Looking back, I probably could have done more research on my own before taking starting my journey.
Although this was some years ago, there’s now tons of videos on what to expect if you go to cosmetology school, which is great. So the cosmetology school does all that they can to prepare you for your license. I learned the basic groundwork of styling hair, chemicals and learned about clients.
Early on, I learned that two pieces would play a major part in me graduating; how good the cosmetology school curriculum was and my determination. The school I attended has certain steps and procedures they must follow. Now, each state has a different curriculum. Most are similar, but none are 100% the same. So I had to trust that I was in good hands.
Also, the other half is solely up to my hard work. Whatever I put into it was what I would get back. So many people didn’t give it their best, and that showed and I just didn’t want to be like them.
The Beginning Phase
Now, let’s get into the meat and potatoes!
The first few months of my one-year program was an adjustment period. So much information was getting thrown at me while I was also learning to deal with people at the same time.
At my school and like most, for the first 300 hours (1500 is the goal) I was downstairs learning in the school. The downstairs consisted of learning the basic fundaments of hair and the front desk. During this time I learned how important it was to follow the rules. Because the school has to follow the state’s rules and regulations, there were certain things the students had to adhere too as well.
I had to wear all white in while downstairs. White shoes, white smock, etc. They wanted us to get used to looking professional. Attendance was also important. To obtain your license, you must have clocked in 1500 hours.
So if you were constantly late to class or missed class, that counted against you, and you had to make them up. Me on the other hand, I knew very early on that I wanted to complete the program and move on. It was only a year program, so I worked hard and didn’t play games.
I remember thinking in the beginning that there were certain things I just knew all about and boy was I wrong about that, as well!
For instance, combing hair was not what I thought it was. I grew up my whole life thinking that when you comb hair, you begin wherever you wanted to. But in cosmetology school they taught us the importance of caring for hair, starting at the bottom and being gentle. I learned about exactly what hair is and the different types of hair.
Throughout cosmetology school, the first half of the day was always book work, and then we would apply what we knew during the practical sections. When I first started school, I got a hair kit.
Inside the kit was everything I needed that would help me on my journey for that year. It was everything from a blow dryer, to clips to two mannequin heads plus so much more. So during practical’s, if we had just learned what a finger wave was and how to do them, we then practiced on the mannequin.
It was always about two teachers there, and they would walk us through how to do them and then we would have to demonstrate it. That’s one thing I truly enjoyed about that season, how important it was to pay attention!
Earlier in this section, I mentioned how the beginning was an adjustment period because I had to learn about people. I got an early start in life with seeing people of all ages act crazy for no reason. Being in cosmetology school, it’s mostly all women there except a guy here and there. Ages ranged from 19-45. There was so many of us, and we were all different.
There were many times where a lot of people didn’t get along. Folks had attitudes and just didn’t mesh well. The biggest thing I learned was that it’s important to mind your business. I didn’t attend cosmetology school to make friends or to like people. I went there to learn and walk out as a professional hairstylist. But sadly, not everyone had that mindset.
There was so much completion there as well because everyone always wanted to show off what they knew. Although I stayed away from the drama, I can’t lie and say I wasn’t distracted at times. I mean I was in a room with these people for eight hours and sometimes more. But I pushed my way through and stayed in my lane.
The Middle Phase
This part is where the going gets good!
Once I completed about 300 hours in my all white uniform, I transitioned to the upstairs. The upstairs area came with a different set of teachers and curriculum. Also, the same rules applied but this time we wore black instead of white. The curriculum became a little more challenging.
I learned about perms, relaxers and hair color, along with other things too. Because perms, relaxers and hair color were all some form of a chemical, I had to learn about each one. It was important to know how to mix formula’s and what would happen if I messed something up.
Needless to say, I experienced a lot of trial and error during this period. But that ended up being a good thing. It took some time to realize the beauty in that. Every time I fell and messed up what I was doing was, learning. If I wanted to graduate, I had to learn!
So once I got past that little hump, I was able to focus a lot more.
To purchase a mannequin head now is cheap and affordable compared to some years ago.
The challenge for me and a lot of people came with the mannequin! Two heads came in our kit which was great, but when it came time to learn about cutting hair, the hair doesn’t grow back!
Now although I didn’t learn about every type of haircut when I wanted more practice, it was hard to get it because I had to be mindful of how much hair the mannequin had. I had to remind myself often that the school was only teaching me the basics so I could pass my test and that’s it.
