Let’s be honest, being an assistant in the salon industry is really hard work. We’re talking long hours on your feet, endless sweeping up, rinsing out color bowls, taking out the trash, and other glamorous tasks, not to mention the low pay and perpetual color stains and bleach splotches on your clothes. The truth is that assisting affords you an opportunity to learn in a real working environment and is a great chance to set the foundation for your own career by instilling a strong work ethic.
It’s a simple fact that the road to success in this industry involves rigorous early training and vast amounts of continuing education. You’ll also find that most truly great hairdressers spent a fair amount of time assisting in their early career. Instead of complaining about the amount or difficulty of the work or having a less than positive attitude about assisting, buck up, hunker down, and get ready to start paying your dues…the success of your career is counting on it!
To ensure that you are making the most of your “learning opportunity” as an assistant, here are some suggestions to get you and keep you on track.
The Right Salon
Being new to the industry and likely fresh out of beauty school, it’s vital to find a reputable salon with a truly great assistant training program and some sort of provisions for continuing education for down the line. Not all salons offer such training, but it’s an important part of your career that assures greater success, so look long and hard for the right one for you.
Know Your Place
Although it’s great that you were top of your class in beauty school, as an assistant that standing goes out the window. As hard as it is to swallow, it’s no longer all about you. You have been hired to do one job and that is to make the person you are working for look good. It’s that simple! Work hard to live up to the number one objective.
Always, always, always be on time. Make it a practice to arrive early to your shift that way you can line things up for the person you are assisting and make their day go that much smoother. Be open to stay after as needed or work extra shifts if asked. Assisting in an opportunity… Treat it as one!
Dress the Part
No one expects you to dress up every day in your finest clothes (because you’ll ruin them with color anyway) but do make a genuine effort to look the best you can. Be stylish while following your salon’s dress code carefully but don’t overdress to the point that you are uncomfortable. Always have your hair, nails and makeup done, but not overdone and keep everything you wear tasteful.
Be Positive & Friendly
Always keep a positive attitude, no matter what. Good manners, sharp listening skills, showing respect, and having a positive outlook will go a long way. When interacting with clients, be friendly and helpful but never show up the stylist in any way. Avoid bringing up your personal life unless the client specifically asks. The stylist you are assisting needs to be able to trust you, as well as know that you can handle yourself with their clients without stepping over the line.
Think Like a Hairdresser
Do everything you can to keep the stylist on schedule by being as efficient as you would want your assistant to be for you. Before the client even takes a seat, call up the client’s information, have tools ready to go and any color ready to dispense.
During the appointment, try to anticipate the stylist’s needs. Keep an extra towel within reach, foils and or clips ready to hand off, and always know where the stylist’s tools are, even if they tend to misplace things. While any color is processing, clean and put away any color bowls and brushes but do watch the processing time carefully so you know when to rinse out the color.
After appointments, remove anything left over from the previous client, wipe down the station and sweep up cut hair as soon as possible. Once the station is ready for the next guest, call up their information and familiarize yourself with the services for their booking.
During any down time, take the initiative to clean brushes, organize the station and step up to fold towels, stock smocks, wash dishes, take out the trash, or sweep up without having to be asked. If you are out of assigned work, find something to clean. With the exception of scheduled breaks in the break room, never let yourself be seen lounging in any way, even if the stylist you are assisting does. That’s their right, not yours, so always look busy.
The main perk of assisting is being able to watch how others work and learning from their years of experience. Pay attention, ask questions only when it’s appropriate and be receptive to, not to mention appreciative for, the guidance that others have to offer. You’ll learn quickly that you never stop being a student in this industry and that humbleness and exhibiting grace, no matter what, will go a long way.