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Surviving the Beta Blues

July 15, 2014
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Congratulations! You’ve made it to the halfway point of your education. By the time you reach Beta you’re at about 800 hours, half of what you need to get your Cosmetology license here in California. You’ve survived Intro and Alpha and now you’re starting to get more comfortable on the salon floor as well as with your class room. But you have no idea what’s in store for you yet!

A Row of Heads and Sinks at Cinta Aveda Institute.  Photo by Pipsqueak Productions.

The Beta phase will start to test you as a student as well as a stylist. If you were lacking when first in Alpha, you’re starting to get better. Your services aren’t taking as long (hopefully) and your skills are getting better with each service. You’ve probably spent your fair share of time in dispense as well as at your station with guests. You’ve gotten used to the six hours on the floor and four in theory. But now that’s changing. All your service times need to be faster. You don’t get to spent as much time in dispense coming up with color formulas. Your classmates are starting to wear on you. In Beta, things start to change. Gone are the cheery “We’re the best friends” and now it’s all about focusing on where you’re going to end up after you leave school. You tour salons to see what’s out there and possibly where you’ll want to work (or not want to work). While in Beta, you’ll hit the hour mark when you can start externing at a salon, something that will really open your eyes to how things are outside of school.

All of these things start happening faster and faster all the while you’re still trying to learn what you need to do before taking your state board test. But what really starts to happen is the blahs. You’re done with being at school. You’re done with some of your classmates. You feel as if those last 800 or so hours are simultaneously speeding at a million miles an hour and crawling like a snail up hill in a head wind. You get the Beta Blues as they’re called. If you don’t take care of them, just like the real blues, the emotions start to get the best of you. Myself, I let them get a hold of me a bit too much but there are things you can do to make sure they don’t get you for too long. Here’s what I did:

  1. Stay focused—Write down what your goals are: for school, work, life, etc. Keep those goals in a place where you can see them every day. Memorize them. Burn them into your head. Remember that those goals might not be attained in a day, a week, a month, a year or soon, but they will be attained when you remain focused.

  2. Acceptance—This goes along with staying focused. Learn to accept that some things are not going to go your way when you want them to. That’s all right, it happens. Learn to accept that not everyone is you and people do things differently. That’s what makes us all unique and similar at the same time. Have a fellow student that grates on you like nails on a chalkboard, accept them for who they are.

  3. Don’t Get Cocky—While you’re starting to get better at things you still need to remember that you’re still in school. What you think you know, you don’t know. While you might have a different, faster way of doing something, that doesn’t mean that you are a gift to the world and that everyone should bow down to you and worship the ground you walk on. Remember this: The higher you climb up that pedestal, the farther you have to fall.

  4. Get Rid Of The Negative—A negative attitude will suck the life out of a room quick. Think about it, the last time you walked into a room with a bunch of people and one of them was in a bad mood, you could feel it. Negative energy brings not only yourself down but those around you. Get rid of that negative energy. Having a bad day? Write out a gratitude list, listing everything you’re grateful for at that time. It will change your day immensely. Have a friend that is negative, talk with them about it. See what you can do to help. If you can’t, try not to let it affect you. Just because someone else is having a bad day, doesn’t mean you have to have a bad day.

Surviving Beta isn’t that hard but during those fourteen weeks, it seems like an eternity. With the right frame of mind and focus, you can do it! If you think you can’t, talk to someone. Talk to someone that went through what you’re going through, you’ll see that we’ve all been there. You’re not alone and you don’t have to do it alone.

Students at the Cinta Aveda Institute Campus.  Photo by Jeffry Raposas.

What You Can Expect to Find After School

July 10, 2014
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A Teacher in Esthiology at Cinta Aveda Institute.  Photo by Jeffry Raposas.

So you’ve spent the past 14 months working your tail off at school and now with license in hand you’re ready to hit the big time, right? Well, kinda. Yes, you’ve attended one of the better schools for your field and yes, you’ve received a plethora of information. But does that make you ready to start your own salon or spa? Sadly, I must pop that balloon.

What we learn in school is leaps and bounds over what other schools are teaching. And if you’re ready to scoff, then I don’t think you’ve had the luxury of taking your state boards yet. When you do, talk to the other applicants. Listen to their stories, to the way they were taught. In some cases, you don’t even have to hear them speak, you can just see from the way they do their tests that they didn’t get the same education as us.

But does all this education mean that we’re ready to be at the top? Not necessarily. Speaking from experience, what I learned in school got me far in school, but there is so much more to learn outside of school. And once you’re done with CAI, don’t think you’re done learning. Most salons that are hiring out of school expect the former student to take another year or so of their classes to learn the way of cutting hair.

