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What skills do you need to succeed in hairdressing?

As you know, hairdressing is a career in which you combine creativity and passion with business skills, personal skills and a scientific understanding of colour formulations and biology (think scalp health and hair loss). Whilst we hate to say it, we sometimes hear hairdressing being referred to as a career to turn to after failing academically. We’re unsure why some people have this view as we know what it takes to succeed in this highly-skilled, hard-working role! So, with GCSE results day tomorrow, we thought we’d explore the skills required to become a successful hairdresser. To do so, we caught up with leading industry professionals who share their thoughts…

Our guests include: Luke Benson, Luke Benson Hair; Gina Conway, Gina Conway Salon and Spas; Emma Fowler, Emma Fowler Hair; Andrea Dorata, Dorata Hairdressing; Anna Sorbie, Anna Sorbie 

Luke Benson
Luke Benson

What did you enjoy at school?

Luke: I enjoyed most subjects at school, but languages came easily to me, and then biology and maths. I hate the mindset that you’re probably stupid or failed exams and became a hairdresser. I got 2 A* 5 A’s and 3 B’s at GCSE and 4 AS Levels too. I went into an industry that excited me and I never looked back.

Gina: Boys.. ha ha… oh and playing with hair and creating my own fashion trends…. I always was the one people asked to do their hair and my first perm was in my living room when I was 13.. sorry Janelle!

Emma: I wanted to do Law at college so after getting good grades in my GCSEs I applied at my local college for Law. Looking back, I always struggled in the classroom, I also was very sociable – my best friend was doing an apprenticeship at a top London salon and I spent my Mondays in the salon on her training days letting her try out different things on my hair.

Gina Conway

What skills do you need to be successful in hairdressing?

Luke: Be committed to learning and open to taking on new things. Work on confidence and people skills.

Gina: People skills! You need to be a daymaker… (people who love making others’ day) Creativity! In beauty school I was already an artist, and I didn’t even know it. I was opened to a world of possibilities and craft of sculpting and painting… but on hair. Hunger for learning! Tenacity! It is not easy… learning a new skill is hard. 

Emma Fowler

Emma: I loved being surrounded by creative people who shared the same interests as me. I loved the independence of working, earning money while also going to college on a Monday and learning new skills. 

Andrea:  Many skills, but the most important ones are social skills, emotional intelligence, and commitment.

Anna: People skills, maths, chemistry, artistic skills.

Andrea Dorata

Are there any skills you’ve learnt that you were surprised you enjoyed, for example, practical application of maths or science for colouring, or learning to run a business? Is it different when you’re learning in a practical setting?

Luke: The business side always interested me, and my Dad always encouraged me to work for myself one day, so I always kept an ear and eye out to the business relationships bosses were building.

Gina: People skills! You need to be a daymaker… (people who love making others’ day)!

Creativity! In beauty school I was already an artist, and I didn’t even know it. I was opened to a world of possibilities and craft of sculpting and painting… but on hair. Hunger for learning! Tenacity! It is not easy… learning a new skill is hard. 

Emma: I feel like my love of hair colouring came from my love of maths and art and my interest in business later led to me growing successful clientele in salons I worked in and eventually being self-employed and running my own education business.

Anna Sorbie

Andrea: I enjoyed learning colour science, and also found maths useful to run the business, having an understanding of social and market behaviour as well. In work you learn in many different ways, not just by textbook, you learn by others’ experiences and by your own as you are able to apply everything you learn. We all have different forms of intelligence and different ways of learning, I did well at school and could have carried on to further education but I choose not to, as for me it was boring, I knew I wanted to do something that included being creative and that would allowed to see people, I also wanted something I could make a career out of, and where I could learn and apply, hairdressing has fulfilled all of that for me.

Anna: Learning how to break the rules to become a creative hairdresser, problem solving hair issues and gaining the results you wanted through practice and learning. Learning to build a business and all the other skill sets that require it, within hairdressing it is always evolving and keeps things interesting.  Meeting new people in all walks of life is fun.

Luke Benson  and Gina Conway have both recently been on the Respectfully podcast – click their names to listen

For more of the latest industry news click here

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Respect is a hub for UK hairdressers of all ages and stages to find out what We LoveWe Hear and We See as the best product launches, styling advice, hairtools, education training and seminars and hairshows! Sign up to our newsletter which is sent fortnightly direct to your email, so you stay up-to-date with salon styling information, trends in session work, advice on presenting on stage or progress in educating – whatever your interest, whether you’re a trainee or creative director, an educator or team leader, you’ll find all the opportunities and ideas on www.respectyou.me

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