1. Work out your career goals as early as possible, so you can start putting the necessary training and plans into place. Eg: do you want to be a stylist in a local salon, or a mobile hairdresser, or work towards managing a shop or owning one yourself? Do you want to pursue styling for magazines, TV or fashion shoots? If you're interested in entering colour or styling competitions, make sure you apply for positions at salons that actively take part in these events.
2. Gain as much practical experience as you can - ideally through a good salon working 1 day a week while you study or through the holidays. There's no substitute for learning on the job from a qualified stylist. You can add to this if any of your friends or other students don't mind you practising on their hair, but it's sometimes difficult not to pick up bad habits if there isn't a trained stylist to check your technique and results.
3. Unless you have a strong desire to specialise in a particular field of hairdressing, consider learning as much as you can about all aspects of the business - cutting, colouring, and styling women's and men's hair.
4. Invest in the best set of hairdressing tools you can afford, especially scissors, they will become an extension of your hands and creativity - they need to be 'fit for purpose' and feel comfortable.
5. If you're serious about becoming a hairdresser you will need to gain the right level of NVQ (National Vocational Qualification or SVQ in Scotland). These are work-based qualifications covering all aspects of hairdressing with your progress and competence measured and assessed throughout. These range from NVQ Level 1 through to 5.
NVQ Level 1 is aimed at young people at school, an induction to the industry. Covering a range of routine activities including shampooing and assisting the technicians in the salon.
NVQ Level 2 would promote you to a junior position and is the minimum level that you need to work effectively within a salon.
NVQ Level 3 is the most desired level, enabling you to perform technical skills such as fashion cutting and expands greatly on the previous levels. You need to gain this level if you are considering managing a salon or having one of your own.
NVQ Level 4 effectively gives you the knowledge to become your own boss. This level requires a substantial amount of personal responsibility and involves applying your gained knowledge and experience to a large range of technical, complex and professional activities
You can call the National Apprenticeships Helpline on 08000 150600 for further advice.
6. Foundation Degrees are Higher Education qualifications that are designed in partnership with employers to make sure that students gain all the relevant knowledge and skills to enter into the industry of hairdressing. A foundation degree can be taken as a full time course or part-time to enable you to continue to work and fit in your studies around your job and you gain the ability to work from a distance and even online.
Full Time: This option is usually take by people going straight from doing their A-Levels into college. Taking a foundation degree full time takes about 2 years to complete. The benefit of taking a full-time degree is that the student is then ready to enter the industry fully prepared with the knowledge required to be successful.
Part Time: If you have other commitments, for example, you work full-time, then taking the foundation degree on a part-time basis may be more suitable to your needs. This usually takes about 3 or 4 years to complete if you do it in this way.
7. Keep up with the current trends - so you can deliver when someone asks for a certain style like a particular celebrity or magazine image.
8. Try to consider your client's face shape and their overall style when creating a new look for them. It's amazing how quickly you can build up a regular client base by fine tuning your ability to improve someone's appearance.
9. Don't be afraid to spend a few moments getting the feel and texture of a client's hair, to see how it falls, how thick or thin it is, what condition it is in. When Frédéric Fekkai styles a client's hair, he asks them to stand for a portion of the haircut to ensure it is proportionate to the individual's overall appearance. Good advice - discussing and understanding your client's requirements willl help you give them the style they want or advise them what would suit their type of hair better.
10. Follow hair events and what the experts have to say - learning from their years of experience and advice can give you the edge when faced with a difficult client or make you stand out from the crowd at the interview for your dream job!
Here are a few Extra Tips from the Professionals
"Learn from the best and when they say it's not good enough just take it on the chin. Do it again and again until it is good enough. The word 'okay' doesn't exist in my vocabulary and I've been surrounded by mentors throughout my career who have instilled this into me. If a client says its okay, IT ISN'T!"
Andrew Barton, Hairdresser of the Year 2006,
International Creative Director, Saks Hair & Beauty
"Go to a salon that looks good and whose image suits your personality. Hairdressing is a craft that you must be prepared to learn through observation; practice and inspiration from your peers. It is a career that offers myriad opportunities from cutting, colouring, session work, photographic styling, show work, seminars. Literally, once you are trained, the world is your oyster."
Trevor Sorbie MBE, Celebrity Stylist (4 times Hairdresser of the Year)
"Find the best school you can, pay attention, listen and ask questions. Hairdressing is a continual learning medium, there are always new styles, hair products, cutting methods, hair colouring, etc."
Mary Ann Valdes, Celebrity Stylist for Film & Television USA (Inc Ugly Betty)
"When I run my hands through a woman's hair, I feel who she can be."
so says the master Hairstylist Frédéric Fekkai.
"Take risks and challenges and think outside the box. Learn from other businesses and focus on how to build a culture. It is always important to show customers and co-workers that you care about their happiness and success.
This not only helps to guide others but contributes to building a great energy and a happy salon environment."
Frédéric Fekkai, Celebrity Stylist and International Salon Owner
Tips and advice on how to become a professional Hairdresser supplied by Heather Bell (Features/Editorial) for UKHairdressers.com