In short, what you can expect to find out of school is pretty much the same as in school: a bunch of learning. But what you might not expect to find is: a new way of learning. Keep on learning folks!

Students work on a Male Client's Hair at Cinta Aveda Institute Salon.  Photo by Jeffry Raposas.

My Advice to You: Get a Job in a Salon Now!

June 30, 2014
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When I first started here at Cinta Aveda Institute, I had the “luxury” of being unemployed and being able to fully focus on school and what I needed to be a good student. Of course, after a month of being unemployed that money quickly starts to evaporate and you realize that maybe being just a student isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But what job should you get while attending beauty school? Starbucks gives you flexible hours and some kick ass caffeine perks (not to mention your work uniform is pretty similar to the schools so you get to save some dough on clothes), a retail job can work around a school schedule as well plus give you the bonus of discounts on what they sell. You could work in a restaurant or bar, make some tips and since it’s the service industry, you can practice your customer service skills.

When I was looking for work, I decided against working in a bar or restaurant since I had just come from a job like that and I thought “Too Soon”. I got a job working for a non-profit for about two weeks before I realized that it was more like a telemarketing firm than a non-profit. Then it hit me: get a job in the field you’re studying! What better way to really get an idea of what you’re in for than to be in it from the get-go!

OK, first off, it’s not that easy. Take a gander at Craig’s List, under the jobs section and you’ll see that there are a metric crap load of salons looking for receptionists (they’re also looking for stylists, Gammas I’m looking at you) but they’re also looking for the right receptionist. Some of the salons want you to have previous experience in a salon, other salons say they want someone who will work weekends only (a tough one for us on the TTS side of school), most of the salons want someone who is trendy and looks like they fit into their high end establishment. And they all want to pay you minimum wage (which, my advice: get one in SF where the minimum wage is at least $10.50/hr).

One of the toughest things you’ll find is getting your foot in the door. Most of the salons I looked at didn’t really want someone (or just me) who was in school for Cosmetology. I was told that they were concerned that I wouldn’t be able to work on their schedule, which might have been true. Another tough thing I encountered was my lack of experience as a receptionist. Sure, I’ve managed a large comedy club and a staff of over 30 employees as well as been a jack of all trades with over 20 some years of work experience, but just not as a receptionist. Even my current job, I had to fight to get my job there because I was “over qualified” for the position. But once I got my foot in the door and showed that I wasn’t over qualified but more than qualified to do the job, I got the job!

Getting a job in a salon while in beauty school is like basically getting paid to go to school while you’re not in school. As a receptionist, I get to watch stylists doing cuts their way, learning several different methods of cutting, styling, consultations and retail sales all while being paid to do my job. And once the staff learns that you’re in school, they will go out of their way to teach you things that they’ve learned since leaving school. It’s the best of both worlds! You get to learn and pay rent! And an even better perk: get a job in the shop or salon you want to work in while you’re still in school and you’ll more than likely have a job working behind the chair before you even graduate school. It’s win-win!

The Student-run Salon at Cinta Aveda.  Photo by Pipsqueak Productions.

Always Be Nice to the Receptionist!

June 10, 2014
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Often times, the receptionist is the first person a guest sees or speaks to at a shop/salon as well as the last person. Unknowingly, they are the front line of the salon/shop. But the receptionist is much more than just the person answering phones or bringing clients they’re beverages, they are the backbone of the business. Yes, stylists and colorists do the work to make their guests look beautiful, but they don’t do it alone. There has to be someone there to do the grunt work: the receptionist.

Often, people think of a receptionist as someone who sits comfortably behind a desk answering phones and telling people to take a seat. It’s different in this world. Being a receptionist is part air traffic controller, part therapist, part workhorse and all awesome! A good receptionist will keep everyone at the salon busy while a great receptionist will make the business look like it’s running itself.

But not everyone appreciates what the receptionist does. Stylists look at receptionists like they’re lazy because they’re sitting at a desk and not behind a chair with a guest. Some people see just the sitting (granted, there are receptionists who just sit on their duffs and don’t contribute much, jerks) and not the hustle. Want to know what it’s like to be a receptionist? Full disclosure: I work as a receptionist at a barber shop here in San Francisco. Yes, big, burly me. My boss often makes fun of how I stand at the desk like a big bulldog greeting guests as they come in. But that isn’t just my only job. Here’s what my job is on a “normal” day:

  • 9:30 am—Arrive at the shop.

    Clock in. Check appointments for the day, set lunch breaks for staff before getting fully booked up. Start coffee for guests/employees. Check voicemail for appointments/cancellations, call back clients. Put out sign for walk-ins (if we aren’t too booked up already). Check all stations for empty Sanex container (refill if needed). Fill shave cream dispensers. Make sure towel warmers are on and ready to go. Make sure there are enough towels for the shop (both steam towels and dry towels for shampoo bowls). Check bathrooms to make sure they are ready for open. Fill water bowl for dogs and place outside.

