My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer




The following post was found by a friend on Craigslist in the “Jobs Wanted” section.
I’ll offer my rebuttals in red, but start out by saying that so much here is what is wrong with hairdressing schools and their sugar-coating of the industry.

In a weird way, I wish our salons were the way she describes. It reads like I run a very tight ship based on fear and intimidation, and there is something appealing about that (joking).

Finally, if you ask anyone, they will tell you my motto is to hire nice. We always hire nice. You can teach anyone to do hair but you can’t teach an asshole to be nice. The way she describes my staff is simply not possible unless you suck and they all decide they hate you immediately.


“DO NOT APPLY TO ANY MICHAEL LEVINE SALONS!!!!Want to be an apprentice/assistant for Space/Caramel/Any other Michael Levine salon? Go to Vancouver hairdressing academy. That’s your only way in.You will be USED to work a full 8 hour day of salon labour or more accurately, slavery, with no compensation. They are using naive students/new graduates for free labour. -Yes, you will work hard, but it is in exchange for pay. Just like a normal job. Don’t even expect to be hired. Read my story below for an idea of what your day will look like.

I saw an add on Craigslist in the spring looking for an “apprentice” at space salon. Being young and having just graduated from hair school this looked like the perfect opportunity to learn new skills and work my way up to being a stylist. After all, that’s what an apprentice is for, right? Apparently not here. -Our entire company from day one has been built by training people to do hair, often without them having attended hair school. Our entire current staff save for 1 person was our apprentice at one point.

I went in to drop off my resume to Liz, and ended up leaving it with the receptionist because she wasn’t in that day. I got a call later the same day from Liz saying she wanted to schedule an interview for the next day.

When I arrived at the salon I was greeted by Liz and led to the back to begin my interview. I was asked very few questions about my experience and instead told how there were many assistants and they were pretty much what kept the salon running. I was also told that it would be a very quick and easy process to learn the ways of the salon and become a full time stylist at Space. I was invited back for a trial day the following weekend. I was told to expect to greet clients and offer them beverages, wash clients hair, assist with blow-drys and colour mixing, and general salon maintenance such as sweeping and laundry. This was completely fine with me, knowing it was only a trial day to see how I fit within the salon.– It was fine with you because it was only your trial day? This is the entire job and will continue to be your job forever when there isn’t a client in your chair.

(ALL of the assistants at this salon graduated from or were still attending Vancouver Hairdressing Academy, and none of them remember anyone previous being from an outside school.) -Several current young staff are from other schools. Of course we prefer to hire our own though. They already understand our cutting system.

I showed up about 15 minutes before the salon opened on the day of my trial. There were about 4 assistants running around the salon trying to get everything ready, and one of them was told to give me a rundown of my tasks for that day, which all ended up being as described in the interview with the exception of a few things. I was told that I wouldn’t have anything to do with clients, except offer them drinks and get them robes. This was fine, as again, it was only a trial day. The stylists started to arrive and I was introduced to them, and then told NOT to speak to them unless they spoke to me first or asked for something. This was very off putting as I was hired to be an apprentice, and the way for apprentices to learn is by asking questions and shadowing a stylist. -Sometimes new apprentices force themselves into conversations between clients and their stylists. We had one tell a client during her colour appointment that she thought her natural colour was really nice and didn’t need a colour. Beyond that, of course you are allowed to ask stylists questions if they aren’t busy.

Over the course of the day things kept getting worse. I was shown right away how to use the booking system to check people in and book appointments and answer the phones, then told to not touch any of it or even go behind the front desk. I was given a 10 minute rundown at the beginning of the day, and was expected to work on my own and not ask any questions/talk to anyone (even other assistants), or the manager would get mad– We like to see how people work on their own during a trial day so we can evaluate their work ethic and ability to use their brain, Nobody gets mad, we just quietly evaluate you.. I wasn’t even introduced to the manager or sure if there was one working that day. Many times throughout the day I was completely lost on what to do. When I asked a question no one would look me in the eyes, and would only reply with a one word answer. I remember one situation, where all the clients were checked in, the laundry was running, the floors were clean, and no one needed assistance at the colour station. I saw an assistant folding a massive pile of laundry so I went over to help. I started folding and was instantly met with a dirty look. Instead of her telling me that there might have been something else that I could have done around the salon, she threw down the towel she was folding and loudly told me to not help and only one person can be doing a task at a time, then stormed off to the break room.– I wish this was the case. Walk in to any of our salons on a slow day and you will see several people doing tasks together, and having fun.

