05 set More than a cut above average: a chat with my hairdresser about professional development
I had a haircut the other day and got to talking to the hairdresser, an energertic 31-year-old professional who I’ve been going to for a few years now. [Don’t worry, I haven’t gone mad(der) and won’t be rambling on about beauty on a teacher-oriented blog. The relevance of the chat will become evident soon, I promise.]
Me: My friend’s mother, who’s a hairdresser too, is thinking of moving from Rio. What’s the market like here*? Is it small, saturated? What do you think?
*(N.B.: Here is a city that is 100 times smaller than the marvellous city.)
Her: It’s good. There are many hairdressers, but there are enough clients to go around. Good clients, too. I’m sure she’ll be fine. I mean, you can’t start going to her, but…
Me: I wouldn’t even think of it! And what about the pay? I mean, I wouldn’t dare ask what you make, but on average, how are hairdressers faring here?
Her: The pay is good. In general, right? A beginner can expect to make like R$2000 a month.
Me: Mmm, not bad!
Her: Yes, but a more seasoned professional would make even more. I am, for example, on R$5-6000. It all depends on the courses you have, on how much you’ve studied.
Me: Of course! You have your clients and you’ve made a name for yourself.
Her: Yeah, there’s that… The courses are very important, though. Take for example this cut I’ve just done on you. It looks simple, but it takes us 6 months to learn it. [She might have exaggerated for effect here, but she’s got a valid point.] And I keep on studying and taking courses. I even go abroad, as you know. [To be honest, I didn’t. I only show up at the salon when the situation is critical.] This year I spent a week in Uruguay taking a very important course. It cost me an arm and a leg, but…
Me: It’s an investment.
Her: Exactly. I’ve invested a lot and I always do, so I can do my job well, and clients notice the difference. So it will depend on the courses that your friend’s mother has.
You can see now what I like about her, can’t you? Her competency shows, as her love by what she does. She’s also very honest, knows her clients’ needs and tells it like it is. Earlier this year, when I suggested dying my hair blue, she laid down the law, “Look, you’re not the type that will be happy coming to the salon every other week for touch-ups and moisturizing. And with your kind of hair, you’d need it. All this would cost you the better part of R$500 to start with plus R$200 a month. I’ll do it if you want, of course. In fact, it’ll help my nest egg, but you wouldn’t be best pleased if I didn’t warn you.” I changed my mind, of course, much as I hope an elementary student would if we told him that a C1 exam prep course would be money down the drain.
Months later, completely umprompted, she gives me that beautiful speech on the value of continuing professional development, both in terms of financial return (which, in the way she put it, seemed more clearcut in her career than in ours – pun not intended) and in terms of acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to help her clients get the look they want – or in our case help our students achieve their language learning/use goals –, even when they don’t clearly know what they want or need and what that entails.