Chasing Dreams: Hairdressing. When a No means Try Again!
I believe that sometimes in life you have to crash down to the absolute Rockbottom to be able to find your way out.
I also believe that the only way out from said rockbottom is always going to be Up. Every. Single. Time.
First of all I want to say thank you, from the bottom of my own little heart, to everyone who took the time out of their day to reach out to me after my last post ‘Thoughts From A Broken Heart – Rockbottom or a Trap door?‘, and for the overwhelming support I received. You made a difference.
This post however, is about things I did next.
Let’s start with the big one. Last Monday I enrolled to College – and the very next morning at 09:30am I went back again, with my college ID around my neck and my brand spanking new notebook in my bag, to attend my first day as a Hairdressing Level 2 student.
To some of you this move may seem like something entirely out of the blue. But to the rest of you, there have been a lot of steps taken in this direction by myself, that up until now have never quite panned out – to the point where I have put this career path down and picked it back up again and again for the past 13 years.
But picking it back up once more is where the trick really lie, because becoming a Hairdresser has always been that one dream of mine that I have never, and would never, put down to fade away entirely.
This is my dream. And it’s the type of dream where a NO! never really meant NO!, in fact, it never meant anything to me but Try Again…
So here’s the timeline of my countless No’s in pursuing a career in Hairdressing:
2007: I was 15 years old and wanted to be a Hairdresser. I lived in Sweden, to set the scene, where I was born and raised in a small town called Ostersund. It was time for me to apply to college and although we had a Hairdressing course in my local city, I wanted to attend Kita’s College of Hairdressing in Gothenburg which in my young mind’s opinion were the creme de la creme of Hairdressing Education.
The thing was, that I needed very high grades to become a hairdresser. Bare with me, I’ll explain; Sweden was in 2007 a country almost 4x the size of the whole United Kingdom and Hairdressing courses, nevermind colleges were few and far between. This would make the education highly competitive and you got in based on your grades.
I applied. I made my mood boards, wrote about trends and created a mini-portfolio (all requirements to get in!), and studied my screaming blue heck off and came out with 11 GCSE’s A-B. There was that one C in Geography though, but we don’t talk about that one – besides, I was meant to travel and learn that way anyway… and certain sacrifices had to be made.
Low and behold, I got a place. To my happy little heart and delight, because of course I never applied elsewhere (what was the point when I knew what I wanted?) and to the delight of my parents. Or so I thought.
In the final semester of school, my parents kindly informed me that I would not be living so far away in a big city, on my own, a whopping 780 kilometers away. So onto Plan B.
Well, I had no Plan B. My father was moving to London at this point in time (where he grew up!), and I made a swift decision to come with him. At the very least, I could go to college, learn to speak English and come back to Sweden as ‘that annoyingly cool girl who speaks perfect English!’.
2008: End of June, 16 years old for a whole month by now, I moved to London. I visited my local college in July to check out their Hairdressing course. Turns out they didn’t really want to look at my GCSE’s which to my horror meant the course could not possibly be that great. So I decided to hold off until I got back to Sweden and try my luck at another interest; Fashion Design. Because of course, I adored Lauren Conrad and binged on The Hills as a pretty standard way of passing my evenings.
I enjoyed my time studying Fashion, but it wasn’t what my heart wanted, and I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and say my attendance was below par.
2010: I was ready to move back to Sweden. My college course was coming to an end, and like most students I was very encouraged to at least try to apply for University. So I did. I applied for one University which I felt was impossible for me to get into due to it’s world-wide recognition, University of The Arts London: London College of Fashion.
It didn’t hurt to apply, a no would be perfectly fine as I would go back to Sweden during the Summer either way.
I got into University. I met a boy during the Summer, so I had another incentive to stay for a bit – and to this day I don’t know what I did to get in, but I would lie if I said I wasn’t still a little proud.
2011: In my first year at University I did feel that it wasn’t for me, and I did not want to waste time for 3 years when I could do a Hairdressing Apprenticeship (something I did not know about when I applied for college two years earlier!), and be qualified in 2 years doing what I always wanted.
So I rang every training academy in London and outside of London, even if I would struggle to commute and explained my dilemma. In return, the training academies explained that apprentices were usually younger and that being at University, a higher level of education, would mean that I could not do an apprenticeship. I believe there was some misinformation here, because the harsh truth was that I could do an apprenticeship but as I had been to Uni it would not be ‘Government Funded’ which would put Salons off – but the world was also very different only a few years ago.
2013: I have now finished University and just had my beautiful baby boy, Maximus. I am now 21 years old, and decide to try my luck at apprenticeships again. I ring around and visit salons, being met with ‘we do not feel comfortable paying you such a low wage as a young new mum!’, when all I really wanted to do was scream back ‘I do not care about what I get paid, this is what I want to do and I will make a million teas and coffees and sweep hair off your floors for years if you’ll just take a chance on me’.
Deflated and busy being a new mum, I let it rest.
Well not quite, but for the most part. I would keep my eye out and make gentle enquiries and have conversations in Salons, ‘in case they had an opportunity come up’, over the next few years. More often than not.
2019: I lost my job. And my first though was, well it’s now or never. The Hairdressing Apprenticeship game was changing, and Government Funding was based on number of apprentices and salon size, rather than the apprentice’s previous level of qualification.
So I applied again, to every local and less-local salons and training academies. The only slight query this time was about wages (isn’t it mostly always about money? Did I mention I would rather work for free than never actually learn the craft?). At this moment of writing all apprentices may be paid apprenticeship wage in their first year, 3.90 pounds/hour in the UK. In their second year, adults would have to be paid according to National Living Wage, or in my case at 27 years old, National Living Wage of a current 8.21 pounds/hour (which increases every April!).
But here’s the kicker. I got accepted to a local Hair Academy in July 2019, a conditional offer based on securing a Salon Placement.
A Salon Placement never came. Based on enquiries, it was an age thing. A monetary issue.
Shall education be free? I couldn’t say. But if you’re like me, and willing to work for free whilst actually still learning, should it really be such an issue?
So I waited 2 months, called and emailed salons and chased up the Hair Academy for updates from their partner salons.
I never got a single reply.
So on the last day of enrollments at College, I walked in. Nervous at this route – but I enrolled.
On the first day of my course, we were all told we need to secure a Salon Placement. This is Mandatory to the completion of the course and gaining our qualifications and Diplomas in Level 2 Men’s and Women’s Hairdressing.
A Salon Placement is a Work Placement. It is for Work Experience purposes, and may in fact be Unpaid. Am I crazy for being excited about this minor difference? Because unpaid, I may actually secure a placement. I may have the opportunity to get qualified. I may actually, finally, be able to keep chasing dreams – because throughout this journey, a No! has never actually meant No!, it’s only ever meant Try Again…
So here’s to a new adventure.