The day has arrived: you’ve finished all your classes, you’ve passed your cosmetology state board exam, and your diploma is in your well-manicured hands. But now what?
Getting started in the big bad world as a cosmetologist requires diligence, marketable skills, and the training that’s already under your color-coordinated belt (we’re assuming that your belt goes with your shoes). How do you get your cosmetology career underway?
Table of Contents:
- 1 Is It Going to Be Easy to Find Work?
- 2 It Won’t Just Happen without Effort
- 3 Ask Your School
- 4 Check Those Advertisements (and Check Again)
- 5 Go Door-to-Door
- 6 An Alternative Job at the Salon
- 7 The Importance of Networking
- 8 Resorts and Hotels
- 9 Department Stores
- 10 Film and Television Production
- 11 Consider Going Back to the Drawing Board
- 12 Internships Can Help… Sometimes
- 13 Becoming a Freelance Cosmetologist
Is It Going to Be Easy to Find Work?
You might walk straight into a job, but you probably won’t. This doesn’t reflect your abilities, but more the fact that cosmetology is a competitive field, and competition is fierce!
It’s going to take some time, a lot of effort, possibly some advanced additional training, and if you end up freelancing, it’s going to take multiple clients for multiple revenue streams.
It Won’t Just Happen without Effort
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Not to discourage you, and congratulations on getting certified, but nobody is going to just offer you a high-profile gig. Madonna isn’t going to call you to hide her botox injection marks before the Met Ball, and RuPaul isn’t going to knock on your door for you to conceal his stubble before the Drag Race finale.
Finding a cosmetology job is now your full time job.
Ask Your School
Yes, you’re no longer a student, but this doesn’t mean you can’t still utilize the benefits of your school. Do they have their own job placement service, or do they recommend a particular outside service?
If you had a good working relationship with any of your instructors, you should also ask if they know anyone who might be hiring.
Check Those Advertisements (and Check Again)
Rest in peace, newspaper industry, but all the jobs are advertised online now. You must check for new listings multiple times each day in all the applicable subcategories. Aim to apply for 2-3 jobs per working day, make sure that your resume is current, and that you create a targeted cover letter for each application.
Not all cosmetology jobs are advertised. Hit the pavement, and deliver a copy of your resume (along with a targeted cover letter) to likely salons in your area (and even some unlikely ones).
You’re playing the long game, but this approach can yield results over time.
An Alternative Job at the Salon
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Not all jobs in salons are cosmetology-related. Larger salons are likely to have dedicated reception staff, and this can be a way to get your foot in the door.
You’re qualified, so you have the skills to help out if needed. You’ll know about vacancies well before they’re advertised. So it’s important that the salon owner knows how hungry you are. Be the best darn receptionist you can, since this is almost a pre-interview for any other roles you might move onto.
The Importance of Networking
Join a professional cosmetology association, or at the very least, get on their mailing list and follow them on social media. Go to every event you can, and network your butt off.
This is a valuable way to make connections, that lead to employment. Make sure you print some business cards (since you shouldn’t exactly hand out your resume at an event like this).
Resorts and Hotels
It’s not just salons who hire cosmetologists. Many resorts and large hotels have a spa, and there can be a chance to find work here. Again, you’re playing the long game, but they will have a dedicated human resources department you can pitch to.
However, it might be a case of not hearing anything until a vacancy actually becomes available.
You know the cosmetics staff at large department stores? Those folks actually know how to do your makeup, in addition to having to sell it.
Yeah, you probably don’t want to work in retail, but it’s a way to hone your skills by working on members of the public. It gives you something fun to do wait for something more satisfying to come your way (which should happen if you follow the tips in this article).
Film and Television Production
Everyone knows that Los Angeles and New York are hubs for film and television production, but it also happens in spots you might not consider, like… Albuquerque (thanks to Netflix, who built a large studio there).
If you’re in a part of the country with regular production work, register with a crew agency as a makeup artist. If you don’t have any on-set experience, consider lending your (probably unpaid) skills for the experience, on a project with a short production schedule, like a television commercial or a music video.
Consider Going Back to the Drawing Board
If you’re not having much luck, and find that there are specific gaps in your abilities (as in the selection criteria for salon jobs requires a speciality that you don’t have), why not go back to school for an advanced class for cosmetologists who have already received their license?
It might only be for a couple of weeks, whether you learn the fundamentals of hair extensions or advanced makeup artistry, or something specific to film and television makeup, but it can make a huge difference.
Internships Can Help… Sometimes
Maybe it’s not a matter of additional training, but a lack of real world experience, and so, should you apply for an internship at a salon?
This is a handy way to bulk up your resume, but face the facts: around 57% of internships for graduates are unpaid, and 76% of these do not lead to a job offer.
If you feel an internship will boost your cosmetology career prospects, then go for it, but remember that you might not get paid (so look for a short-term internship), and don’t take a break from searching for other jobs.
Becoming a Freelance Cosmetologist
You’ve probably considered the idea of freelancing as a cosmetologist. This can be great for you, but make sure you’re aware of all your legal obligations.
This includes a home occupancy permit and general business license. Of course, there are some other documents IRS will need from you.
But how can you find clients?
- Social media is your friend. Learn how to market your skills on Facebook and Instagram, which is very different to simply being a user of these sites.
- Partner with local well-known faces. For example, is there a local drag queen with an impressive number of Instagram followers? Reach out to them, offer to do their makeup for a post, and they can tag you in return (make sure it’s a case of #NoFilter so nobody assumes there’s any digital trickery).
- Weddings can be a freelance cosmetologist’s bread and butter. Make contact with wedding planners and photographers, and have a top notch portfolio ready to show them.
- Target local high schools during prom season. Consider just how many female seniors are looking for a cosmetologist in the lead-up to this event (and maybe some boys too, but to each their own).
Just like with any career, it can take some time to establish yourself as a cosmetologist. But unlike most careers, you might need to approach your goal from a number of different directions!