  • 10:00 am—Shop opens.

    Greet clients. Check guests in and out (make retail suggestions if stylist hasn’t already). Get beverages for clients, let stylists/barbers know who their clients are (if new). Sweep stations during services. Clean chair and station when guests go to shampoo bowl. Answer phones and book appointments (making sure to maximize times so stylists aren’t waiting between guests). Call guests when previous appointments are running over (if they aren’t at the shop already). Stock retail area and maintain cleanliness. Keep stylist/barbers on time. Rearrange schedule to accommodate guests. Fold towels that are in laundry. Make more steam towels for next day. Check back bar stock levels. Maintain products at shampoo bowls.

  • 8:00 pm—Shop closes.

    We take our last appointment at 8 pm (during the week, weekends at 6:30 pm). Wait for last guest to check out. Close drawer (make money drops, check sales figures, make sure drawer is balanced and not off). Restock retail area. Sweep shop. Make sure towel warmers are cleaned and restocked for next day. Fill shave cream dispensers. Pull in the sign from outside (if it hasn’t been pulled in already during the day). Ditto the water bowl. Check schedule for next day, fix any issues. Clock out, it’s 9 pm already.

Sure, all this seems like something easy. Try doing it all at once. For six hours by yourself, oh and it’s multiplied by six because that’s how many stylists/barbers there are on at that time. Scheduling alone is difficult (it’s like playing human Tetris except in regular Tetris, if there’s a hole you don’t have to worry about that costing someone money) let alone trying to do all that other stuff on top of it. It’s not an easy job to say the least. But when done right, no one notices that everything’s been done already. That’s the job of a good receptionist. We make things look and feel right.

One thing I didn’t put in the job description was dealing with the nasty customers or employees. That’s a part of the job that while it’s rare, it happens. It’s not easy dealing with someone who isn’t happy with their service or just isn’t happy in general and want to take it out on someone. That part of the job is not easy at all. But a good receptionist will know that it’s not about them and just deal with it. Personally I haven’t had to deal with it much but that might have to do more with the fact that I have a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) and I also have “POW!” and “This Won’t End Well For You” tattooed on my arms (not saying to get this done, just saying it helps me).

So next time you’re dealing with a shop/salon receptionist, be nice. Ask them how their day is going. Know that their job isn’t easy either. And when you become a stylist, really remember that! The receptionist will make you a lot of money!

A Receptionist at the Cinta Aveda Institute Student Salon.  Image by Timothy Chang.

Celebration Address 9/10/2013

October 16, 2013
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I was asked to speak for our recent Cinta Aveda Student Celebration. While it is a celebration for students who have either graduated or are near graduation, I still feel as though it isn’t necessarily my graduation since I’ll still be attending the Barbering program at the Institute. But that still didn’t stop me from writing from my heart and speaking to the class.

Here is the speech:

Hi, I’m Kevin. I’m an alcoholic. Sorry, wrong meeting.

When Jenna first asked me to speak for today’s celebration, my first thought was “Great… who cancelled?” Then my thoughts turned to rage, then to denial, then anger and finally… how am I doing on time?

In all seriousness, it’s been a great ride. Sometimes discouraging, sometimes aggravating, but for the most part, all awesome. I don’t think any of us really expected to receive what we’ve received here.

From Intro classes to now has been an amazing transformation, just in the amount of tears alone. We have saved so many tissues in the recent months because of the lack of tears and our confidence alone has increased tenfold! Personally speaking, I can section and cut hair at, oh let’s say, a Beta Level!

I kid, but since we’re on the topic of what we’ve learned, praise really does need to be given to all of our teachers… educators… is it teachers or educators? Educator-Americans? I can never get that right, no matter how hard I try. Our Teach-ucators have given us what we need to succeed in our careers and we should give them a big hand, even though they should get more.

And while we are giving praise, a big hand should also go to the staff that works here at the school.

In the office, in the experience center, everywhere. They help run the show behind the show. The staff have to deal with some of the most unhappy, dissatisfied, angry, self-absorbed people on a daily basis… I’m referring to us, the students. The guests are fine.

From a personal standpoint, I have the utmost respect and love for the educators and staff here at Cinta Aveda. I came here knowing nothing, a clean slate, a piece of clay that you helped to mold, me as well as my fellow students into the pre-professionals we are about to become. I feel prepared enough to go out into the professional world and Carpe the living crap out of that Diem!

