Use It or Lose It

I feel like I’m slowly becoming irrelevant.

Inspired by Truth and Cake’s post this morning I thought I’d give you guys a little background on myself.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a licensed hair stylist.

After finishing my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS I freaked out. At 22 I was not ready to take on the world, I had no real idea of what I wanted to be “when I grew up”, with only a vague idea that it would be something involving government and would allow me to live my life pursuing my creative endeavours, travelling, and spending quality time with my loved ones…

Does that even exist anymore?

So did I what any 22 year old university graduate would do when unsure of what direction their life would take them?

No I didn’t backpack across Europe… I didn’t trek through the Andes in South America… and I didn’t do a Habitat for Humanity build in Africa.

I got a trade.

I think this says something about my personality. I am constantly feeling like I’m not qualified enough. I need to add to my CV. I need to not sit on my butt and wait for things to figure themselves out.

Going to hair school was a bit of a curveball for those who knew me. It was also a bit of a surprise for those at the school who were confused by my post-secondary education path.

Sometimes being well-rounded can be confused for indecisiveness.

It was not really a surprise that I would want to do something creative. I’ve always been on the artsy side of things… choir, drawing, theatre, band, etc. But to make a career of it? To go into a business where your livelihood was hinged on commission-based sales essentially?

I thought I wanted to do anything but sales.

That’s the problem with being a professional artist. Unless you are independently wealthy, or lucky enough to be gifted with otherworldly talent and undeniability when peddling your wares to the public, you inevitably fall into that category of ‘starving artist’. As a new hair stylist straight out of school, you essentially start with zero clients, surviving on walk-ins, family member/friends, and covering the overflow of the more seasoned stylists. It’s hard to reach that point where you are making more than minimum wage, and 12 hour shifts on your feet make you start asking yourself…

Is this really worth it?

Besides the physical wear and tear of working in a salon, the psychological effects certainly take their toll. I was fortunate to work in a high end salon downtown. I learned great tips from other stylists, I got to work with great products, and the tips were generally higher. But it was still a very ‘toxic environment’.

I can’t stand gossip.

I can’t stand back-stabbing.

I can’t stand mean people.

I suppose most work environments that are 99% female are teetering on the edge of high school mean girl (or sometimes gay man) nastiness. When everyone’s happy, everything is great. When you do something wrong, or if people are generally dissatisfied or bored… you best hope you aren’t the sacrificial lamb in the gossip mill.

It finally became too much for me, and around the same time I was offered the opportunity to transition to a role as a legal assistant at a large law firm.

Fish out of water again.

While the ratio of women to men was only slightly offset by the presence of male lawyers, the same dangers associated with a predominately female workforce suggested that the gossip was not going to be ending anytime soon.

Same problems, different environment.

Fast forward a year:

  • I learn about the Master of Public Administration program (and that you could do it part time) while doing hair for a friend of a friend (ironic I know);
  • Apply and accepted;
  • Start MPA as a part time student;
  • Economic recession;
  • Notice of impending lay-off;
  • Quit early to qualify for student loan;
  • Work at the restaurant for the summer;
  • Return to school as a full time student;
  • Summer internship in Ottawa/Election of Federal Conservative Party/Doomsday prophecy for anyone trying to enter the public service;
  • Finish MPA in December 2011;
  • Start temping with high hopes that a job might materialize and based on my amazing resume, experience, qualifications, and charming personality I might just be the exception and land a great public service career straight out the gates;
  • Graduation May 2012;

And now here I am, facing the end of my temp placement next week with only a glimmer of hope that a Federal Government job might be created for the 3 fully assessed pools I currently occupy, or anything for that matter…

All I can do is try to stay positive, and continue to build my qualifications and add experience. While I don’t see myself returning to the salon anytime soon, I don’t want to lose my well earned (and very expensive) hair dressing skills. So in the meantime, I plan on venturing out and attracting some new clients, and possibly making a few dollars on the side. There are a few techniques I’ve been itching to try.

So why not now?

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18 thoughts on “Use It or Lose It

  1. I understand this completely. I am so frustrated trying to decide what path to take because I am a more creative person like you. I want flexible hours because I want kids some day and I want to be able to have a laid back job that encourages creativity but just like you i don’t know if that exists anymore.
    The job market is bad – that I know. But does that mean for more creative people we’re just out of luck and the only steady jobs are those of management, accounting, etc.??

    I hope things start looking up for you!!

    ~Samantha

    • Hey if I could get a management job I’d be stoked! I think if I were willing to slug it out and go back to hair dressing with a little perseverance I could make a decent honest living… But what I really want it to use my education and the knowledge I gained from grad school… Only I find myself now, over qualified but inexperienced… Tricky tricky 🙂

  2. I recently attended a conference, and basically everyone agreed that no matter how educated you are, you need to have a side hustle of some sort in today’s difficult times. I think it’s great that you have that skill under your belt. Good luck to you. I graduated from college during what I thought were really tough times, and literally at the last minute something happened for me. Keep networking, keep meeting new people who can link you to other people. It’s going to happen!

  3. I empathize with so much of what you say here and unfortunately, I don’t think there are any easy answers to the issues you are facing. Fingers crossed that the job you want materializes but if it doesn’t, I have no doubt you’ll land on your feet!

  4. I’m sure you’ll find your way, eventually. Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts, it always helps to see I’m not the only one struggling with professional decisions 😉

    • Thanks for reading and for following. I’m actually working! I am currently filling a 1 year contract poising while someone is on maternity leave. I am an executive assistant to the CEO of a Canadian not for profit sporting organization 🙂 It’s been treating me quite well over the 6 weeks.

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