For the majority of my high school career, I worked as an assistant at a hair salon that my mom works at. Then, for about a year during my college career, I worked at a different salon behind the chair (meaning I was a stylist). So, I guess you could say I have a few years experience in working with the general public. There were some parts of each job that were great and I loved, and there were some parts of each job that were less than great and I didn’t like so much. Nevertheless, each job taught me a lot – things that I probably wouldn’t have learned had I not worked with the general public. I’m sure if you have also worked with the general public you can relate, and if you haven’t, maybe you can learn a thing or two.
Now, I’ve never really considered myself to be an impatient person before having these jobs, but I’ve definitely learned to have more patience since working with the general public. Some people come in, know exactly what they want, we have a nice conversation during the styling process, and then they go on their merry way (bless you people). However, more often than not, people come in unsure as to what they really want and take a while to figure it out. Or some of them sort of know what they want, but suddenly have a cosmetology license themselves and try to instruct me throughout the whole haircut. As much as I would like to say to those people “How about you just let me get creative instead of wasting so much time?” or “I’m the one with the license, I know what to do.” I can’t say those things. Instead, I need to have patience to deal with these people. Not always the easiest thing to do, but valuable nonetheless.
To go off of my previous point a little bit, I needed to learn the value of understanding when I have an indecisive or difficult customer in my chair. Maybe they’ve had a tough day or they’re just a naturally indecisive person. Or maybe it’s their first time in this salon or the first time coming to me. It is just hair, but I can understand how some people might be a little bit nervous. Or maybe they’re trying to explain what they want, but aren’t using the proper terminology. Whatever the case may be, I need to try to understand their position in order to help service them to the best of my ability.
Now, I was never not a compassionate person, however, working with the general public has taught me to have more compassion for other situations. For someone who is only 21 years old, I’ve lost a lot of important people in my life and have been through a lot. As a result of that, I matured quickly and learned not to sweat the small stuff. So, whenever a difficult customer would come in and get upset or even start yelling at me if they were unhappy with their hair, it would really get to me because I know that there are much bigger things to get upset or angry about than something as trivial as hair. Especially when I would get clients who were currently or have gone through chemo or had some other serious problem like that and were as pleasant as could be. But, I needed to learn to realize that for someone to react that way, they should probably consider themselves lucky that they’ve never had a real problem in their life. Or maybe they’re just a bitter person. Whatever the case, I needed to learn to put my own life aside and just try to diffuse the situation as calmly and professionally as I could.
4. Grown Men Can Be So Creepy
Now, don’t get me wrong, this point is not to say that I think I’m all that and a bag of chips. But, while working as a stylist (although it has happened a few times as an assistant) I would catch grown men, as in men in their 40s or 50s, looking me up and down and/or talk to me in creepy, inappropriate ways. Some were even more subtle that I didn’t even notice, but my coworkers did. Now, at the salon I worked at, we were allowed to kick a customer out if we started to feel uncomfortable and they didn’t stop their behavior when asked to. Luckily, it never came to that. Nevertheless, I still had to come to terms with the unfortunate reality that some men are just so gross – I’m 21, you’re old enough to be my dad, please stop looking at me like that.
5. There Are Still Good People Left In This World
Lucky for me, the majority of my customers were good people and didn’t give me any problems. However, there were a select few in particular that were just so pleasant and I looked forward to them coming in. One man in particular was probably in his late 30s or 40s and he was just the nicest person. We always held a nice conversation and he admired the fact that I was working at a job that didn’t require a college education, but I was still going to college, and doing that part time to make some money. He told me how he thinks most millennials are entitled, so he really admired me for going to college and working part time. Now, I know that that’s not that great because most people my age go to school and work, but he was still very nice nonetheless. In fact, he was so nice that he would not go to anyone else in the salon and he only wanted to give his business to me, and he always tipped generously. Customers like him restored my faith that there are still good people in this world.
6. You Can’t Make Everybody Happy
I saw and interacted with a lot of customers over the years of working with the general public. Of course, I always wanted to do my best job and have every customer leave happy. That, however, is just not realistic. Not everybody you come in contact with in your life is going to like you and that same rule applies when working with the general public. Some people you just can’t please no matter how hard you try. It’s no fault of your own, it’s just a fact.
7. You Realize How Lucky You Are
As I’ve mentioned earlier in this article, I’ve had customers come to me who were very sick and undergoing chemo, had or are having surgery, have some sort of disease/illness, etc. Now, being that I’ve lost family members to cancer and other horrible diseases, I was no stranger to that reality. However, when they’re sitting in my chair telling me their story, it really hit me and made me realize all over again how lucky I am to be healthy and have what I have. Those people also inspired me because not a single one of them was complaining or saying why me. They were simply telling me their story with a smile on their face and a positive attitude and they always left the salon overjoyed and appreciative of the work I did. Not only did those people inspire me and count my blessings all over again, but they made me have even less sympathy for those who complain about every little thing and are just all around nasty and ungrateful.
8. Communication Skills
If you didn’t already have good communication skills, you will after working with the general public. It’s actually a very valuable thing to learn and have because most jobs require good communication skills.
9. You Learn How To Professionally Handle Bad Situations
As I said before, you can’t please everyone. So, for those few customers that are just going to complain and be unhappy no matter what you do, as much as you want to just tell them to leave (among other things) you learn to hold back and replace it with the professional way of handling things. Some jobs may also require this, so this is also a valuable lesson to learn.
10. People Are Dumb
Above all else, when you work with the general public, you learn just how dumb people really are. It’s quite amazing, actually.