How am I doing on time? Ok, I’m being given the wrap it up sign so I’ll be brief with my notes to my fellow students. Here is what I have learned through the years that I think will help us all in the future:

Do or Do Not. There is no try. Yes, Yoda said it but it makes so much sense. Don’t try, Do. Just Do.

Stay Positive

– On that note, Drop Kick the negative out of your life. You don’t need it. It will just drag you down!

Failure doesn’t come from failing. Failure comes from quitting. Never quit!

The Paper Cups are for guests only. Do not take them home. Do not use them for Jell-O Shots. They will fall apart!

Can’t means won’t. Seriously. When you’re saying you can’t do something, what you’re really saying is that I won’t or I don’t want to. Erase Can’t from your vocabulary.

Your worst day fishing beats your best day at work. I dunno, I read it on a bumper sticker on the way in to school.

A faulty craftsman blames his tools. This is true. Never say you can’t do something because your brush or comb won’t work right. Fix it. And fix yourself.

– Develop this credo: “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome” No matter what the situation is: Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. You will surprise yourself!

– My dad once told me: “Never let anyone think they’re better than you and never think that you’re better than anyone else.” This saying has stuck with me through my life.

Now, graduating class: Do do that voodoo that you do so well!

Why I Chose Cinta Aveda Institute

January 3, 2013
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I’ve always admired Barbers and the way they work, their shops, clientele and what they do. When I was a kid, my dad would always take me to the Barber Shop to get my hair cut while my mom always went to a salon. I have several friends who are Barbers and I spend time hanging out with them in their shops and as the saying goes: “Spend enough time in a Barber Shop, you’re going to get a haircut”. So, with the resurgence of Barber Shops, it’s now time for me to learn Barbering.

So my quest began with looking up the various Barber Colleges in the Bay Area. There weren’t many so I figured it would be easy, right? Yeah…not really. I toured three different Barber Schools and kept seeing the same thing: not a lot of happy students and no one (even the educators) seemed to be interested in being there. It felt that everyone was there to just learn the basics and get out to make that money. I found myself telling the admissions coordinators (at one school there wasn’t one) that I’d take the information and think about it. In short, I was starting to feel discouraged about my decision to become a Barber.

While visiting one of my friends, a recent graduate of Cinta Aveda, told me to try out the school. He told me how much he enjoyed coming to the school and while it was only Cosmetology, he got an awesome education and the school looks good on a resume. So I decided to check it out. I went to the website to set up an appointment to view the school, receiving a call within that same day from both Jocelyn and Katie to set up an appointment for later in the week. This amazed me because the other schools I looked at never set-up an appointment that fast. In fact, they never called me back in the first place. I had to “drop-in” to the other schools to get a tour or info for that matter.

Pinterest: Barbering

My appointment was on a Wednesday with Katie. We toured the school and I noticed that all the students on the salon floor were not like the other schools, everyone wanted to be there. All the students seemed like they wanted to learn and to do their best. This was evident on the salon floor and in the classroom too. Everyone was excited to be at this school! When it came down to brass tacks, Katie and I sat down to talk particulars. I expressed that originally I wanted to be a Barber but I could learn Cosmetology first and maybe go on to a Barber Crossover elsewhere (in California, Cosmetology and Barbering are both 1600 hours and an additional 400 hours for the crossover to get both licenses). I was then informed that Cinta Aveda was beginning to offer Barber Crossover to Aveda Alumni only so it was possible that I could get my education for both licenses at one school. That was it! That was what made my decision final.

Cinta Aveda Educators and Students

While on the school tour, I was more interested in coming to Cinta Aveda Institute than to any other school. But finding out that I could learn to be a Cosmetologist and a Barber from the same institute cemented my decision. This meant that I could put in my 1600 hours, learn from some amazing educators and set my state board test dates with the knowledge (and confidence) that I can pass that test, both tests, from the same institute. I signed up that same day. Two days later was the orientation class and the following Tuesday was my first day in school. Never in my life have I ever been so confident and the least hesitant in making such a quick decision!

My time here at Cinta Aveda Institute has been amazing! I’ve met some seriously creative people, some amazing educators that never seem to run out of things to teach and some awesome tricks to help me in my future as a Cosmetologist (and Barber, but let’s not get the cart before the horse).

Students at a Volunteer Event!

I am currently in the Alpha phase of school, on the salon floor and cutting hair already. I get to work alongside of the very first Barbering class coming out of Cinta Aveda (and I’m also their shave model…talk about win-win) watching those students learn and grow alongside of us. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in Cosmo and look forward to starting the Barbering phase as soon as I finish my 1600 hours. For the first time ever in my life, I’m not looking forward to the day when I’m done with school.

If you’re hesitant about learning Cosmetology or Barbering, I recommend coming to the school to take a tour. You will see how awesome this school is!