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Last updated: July 22, 2017

Sam Villa’s 11 Career-Building Tips

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Sam Villa, Founding Partner of Sam Villa and Redken Education Artistic Director, knows a thing or two about being a successful stylist. His vast experience as an educator, business owner, and, of course, a top-notch hairstylist, has provided him with invaluable insights into “making it” in the beauty industry. Here, he shares 11 helpful tips for you to use to grow your own career!


1. Go to every educational event you can, and continue advanced education even after you become a professional stylist—it is the key to success. Classes, shows, DVDs, online tutorials— use anything and everything you have access to.


2. Practice what you learn and share it with others so they, too, can succeed. Sharing makes you better because it gives you the opportunity to reinforce information, which increases retention.


3. Find a great salon that is truly interested in your success. If given the opportunity, sit in the waiting area to get a feel for the ambiance and level of professionalism. Listen to how the staff answer the phones, greets the guests; watch the work at the stations and the way the staff members interact with one another. Then ask yourself if this salon is the one you want to be a part of.


4. Ask about the salon’s associate program and request a copy in writing to confirm they have one. A verbal confirmation is too ambiguous. You may need to assist for a while, but it’s important to be willing to do whatever is asked of you to become part of the team.


5. Find the right fit and STAY in that salon—do not move around! When you move around too much, people don’t take you as seriously, and your guests do not want to jump around following you from one salon to another.


6. Develop your skills. After educational events, you have to practice what you’ve learned and mannequins are a great way to do that. The Redken Exchange calls it “see-do” learning: they teach something and then the students go do it to anchor the concept and increase the retention rate. I’m trying to teach stylists to think and do things differently, so I advise them to set up mannequins on the salon floor and practice new techniques on them in between appointments. It will create conversations that will open new doors to additional services. It also builds your skill set and strengthens your skills as a presenter, educator, and stylist all the way around.


7. Do photo shoots—it will develop your artistic eye. You don’t have to have a lot of money to do it, either. A good way to start is by networking with other stylists who shoot—photographers, fashion stylists and makeup artists—and offer to collaborate to grow your portfolios, or offer to work for free just to gain experience.


8. Create a professional contact list. Always trade contact info and keep in touch with EVERYONE you want to work with. Every time you take a class, meet other stylists, work on a photo shoot or meet a manufacturer; gather contact info and input it into your phone to build your professional contact list.


9. Set goals. Having realistic goals that give you something to work toward is one of the most important habits you can develop. Set a long-term goal for three months to a year and then work backwards. Chop that big goal into “bite-size” pieces that can be accomplished a week, or even a day at a time.


10. Create a relationship with a strong mentor. It’s important to have someone else to support and guide you through the industry. Ask them to be your accountability partner, so when you lack motivation or burnout sets in (it does to everyone at some point), you have someone to help keep you motivated and passionate.


11. Take a hike. Sometimes the best way to initiate creativity is to walk away for a minute.  Getting into nature, exploring a new museum, or just simply immersing yourself in great music can often be the spark you need to push your in-salon artistry to the next level.


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