Insufferable, unendurable, unsuitable, tiring, brief, fleeting, temporary, wasteful—these are the antitheses to sustainability. No one in their right mind wants a career that could be described with any of these terms. So, awesome— we all want to create a sustainable career for ourselves as hair professionals, but how?
There are three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and profit, also referred to as social, environmental, and economic. The same pillars can be applied when designing and living a sustainable career as a salon professional.
I don’t have to remind you, dealing with people day in and day out, especially in the intimate ways we serve our clients, is ridiculously fulfilling. But it can also be physically and emotionally draining. Staying motivated is a huge factor in career sustainability for hairstylists. Do you remember the day you passed boards? How exciting and invigorating that day was! Long before you ever asked a client how they wanted their hair cut and heard a deadpan “shorter” for the billionth (still-not-funny) time; before you ever spent eight hours saving someone’s hair from box color only to hear them complain about the service price; before anyone ever sat in your chair freshly un-showered from their workout at the gym; before all that, there was wild passion in your bones for this industry and your craft. That passion is still in there, but the flames must be fed for a sustainable career. One of the most effective ways to feed your passion is to get social with our people, other hairstylists. Seek out classes, attend trade shows, and make time for industry events, fashion shows, photo shoots, and collaborative opportunities. The hairstylist within you will be motivated by the hairstylist in peers. It’s part of the magnetism surrounding the phenomenon where a hairstylist in a room of strangers can and will find the other hairstylist in the room.
The nature of our work puts us in contact with all kinds of toxic chemicals, exhausting body positions, and unhealthy eating habits. But it doesn’t have to be that way. All three of those environmental factors can be consciously avoided—and should be! Stop using products just because the marketing was flashy and the salesman said all the right buzzwords. Read the ingredients and get familiar with what you’re putting on your skin and in your lungs. Stand and hold your body mindfully, using proper ergonomic positioning, not the same slump your body has become accustomed to falling into. There are tons of resources available that educate on proper form and there are even more ergonomically friendly tools that can help alleviate some strain. Exercise, stretching, and building body muscle can incrementally reduce body ache and fatigue, as well. And it’s my own least favorite subject, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention diet. What we put into our bodies affects the whole of how they function. With all the meals-in-bars, protein shakes, and even fresh fruit on gas station counters, it is just as quick and convenient to have a healthy snack as it is a bag of chips. I’m the biggest hypocrite on this diet piece, but even I can admit that there’s really no excuse. It all comes down to simply making sustainable choices.
As incredible as this industry is and as wonderful as our jobs are, at the end of the day, if we can’t pay our bills and stay afloat, our careers won’t either. We all need to get paid and the quickest way to get paid is to be worth the money. How is a hair professional worth the price tag on her services? Education. Pure and simple, staying educated and up to date on the latest trends (in beauty and business), techniques, and products is essential for a sustainable career in our industry. What our clients ask and expect of us literally changes from season to season and soaking up as much education as you can is the only way to stay relevant. Hair professionals with sustainable careers are constantly learning and growing so they can bring in more clients, raise their prices, and take home bigger paychecks. If maintaining a sustainable career as a hairstylist was easy, our industry wouldn’t have the astounding dropout rates that plague us (some stats guesstimate as many as 90 percent of cosmetologists leave the industry within the first five years of their career). I hate to see anyone give up on their dreams to have a sustainable career in our incredible industry!
If you’re ever feeling burned out, overwhelmed, or just not quite as passionate as the new beauty school graduate you once were, take a look at which sustainability pillar might be lacking in your career and fill ’er up.