In my last 2 posts I take you through my time at college and the fun I had filming “Beauty School”.
Today you learn about my first job as a Spa therapist and the training I had to go through.
Getting my first job was a big deal to me, where most of my classmates were staying on to work in the salons they trained in, I so desperately wanted to work for one of the Big Dogs. The glamour of the spa world had always intrigued me ever since I started college so it was the natural choice for me when applying for jobs. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to “be the best” and it seemed fitting to step up from salon and go into spa, it was a different world, a world where etiquette and professionalism was of utmost importance which suited me down to the ground.
You may remember me mentioning from my previous posts that I began applying for spa therapy jobs before I actually qualified. This was because I didn’t want to be late to the party! I wanted to secure a position as soon as possible so I had a full time job to walk into straight from qualifying. I know to some this might seem eager or even premature since i’d not even got my qualifications yet but if you know me you’ll know one thing, I am ambitious! My family have always told me I’ve always had drive and determination and it wasn’t about to change now. If anything those aspects of my personality were only about to get stronger as the years went on. I am from a humble background with a working class family, nothing has come easy or been handed on a plate. I was raised to graft for the things I wanted and I was adamant I was going to exceed expectations and make my family proud.
This passion and determination has often got me blindsided, when all you can see are the goals you are trying to achieve you sometimes forget to stop and smell the roses. I missed out on a lot through working hard, girls holidays, boozy nights out were all sacrificed because I had commitments, long work shifts and training sessions became the priority.
I lined up 2 interviews, I had no major preference which one I secured as I was just so excited at the prospect of having my first interview. We had been told at college to expect to do a trade test where you perform a treatment on the interviewee so they can judge your competence. My first interview was at a large hotel chain, I wasn’t really nervous Although I had the “Beauty school” camera crew following me which made it a bit awkward ha ha, I was asked to perform a back massage on the manager then I was given a tour around the spa, we finished off with a talk and some questions. I thought id nailed it but I received the dreaded phone call to say that unfortunately I hadn’t been successful. The same call Iv’e had to give hundreds of therapists over the years and I have to say it has always been worse giving the news than receiving it!
Okay I didn’t get the job, gutted, but I had another still in the pipeline, no pressure eh?! The second job was for a spa therapist at a well known hair and beauty salon situated in a large leisure centre. It was based in North Leeds where I grew up and although I no longer lived there I knew the area like the back of my hand!
The journey was a long trek, I had to get 2 buses, one into the city centre and another out to North Leeds. I arrived nice and early and met the film crew at the leisure centre. The club was for private members only and I remember feeling like a fish out of water, we could have only dreamed of attending a place like this and I was going in asking to work there! What if they took one look at me and thought I wasn’t good enough? That I wasn’t their “kind”? Id just have to put on my airs and graces and show them I was!
I walked into the reception area and it was pristine, I introduced myself politely and sat and waited in the seating area as instructed to by the receptionist. I wondered if it would be okay if I picked up a magazine and read a bit while I waited? Or should I look through my notes to keep my memory fresh? What does the perfect candidate look like while she is waiting to be summoned? As I sat and pondered this with legs crossed and perfect posture a lady approached me and introduced herself as Ruth, she had a warm smile but an air about her that made me think she ran a tight ship. She led me down a long corridor, one that seemed to last forever and into what they called the relaxation room (I was wishing this room would relax me right about now)!
Ruth asked me to sit at the manicure station and explained to me that I would be doing a trade test. I would be painting her a french polish, waxing her lower legs and giving her a back massage!!! I was not expecting to have to do 3 treatments! I later came to think that maybe the film crew had asked her to test me on so many things so they had more footage but I guess I’ll never know. With desperation in my heart that I could lose this opportunity too I took a deep breath and thankfully kept a steady hand, all those nights of practicing on my dads nails had paid off, I wasn’t shaking at all and did what seemed to be my best french polish yet! Straight from the polishing came the waxing and I de-fluffed with ease remembering to tick all the boxes as I went along, I was showing off now because I knew I knew my stuff ???? Finally the back massage, we had learned all the relevant moves in college but as a small girl weighing no more than a bag of sugar I’d always known to focus on my pressure and speed, my moves began to flow into one another and the massage was a success, I could just tell. Ruth interviewed me as we went along which was good asking me all the relevant questions and I didn’t stumble once, I didn’t even notice the cameras rolling, I was in my own little bubble!
I shook Ruth’s hand and had no idea if I would see her or the beautiful spa again. I got no more than 10 feet out the door when I was being shouted back in, I think the film crew had asked Ruth if she knew what her decision would be and would she mind telling me now so they could capture it on camera!
I was going to find out my fate now and it would all be caught on film! Oh God! The next thing I know i’m being led back down that corridor again and to a seating area in a quiet space near the treatment rooms, I felt like I was having De Ja Vu!
The cameras were set up, Me and Ruth were sat opposite one another and the time was now! To my sheer delight I had got the job!! I don’t think I had been happier about anything more in my entire life! or so it seemed. The cameras captured my reaction but apparently it wasn’t enough, after about 5 takes they have me dancing off back down the corridor like I’ve just won the lottery and taken some class A drugs at the same time ha ha!
I thought the interview process was the hard part, Oh no! If I thought my training at college was hard I was in for a big shock, the spa was a stockist of a very well known Skin care brand and with using their products and doing their treatments the spa therapists had to be trained in the treatment rituals and all the product knowledge. The training for this wasn’t as simple as reading a book, learning a few names and some new moves in treatments, it was going back to basics, learning an entire product range, the ingredients, what skin type it was designed for, the price, how to sell it and the treatment that accompanied it or what treatment you would use it in. We had to learn everything all over again but this time I had to be more knowledgeable, more thorough in my treatments, do a longer consultation and understand why, be able to retail to the client at the end of the treatment and close a sale. I had to learn brand new rituals and ways of doing everything I already thought I knew how to do such as cleansing the skin and massaging. There were brand new moves for it all! There were also tests and if you didn’t pass this would cause a problem with your employment as you needed to pass in order to be a spa therapist.
I was sent off to Darlington to the company academy where I would spend 2 weeks training, I remember meeting all the therapists on that first morning and really getting a feeling of being a part of something special. I was only just 18 and I felt I had stepped onto the right path post college education. This was to be the first of many training courses I was to attend over the course of my career and it did set the tone too. The training was intense, it was thorough and expectations were high. I had put a lot of pressure on myself not to just pass but to be the best! I was savvy enough to know that my performance on that training course would be fed back to my spa manager whom I so desperately wanted to impress!
The accommodation was a B&B but it was in this sweet old ladies house, it felt like a home from home, I would train all day and study all night while everyone else went out for tea and drinks!… Determination has always been with me and its usually paid off. The final day of training was “test day” and I’d practiced and reversed the entire fortnight… It was D Day!
Okay so I passed, I passed with flying colours (wait a minute while I blow this trumpet of mine) ????
I returned to my Spa with my head held high, little did I know that my first day back in work I would be summoned to my treatment room where I would perform one of the trickiest facials on my Manager!… I was nervous to say the least, this was more daunting that the test and reminded me of my interview where I had to perform treatments to be given the job!
I had my Q cards at the ready and I was raring to go, an hour and half later I had finished and then had to retail my recommended products in a role play situation… Thankfully I was told id made the grade and my manager was impressed… PHEW!