Last December, I was fired from a job for the first time in my life. I had no business being in that salon and my boss and I fought constantly. He wanted me to do quick, easy haircuts with no finishing touches. Just in and out, quick money. But I’m a very different kind of hairstylist. Love it or hate it, I take my time. I do full consultations, I crosscheck my haircuts after every section, I like to make my own colors instead of just sticking with generic, easy tones, and I always spend at least ten minutes texturizing and detailing my haircuts after they’re dry so that every hair lays perfectly. It’s how I was taught and what sets me apart. We had two meetings in which he told me my work was fantastic and the fact that I was quickly building a loyal following spoke for itself, but that my work was just too slow and I’d need to change the way I cut to be faster. I’d never make money because of the lower prices of the salon and the commission rate I was on, he said. But like the Taurus I am, I refused to budge and he came to really dislike me. He cut my hours and made my time there really difficult. But I stuck it out and told him I refused to give low quality services.
And then one afternoon, I called in to work. He asked me if I had a medical note and I told him no, that I wasn’t going to visit the doctor. Let’s be honest, my now boyfriend was visiting and I just didn’t feel like spending that Saturday away from him with how little we saw each other and how new we were in our relationship. My boss told me that if I didn’t produce a medical note the next day, he’d have to take drastic measures. I thought he was being ridiculous and shrugged it off. But sure enough, the next morning I came in and he asked to see my note. When I told him I didn’t go to the hospital and therefore had no medical note, he told me to pack up my things. I argued, saying it was surely illegal for him to just fire me for calling in one day. I asked him if he remembered giving me a little booklet called the “Employee Manual” which clearly states the company’s policy for calling in, which I had adhered to by giving at least two hours notice and by not calling in more than three times in a three month period. And hello? He has no right as a manager to demand to know where I’m going on the days I call in. Regardless, he asked me to sign a paper which acknowledged my “inability to comply with company policies and procedures” citing our meetings in which I had refused to give shitty service (my paraphrase). And since I was still in my first 90 days of employment, he could fire me for any reason he saw fit. So, I headed back home and
held my head high cried to my boyfriend.
Later that day when I was alone in my apartment, I had a serious breakdown. Here I was in a new city, supposed to be getting my new start after a divorce. But really, I could barely afford to eat most days. And I had just been fired for the first time in my life. I ran up my credit card bill just paying for things like deodorant and toothpaste. What the hell was I doing with my life? This was probably the only time since my divorce that I wondered if I should just move back home with my parents and admit defeat. But even through the depression that followed, I clung to my stubborn pride and promised myself that I would find a way to be on my own and make it work. I desperately needed to prove to myself that I could. So, I drove home for Christmas to be with my family and regroup to come back and start again.
A week later, I accepted a position as a member of the grand opening team of Seattle’s first Blow Dry Bar and spent New Year’s Eve booked on the hour for eight hours straight. And you know what? They really loved the work I put my name on and I got my first raise just one month into my time there. Finally, a breaking point.
And then in May, I accepted a unique position to manage a small salon that was lacking structure. I came on board and did a really great job putting procedures in place that made everything run smoothly. I established an online presence and helped launch some successful marketing campaigns. And by the time I ended my run there and hired and trained someone to replace me, the salon was organized, professional, and I felt really good about what I’d been able to accomplish.
At the salon, I met two women who had decided to open their own spa. They were impressed with the work I had done and how quickly I’d done it, so they asked me to come on board for two weeks at their spa to do the same thing. I’m one week in at this point and I’ve gotten great reviews on my work so far.
Driving home from the spa last week, I started thinking back on this time last year when I felt so defeated and lost. When my mom told me not to worry, that I wasn’t failing at everything, but that I was “learning how to do everything for the first time”. And my Dad told me that building a career is a journey with bumps along the way, just like life is. Sometimes we just have to keep chugging along, taking advantage of the open doors we are given, working really hard and trying not to stress too much about what our careers will look like. He told me that sometimes we don’t see what God’s doing with us, but he’s molding something amazing that we can’t even plan for. Thankfully, I was able to take the disappointments from last year and use them to motivate me and drive me to make things better.
And if I’m honest looking back at the four years I’ve been dressing hair, everything I’ve done has been me connecting dots and taking steps to advance my career. I might not have known what exactly I was building all of this time, but I knew I wanted to do hair and I knew I wanted to follow the doors that opened for me. And sometimes, learn to walk away from the ones that had closed. From where I sit now, things look pretty hopeful. I plan to use the time I’ve spent consulting for small salons as a resource for my future ventures. And I’m in the interview process to become an educator at the beauty school I graduated from, making me one of the youngest candidates they’ve considered. And of course, there are the many hairstylists and salon owners I’ve been able to meet and befriend throughout my career so far. This year, with a healthy perspective on how far I’ve come since learning to be on my own, I’m just going to enjoy counting my blessings. I’ll be crossing my fingers about the new job prospects, but either way, I know I will be successful in this little journey of building a career.