Working in a side of the nail industry that is media based, I get to see some of the inner workings of industry media, interact with industry influencers, and offer insight to nail tech peers who are on a similar course. I am lucky to be a part of this industry, and am thankful for the success I’ve worked towards in my three short years as a licensed nail technician. HOW TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A NAIL TECHNICIAN
I’ve noticed that there are sometimes low expectations for the level of professionalism in our industry, and I’ve been told that we, as nail techs, shouldn’t expect much in terms of how professionally we present ourselves. This really bothered me. So much, in fact, that I felt that I had to devote a whole post to the topic.
As a disclaimer, I am not saying that the way I do things is THE ONLY WAY to do it. I understand that we all have different backgrounds and experience levels. We are comfortable with different things, and have different strengths and opportunities. However, there are some glaring inconsistencies that I’ve noticed in following industry pros on social media, in messages I’ve received, and stories I’ve heard from industry leaders. I want to share what has worked for me, and what I hear from other educators, brand ambassadors, and media members when we talk turkey.
Using correct formatting, grammar, and sentence structure is essential when communicating via email. When an email shows up in my inbox that contains words that are spelled correctly, with sentences that are fully formed, I do a little dance inside my head. You wouldn’t believe how many swatcher requests, advice requests, and feature requests I get that are either too confusing to understand, riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, or don’t spell my name correctly. Another highlight of email communication is the run-on sentence. When a block of text shows up with no punctuation, I’d rather delete the email than try to decipher it. On the other side of the coin, I’ve been baffled by emails coming from professional brands and educators that begin with a headline like “Your in for a real treat” or something similarly bone-headed.
Not to be outdone, the pervasive lack of professionalism demonstrated by some well-meaning nail techs can even extend to requests to be featured in an industry publication. When a magazine asks for submissions, what exactly are you putting into that email? If the answer is less than an introduction, an active link to your work, attached photos that directly relate to the requested theme, and sincere thanks for considering you, you’re doing it wrong. Firing off an email from your iPad that says “Chk out my work, @unprofessional on IG,” don’t expect to be lauded as the next nail rockstar.
If the person you’re writing to holds something of value, like a feature in a magazine, the email you send should reflect that you find it valuable. Otherwise it comes across as a slapdash attempt to throw something at the wall to see if it sticks.
Everything we do as nail techs matters. The photos you share on social media, the comments you make on Facebook, and how you present yourself in nail technician circles are all being silently catalogued by your peers. I have made several mental notes about some of the odd things I’ve seen in my travels around the internet, and even if it is a tech I’ve never met, a strong impression can be made. For those of you who dismiss me as being too rigid about this, go ahead. My opinion on this matter is shared by many industry leaders who are taking note as well. For every person who comments “ugly” on a photo that Nail Pro shares, or demands that we shame a brand for something on the brand’s page, there is a prospective educator who wonders why her application is never accepted.
I’m not advocating for completely shutting down your personality online. On the contrary, I’m simply saying share the professional side of it. I don’t think prospective employers or clients want to see you twerking on your Facebook Live. The internet is forever, and sometimes you actually can share too much. Look at what is happening right now with Facebook groups – How you act online matters, whether we like it or not. HOW TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A NAIL TECHNICIAN
I’ll be teaching classes on using social media to meet your goals in 2017, in person and online. Part of that class is developing and determining your professional brand. Ask yourself what you want to be known for – your artistry, your clean work, your adaptability, and present that brand to the world. And if you can’t stop yourself from subtweeting mean things about your ex-boyfriend then make a protected, personal account, and fire away.
Industry events are the perfect opportunity to get some face time with your favorite brands, nail techs you admire, and to learn something new. Whether it is shopping, learning, networking, or all three that brings you to a trade show, understand that it is also a chance to make a great impression. There has been some discussion about how nail techs have been dressing at some of these industry events, and I have to say I generally agree. Flip flops and booty shorts aren’t appropriate for any workplace other than lifeguarding, and even then, probably not. I’m not saying you need to wear a pantsuit, but understanding that you’re probably going to run into people that you’d like to leave with an overall positive impression of you, dressing up a bit can’t hurt.
Look at how the platform artists conduct themselves. Yes, some of them are over the top personalities, some dress in a conspicuous way, others are dramatically cutting hair to a pounding techno soundtrack. The point here is that beauty industry “personalities” are tapped to represent a brand for a reason. Their work is generally superior and/or they have a following that brings eyeballs to the brand’s products. When they’re at the show, they’re working. Even when they’re not on stage, they’re dressed professionally, representing their brand, and using the opportunity to network. Treating a trade show as your “day off” isn’t the way to get ahead.
The easiest way to be taken seriously as a professional business owner or service provider is to maintain professional standards. This can range from uncompromising sanitation to enforcing your cancellation policies. Treating your salon environment like the business it is, is the way to communicate how you expect to be treated.