You are expected to be a slave to the stylists. They have none of their own equipment at their station except for the basics like scissors, combs and brushes, and a blow-dryer.-So everything except for irons? Everything else (irons) they ask for and you have to run across the salon to get and bring to them that instant. At the beginning of the day you set up their station for them, leaving towels and make sure everything is clean. After every client, you have to go back and put everything back in place, take the laundry away, and make sure everything is spotless– You “have to?” How cruel and unusual. You also have to sweep up any hair you see on the floor during the clients service to keep the place looking “professional”, but they also tell you to stay out of the stylists way and to not go near them when they are with a client -Yes, this means don’t sweep their feet while they are working. It’s annoying. Many times I was snapped at by stylists who were two chairs away from where I was sweeping because I was too close, and then I would be snapped at by assistants for not cleaning the floor.-I’m picturing my stylists, while with a client, yelling “too close!” or “No eye contact!” every time an assistant gets within 10 feet of them. Awesome. 

Everything you do that day will be wrong. They way you sweep will be wrong. They way you fold towels will be wrong. The way you greet clients and take their coats will be wrong. I came from a very high class, well known school, and the way I did things still wasn’t up to their standards even with the constant snarky remarks from the other assistants.– We have systems for doing things, not sure about sweeping though. You must have been using the wrong end of the broom if we had to correct you on it.

I can’t even call this an apprenticeship. I can’t call the assistants “apprentices” because there’s no way they are learning in that environment. The icing on the cake at the end of my terrible day was getting to scrub down the toilets with no gloves and using towels that would later be used on clients hair! -We have rags for cleaning and towels for clients. And toilet brushes as well. Did you ask for gloves?

At the end of the day I was exhausted and had my spirits absolutely crushed. I figured it was hard because it was a training day (said by one of the assistants) and when I got hired (also said) I would already know how to do everything and it would be much easier.

I went home with high hopes because when it came down to it I still really wanted the job. -WHY??? Two days went by with no calls so I phoned the salon and it went straight to voicemail. I called back later and the same thing happened so I left a message saying who I was and to call me back. A whole day went by and I still didn’t hear anything. It was almost like they were ignoring me, which I’m positive they were.-Or we were closed?

If you want to work an 8 hour day, with no pay, no one to talk to, and do tough labour with no promise of a job, then be my guest– of course we pay you. And a trial day is a test she obviously didn’t pass.. I can’t say that everyones experience will be as bad as mine, but from what I’ve heard from other people there is no good outcome from applying to this salon.-Except for all the awards, support, the on-going education and the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry and to work in cool salons.

Thanks for reading and always do background searches and talk to people before being used by a salon that could care less about you!”

Look, I will never say our salons are the best place to work or are fun all the time. There are definitely days that suck and there are times when people are unhappy. And we absolutely have a hard time staying staffed at the entry level.

But we have put many people on incredible career paths and have helped many stylists realize their dreams through hairdressing. But the one thing I have seen is that very few people who crapped out with us ever went on to be a success. In our company, nobody is above anything. And other hair schools should teach this attitude.


  1. Anyone that would post something like this to craigslist will never make it in our industry or at the very least will be a “unteam” builder wherever she or he goes.

    Robert ….Robert @ Taylor Salon

  2. Michael I had a really good chuckle at that one! Especially your comments ( brushing the stylist feet! ) ! Happens all the time I guess we are not supposed to ask them ” NOT to do that!” Still laughing at that one.
    I guess we are not supposed to have standards in our salons!
    I have always told students that there is a salon for everyone, if you just want to go and cut hair for minimum wage , never go anywhere, wear your muscle shirt and jeans every day and not do your hair, then go to Super Clips. But I’m sure they even have a dress code.
    Love your articles and your frankness.

    From: Fellow high standard mean boss that makes you clean the toilets when your not busy.
    Liz Adams
    Victoria BC

  3. In her defence, she writes very eloquently. I’m hoping she could write another piece after she has the trial day she so highly deserves: where she gets everything right first time, is allowed to cut and colour hair right off the bat, earns triple the pay she was expecting and the whole salon greets her like an old friend.

  4. Maybe she should’ve gone to school for journalism, she’s a great writer. I believe every job is about taking the initiative. I mean you’ve been in hair school for a least a year and knows what happens in a salon daily, so apply it to your job.

    Karmen K

  5. This is problem… I have a few newbie’s who also have entitled expectations. I’m going to print this for them to read… Let them sit on that for a minute

  6. A very interesting read. Sounds like the trial day was an education and an apprenticeship in itself!

  7. At 69 years old and the oldest person to graduate from Paul Mitchell the School, Columbia SC…l gess I see things a little different from the younger intittled generation. From what this person wrote. (If you had a salon in Columbia) I would be on my knees begging you for a job and willing to work with no pay as long as needed to learn, advance and better the salon!!! The place I’ve dreamed of working.

  8. It’s interesting that in her article she mentions the attitude of other assistants.I’ve worked in salons that” silent service” was the norm and expected.What she doesn’t realize is that every salon had their own culture.She needs to find one that she fits in. She’s eager, wants to make some money,and send to have a slight sense of humor.It’s great but not in that salon.This salon is upscale,the assistants seem on edge and in constant competition to get to the next level.Again that’s good! If you’ll like that mode of learning and promotion.She might fit in at an affordable hair care salon. Those establishments have turned out some great stylists and beautiful hair,I mean Supercuts,Great Clips do have a GREAT and thriving business and have so for many years.They must be doing something right.However,I don’t recommend a stylist stay there too long they eventually must assist in a full service salon that” award and assess their professional needs and achievements. It’s strange how some arrogant owners overlook this.Also someone started them and in many cases these owners that create an impossible tiered system,they themselves didn’t have to go through,NOT would if imposed on them wouldn’t and couldn’t do themselves.Shit comes in many forms,don’t bee deceived young stylists.

