At 28 years old, I quit my downtown office job and didn’t tell anyone there I was leaving to enroll in cosmetology school. It’s hard to explain why I didn’t tell any of my former co-workers. Partially, it was because my office job left me a stressed-out, overworked, worried mess. Also, I think I worried that they would think I was going through an early midlife crisis or a breakdown — my office was so corporate-oriented that they would think a cosmetology career (or anything outside of a cubicle, really) would be unstable, mentally stimulating, and unprofitable. Honestly, they couldn’t be more wrong.
I’ve always loved the beauty industry and taking my first serious steps into the field has only confirmed my career choice. I wanted to share with everyone why overachievers like me don’t need to cling to their cubicles if they don’t like it there. There are so many reasons why educated, ambitious people are better off pursuing a cosmetology career:
Don’t Let Them Tell You Smart People Go To College And Use Their Degrees
I was always at the top of my class throughout school. I was no genius, but I got good grades, scored in the top percentile on my ACT test, GRE (yes, I even considered graduate school), and did well in my extra-curriculars. It was simply assumed that I would go to college, so I went to a private college to get my 4-year degree. Don’t get me wrong, I liked college a lot and have no regrets about attending (loans and all). What I didn’t like was this unspoken assumption I was smart, that smart people went to college, and smart people worked inside of a cubicle.
What’s So Great About Working In A Cubicle?
For me, a cubicle was nightmare. To be fair, a regular schedule, set paycheck, predictable days, and occasional office raffle are a perfect fit for many people. But let’s be honest, if you liked those things, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article. I was fielding 11pm emails, catching up with deadlines, and pumping out spreadsheets that I wasn’t sure anyone would ever see. And if I wasn’t drowning in work, I was struggling to fill my days with semi-pointless busywork because I had to account for and report on every single minute of every week to my Chief Operating Officer. But I had my own business cards, which made my parents happy.
Basically, I stopped being an overachiever at my office job. I had lost so much control over my own success that it felt pointless and frustrating. The more I tried, the more work would get piled on to me. My manager didn’t have the same working style as me, so I struggled to perform all my projects exactly as she would have done them, instead of doing what was best and most efficient for me. I was more skilled and knowledgeable than my clients, who were making double my salary. Like many people working in the corporate world, I felt trapped.
What I’m Learning About Cosmetology Careers
Cosmetology + Hustle = Money. If you’re good with clients and can pull off a decent hairdo, you will be successful. At most corporate jobs, you’re supposed to wait for your annual review to negotiate a promotion and a pay raise. That means I’d have to wait a year in order to even bring up the possibility of a pay raise and a new job title, if I felt comfortable with my managers. In cosmetology, your relationship with money is much more simple: the more work you can do, the more money you will make; the better your work, the more work you will have. You don’t have to hope to get a good manager who will appreciate your work. You don’t have to rely on anyone to give you you projects. And you certainly don’t have to wait until once a year to make more money.
For me, corporate life was a bureaucracy with a lot of office politics mixed in. Cosmetology is a meritocracy. That means that you are rewarded for the quality of your work every day, and it is only the quality of your work that will get you ahead. I remember staring at my old VP’s office, and thinking that I would probably never make a six-figure salary like her. I thought it would take too much time and I honestly didn’t even like my job enough for the money to even motivate me. Now, I’m meeting stylists at neighborhood salons who easily clear six figs, and I can know that a great salary is mine for the taking if I’ll work for it.
My Education and Corporate Background Give Me An Advantage in the Salon
It’s kind of ironic. So many people my age were pushed into college, that our degrees became basically meaningless when applying to the corporate jobs they were designed for. BUT, my degree is giving me an advantage over the competition because it helps me connect with my clients better. We can commiserate about client meetings, our CEOs, paid time off, and more. I have stimulating conversations with my clients, many salon manager will tell you that client connection is just as important than your ability to do hair.
So What Are You Waiting For?
After my bad days at work, I used to research cosmetology schools and careers in my area and compare them. I was so hesitant because I didn’t want to go further into student debt. I was afraid of change. I was afraid that people wouldn’t think I was smart any more. Looking back, I know I was wrong and I wish I would have enrolled sooner. I’d have more free time and money than if I had stuck around my office. More importantly, I’d be happier.
If you are even considering a career in cosmetology, I’d encourage you to at least set up a meeting with a beauty school representative. In a lot of ways, the salon industry is shrouded in mystery. (Do stylists get health benefits? Retirement? How are they even paid? Salary?) It’s worth it just to find out more about the career, then make an informed decision, and school directors have always been prompt and extremely helpful in giving me very informative answers.
Still wondering if you should take the plunge? Well, at least it doesn’t hurt to send an email.
Written by Diane, an alumni of The Atelier Academy of Beauty.