It May Be Nice To Dream Pretty All Day, But Beauty Is Hard Work
Tanya Chernyakhovsky started her career as a beauty therapist when she was 15 years old. There were times when she felt she’d rather hang out with her friends than file nails. Today, the esthetician, cosmetologist, skin specialist and educator is glad she persevered.
“I truly feel that this is one of the best industries. If you don’t want a typical 9-to-5 office job, beauty therapy is the career for you,” Tanya says. “I’ve traveled to 40 countries because of what I do. This industry draws people from all around the world. Every culture cares about beauty. It’s a very international profession. Because of that, there’s amazing opportunity for travel and growth.”
For Tanya, the beauty industry provided an opportunity to pursue her love of cosmetics and skin care. “Ever since I was a child I loved the idea of transforming people,” she says. By the time Tanya graduated from high school, she had attended enough night school classes at the European School of Esthetics in Winnipeg to get her esthetician’s diploma. She was qualified to do makeup consultations, waxing, manicures, pedicures and facials.
She went to work part-time at a salon while attending the University of Winnipeg for a degree in business. Following her degree, she worked full-time as an esthetician in a salon before moving to Toronto to work as a sales representative for a beauty product distribution company. Tanya’s career took off. She went to work for a French spa brand and fulfilled a lifelong dream to work in France. While she was stationed in Brittany, she began traveling to places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Finland, Australia and South Africa to train other beauty professionals.
A global career is accessible to any beauty therapist with an interest in seeing the world. Working on a cruise ship or at an international spa is one of the hottest career moves in the industry. “These are the most beautiful resorts in the world and they are usually in the most beautiful places. You get free room and board and you meet people from all over. It’s so much fun,” Tanya says.
Department store cosmetic and skin care companies also hire estheticians to work at their retail counters as cosmetic assistants. This type of job could lead to opportunities in cosmetic research and development or marketing and public relations at the corporate head office.
Beauty therapy programs typically range from six months to two years depending on the level of training required. Most courses are offered during the day and evening as a full or part-time curriculum. This flexibility allows the classes to accommodate those who have day jobs. “The age of students is spread between 18 to 65,” Tanya says. “There are women who are just starting out and mature women who are in a career already and want to do something different.” Tanya recommends asking around at quality spas and salons to find the most reputable schools in your area. You can also check that the school is recognized by CIDESCO, an international beauty therapy organization that allows you to work abroad.
Once you’ve chosen a school, you will spend anywhere from $400 for a basic nail technician course to about $4000 for a two-year beauty therapy diploma. “At the college level you learn everything you need to know to work as a full service professional. Schools like Sheridan are an excellent choice because they also teach you how to develop a business and marketing plan,” Tanya says.
Most programs encourage students to work a few hours a week in a spa or salon as part of an apprenticeship. Tanya also recommends offering to help out at salons on the weekend folding towels and cleaning up. “This is a competitive industry. You need to show that you are active and enthusiastic about what you do,” she says.
As a recent graduate you can expect to get a job right away. The starting salary at most salons and spas is about $30,000. You can supplement your base salary with tips and commissions from product sales. “Your commission can be anywhere from 3 to 20 per cent depending on the salon,” Tanya says. “I know estheticians who make $80,000. That’s mostly from tips and commission.” It helps to have an upbeat and patient personality because it can be challenging to keep a positive attitude in front of difficult clients who have unrealistic demands. The work can also be isolating with long hours spent in a tiny room. However, Tanya has never regretted her path as a beauty therapist. “You give people confidence and make them feel better. That has an impact on the world.”
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