    • It’s hard to tell where you are going with this Michael. (good name!)

      My salons are super fun places and we absolutely don’t take ourselves seriously at all. We are quite relaxed, though we ask that people work hard.

      I wish my assistants were more on edge and were in competition to progress through our levels.

      This girl actually walked out of her trial day after a couple of hours. She felt she was above an entry level position with us.

      • there in lies a huge issue in our industry, thinking one is above the entry pass into our industry, At my salon the hiring process is resume, portfolio, references, audition regardless of yrs in, of course students and newer people are asked to come shadow for a day to see if its a 2 way vision, (this allows us to see work ethic and attitude) sadly 1 in 20 have the guts to bring in a model to show us what they can do, we offer education sadly this seems to scare peopel away – they think they can get a chair without showing their work, if we like everything to the point of wanting to pursue hiring we sit them down and go over the areas we want them to improve upon through education, (gives us a starting point and level/price point) and even then most are offended by the prospect of needing more training, some will be given a 30 day trial where they then show their true colors and balk at improving their skills. We remain a small team until we can train the next one rather than infect the salon with outside assumptions.

  9. Hi – I’m not a hairdresser, but work for the BBC in the UK (my hairdresser mate posted a link to your blog on Facebook) and still find this incredibly relevant.

    I think this is a problem with millennials – they’re so entitled. At universities in the UK they justify high fees with the promise of great jobs, when actually in a creative industry we value practical skills over theoretical ones.

    I recently asked a young family friend what he planned to do with his classics degree from Oxford – he said he wanted to be a TV producer at the BBC! For context, I don’t know any TV producers under 30 – most are around 35 (I’m 32 and only just got there). And could he operate a camera, or manage a team of staff, or direct a celebrity/presenter? I would hardly trust him to buy their lunch.

    This is a really big problem with younger people now and you nailed it in your post. I think more of us need to put our necks out there and show them this entitlement they have is really going to set them back – if this girl does this at every salon she trials at, her career will be over before it even starts.

  10. I have been following your blogs now for sometime. Honestly, there is not one article, video, opinion or insite of yours I have come across, that I don’t 200% agree with or relate to.

    Thank you for being such a relevant and spot-on voice to a lot of the situations, good and bad, that are faced daily in the salon/stylist industry.

    I have gained an incredible amount of insight, and learned SO much more, ( that I use daily behind the chair) from following your blogs and articles.

    Your knowledge, advice, wisdom, opinions and views have helped me be able to take a step back, and look at myself as a growing, aspiring stylist. They also have made me understand that there are no limits to anything in this amazing industry!

    Even though I have been working behind the chair for over a decade, work extremely hard, continue to invest in my education, and am blessed that my hard work has payed off fairly well, (with a great, loyal, growing clientele, growing book, increased financal standing every year). The topics you give advice on remind me to never stop reaching, to continue to push further in my career. It truly has made me realize there are limitless possibilities, no dream, no goal is impossible to obtain… If, of course, you are willing to keep fighting for it.

    I look forward to following your blogs in the future. And most inportantly, THANK YOU for the little bits of inspiration and insight you have opened up my mind and career to.

    • Erika, thank you so much for this. As I prepare to speak at ISSE this weekend, I had been feeling really negative about what I was going to be presenting, starting to doubt myself. I know I can put on a great show, but a lot has been going wrong and it’s been stressing me out hugely.

      Then I get this note, the night before my first class.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. You’ve given me a much needed lift.

  11. Greetings Michael. As a man who spent 6 years dedicated to my job as a salon assistant for some amazing women who didn’t always have time to hold my hand and tell me what to do and when and who didn’t have time to give me a hug and a kiss every time I completed something that needed to be done I can’t help but laugh at this person. Yes, as the assistant you don’t always get to do the most glamorous tasks BUT, you get to be involved, you get to be at the salon, you have the oppertunity to learn with your eyes and absorb the rhythym of what working in this amazing industry is all about. It’s all about the clients, it’s not about you, it’s about seeing people transformed. I always looked at it this way… Make sure what you bring to the table makes a difference. Do it well and do it with a positive attitude. Understand you don’t deserve an ice cream cone because your doing your job.
    Also, your video blogs rock dude! Have the most amazing day of your life….

  12. It sounds like she wasn’t given proper direction from whoever was supervising and evaluating her work that day

    • Hi Patrick,
      The entire point of the trial day is to see if the person has common sense, work ethic, and is a self-starter.
      We show them around, tell them what to do and then generally leave them alone to see what they do with no guidance.

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