Allowing unprofessional or uncouth behavior in your business shouldn’t be tolerated. This includes talking about clients with other clients, spreading gossip about co-workers, bad mouthing other nail techs or salons in your area, etc. Playing your cards close to the vest will only serve you in the long run.
This seems pretty self explanatory, but there seems to be an irresistible force that tempts us to start commiserating with other nail techs about crummy client behavior, weird social media feuds, etc. This is something I personally struggle with, since it is usually so exciting to talk to someone else who “gets it.” I always want to get others’ opinions or compare and contrast, and I feel like it is only natural. However, I never want colleagues to wonder what I say about them when they’re not around. So I made a decision a while ago to not say something I wouldn’t say to that person’s face. If I have an issue with another nail tech, I will bring it to their attention. We have enough of an uphill battle to fight with being accepted into the fold of the rest of beauty industry without cutting each other down in the process.
Has this ever happened to you? You sign up for a continuing education course or an advanced technique class and there is one nail tech in the class that is hell. bent. on making it impossible for you to learn. Whether they’re questioning every single thing the presenter has to say, or loudly talking to the people around them, they aren’t there to learn. They’re there to roll their eyes, scoff like they know more about the subject than the people paid to teach it, or act like they’re literally too cool for school. My advice here is, if this is you – stop it. Nail techs who spend their hard earned money on bettering their skills deserve the opportunity to take advantage of the education they’ve paid for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to move seats or listen to someone’s whispered complaints about a class while I strain to hear what is being taught. If you have a problem with the subject matter, write it on the feedback form and stop the jabber. Or better yet, don’t sign up for the class in the first place.
I was in a social media class here in Chicago last month, and there was an attendee who used the time in the completely packed classroom to catch up with a friend, loudly. I’m not above turning around, making eye contact, and saying “shh!” which is exactly what transpired. She seemed to be well connected and spoke with several people after the class, but I don’t really care who you are, your time is not more valuable than anyone else’s. Needless to say, we probably won’t ever become best friends, but I cannot abide someone acting so unprofessionally. It is hard enough to fill a classroom these days, without someone making it all about them and harder for everyone else to learn. If you encounter this behavior, I encourage you to address it directly. Try approaching them during a break, or if it is really hampering your ability to learn, give them a “shh!” and congratulate yourself for being the professional in the equation.
Piggy-backing off of the above discussion on trade shows, I would also like to address networking. It occurred to me that someone could attend a show or a class, walk around the show floor, maybe even attend an after party, and not network with a single person. I’ve seen it in action. Timid techs attend an industry gathering and either keep to the group they came with, or seem to fade into the background, decidedly not interacting with anyone new to them. I’ve hovered at countless booths, waiting for conversations to finish, and swung back around later when people were unoccupied. I’m sure manufacturers were thinking “omg that girl is back,” but why squander an opportunity to interact with the people who make the products you use? Nail Pro has a great article this month about attending trade shows, and while that article is mostly about shopping shows, it makes some good points. Use the opportunity you are given to give feedback, make requests, and get on the radar of the brands you use and admire.
Not everyone is as outgoing as I am, and definitely not everyone is as willing to look stupid like I am, so if you’re not into approaching people cold, I get it. If you know who someone is from their photo online, there is a way to approach them without being creepy. Just say “hi, ___! My name is Sally Networker, and I’m a big fan of your work. How are you enjoying the show?” It’s not hard to do, and can land you some serious opportunities. By approaching the NAILS magazine booth at my first visit to America’s Beauty Show and introducing myself, I got my first NAILS cover and was invited to join the first season of NTNA. Having business cards at the ready, try to challenge yourself to introduce yourself to a manufacturer whose product you use, or someone you follow on social media. You quite honestly can’t imagine what could stem from a simple conversation.
I’m working on a networking location at America’s Beauty Show to give the nail techs who attend a meeting place and spot to challenge ourselves into actually talking to each other. It’s not finalized, but I want to make sure that every nail pro who spends the money to attend the show gets something tangible out of the experience.
A Challenge to Manufacturers
If we’re going to kill this “nail techs aren’t professionals” argument forever, we’re also going to have to demand professional treatment from brands and manufacturers as well. We have to stop working for free, for “exposure,” or just because we can’t believe how lucky we were to be noticed. If brands want to market professional products to us, and expect brand loyalty and devotion, then they will have to support us as professionals. No more calling their extended sales pitches at shows “classes.” No more underpaying educators. And we can’t support brands or product lines that don’t act professionally. Those who collect money and never ship products, those who can’t seem to keep their seedy personal lives off of their brand social media, and those brands that can’t check their grammar in their customer email blasts. Being constantly told that most nail techs aren’t educated or know the right technical knowledge is getting pretty tired too. If we want the industry to change, we have to start setting boundaries and expectations, across the board. HOW TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A NAIL TECH
What professionalism foibles drive you crazy? Do you experience any of the above? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and what you think we need to do as an industry to move forward. HOW TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A NAIL TECHNICIAN
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