Preparing For the Salon Floor
Another purpose of the second floor was to prepare the students for the salon floor. Here I learned about the salon chairs, how to clean, how to prep my station and most importantly work on clients!
That’s right; salon schools will have a certain type of clientele setup for you. Whenever someone wanted to get their hair done at the school, they had to sign a waiver that said the person who’s doing your hair is still learning.
They were aware that they were pretty much a human form mannequin! Also, their hair prices were super low, like about $5-$20 depending on what they were getting. The good part for me as I was the one getting that money but bad part for the client was that I didn’t always do a great job, at first.
At this point, I was still learning the book work but not as much. I would come in and do a couple of hours learning and review then I would prepare for my clients and I remember the experience I had with my very first customer.
I remember it so well because I didn’t do anything! That’s right; I was too nervous even to take my first client! The person came in, and my teacher told me they wanted a wash and a roller set, but I just felt I needed one more day. So I passed my appointment on to someone else.
Although, I was nervous, I wasn’t happy with my decision because how else was I going to get hands-on experience if I don’t take real people, I thought.
I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t playing any games in cosmetology school!
There was the time I skipped out on that first customer, but that was the only time I did that. Over time, I went from being nervous to skipping my lunch breaks because I wanted just to do peoples hair. I was a quick learner and learned so many things during this time.
One of the most important things I learned from having those clients in school, was how crucial listening and understanding was. When the client came in, they requested a certain style, and I had to perform that. I made it a habit always to repeat back what the customer said. That also let them how serious I was.
At the end of each style, I did with a customer; my teacher would come over to grade and review my work. In the beginning, I sometimes had to redo certain sections, but eventually, I got it down pact and was on my way to the top.
As I went through my journey, one thing I noticed was how fast everything was going. Once the end was approaching, it was nearing time to take all my information I knew and ace my state boards. Now, although the whole time I was preparing, the ending was even more preparation.
I would say about the last 30 days of the program was the hardest for me. I constantly had to review the bookwork, still practice and work on clients all while keeping track of my 1500 hours that I needed to graduate. Now, although I didn’t mention it, I also learned a little about skin care.
A part of the state boards required me to do certain things with skincare like a facial massage. But during the program, we only spent about a week or so on that because it wasn’t that detailed.
Finding a Model
Early on in the program, my teachers told us what to expect during the state boards, and one of the things we had to do was find a model who we could take to the boards.
When it came to the practical exam, everything, of course, needed to be done on an actual person and not a mannequin. So, although I knew this ahead of time, I waited until the last minute to find someone! I’m not sure why but looking back I think I was more concerned with making sure I knew all my information and didn’t think to find someone would be an issue but I was wrong.
About 30 days before the boards, I started calling and asking friends and family if they would be interested in being my model. The problem was that during those 30 days, I needed to find a woman who was available for the entire day of the test, didn’t have sensitive skin and I had to practice on her a couple of times.
But thankfully it only took about almost two weeks for all that to take place!
After a rigorous 12-month program and constant preparation, the day arrived for me to take my state boards, practical and written portion. When I tell you I was beyond nervous, I was beyond nervous, okay! I don’t even think I ate breakfast! I just wanted to take the test and be done.
The cosmetology school took a bus to a big building where there were so many other people who were testing that morning as well. I took my written test first which seemed like it took forever. I can’t remember exactly how many questions I had but if I could guess I’d say it was about 100 questions.
Looking back, I can honestly say that my cosmetology school did a good job at preparing me for the exam. All the questions were material that I was familiar with so nothing was a surprise. After I took the written portion, there was a short break, and I prepared for my practical exam.
I worked so hard on that part that everything went smooth. Have you ever been so proud of yourself because you accomplished something great? Well, that’s how I felt during that practical exam.
After we completed the test, all my peers and teachers went back to the school to celebrate.
However, we still had to wait a few days before our results came in. But those few days felt like forever! The cosmetology school was officially over by then so I just spent time calling around to different hair salons to see if they had any openings.
Of course, when you want something in life, you must prepare for it, right? Well, that’s what I did. I believed that I would pass with flying colors and then land a spot working at any hair salon that would take me. A few days went by before I got the good news that I passed and I was so excited!
The school held graduation where I was able to invite friends and family, which I did, and it was great. My journey through cosmetology school was finally complete, and I was ready for the real world!
Pursue The Journey
Have you thought about attending cosmetology school but didn’t know what to expect? Let me know in the comment sections before if my story was helpful! I would love to hear from you.