our best lessons for beauty students

What career advice would have helped you while attending beauty school? Between developing their technical skills and preparing for a licensing exam, students have their hands full. We’re offering our best advice for future professionals, and reminding ourselves to follow it now as we pursue our individual paths in the beauty industry.

Show Notes


Consider the Source

Beauty School Cop-Out: How Our Education Has Failed Us

Filling the Leadership Void: A Call to Action


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Edited for length and clarity.

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JAIME: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty with your hosts Jaime Schrabeck.

ASHLEY: And Ashley Gregory Hackett. As a new school year begins, a new class of beauty school students take their first step towards becoming our colleagues and the future of the industry.

JAIME: Our best advice to students also serves as a helpful reminder to those of us who’ve been licensed for years. Let’s grow together.

JAIME: Ashley, who are we kidding? There’s a new class at a beauty school starting every month. 

ASHLEY: That’s very true. I think back to school time just makes us think about students, and being students, and our time in beauty school, as well as just the excitement and anticipation of the students that are entering our industry through the biggest hoop we have to jump through, right, which is beauty school.

JAIME: For so many years, my life functioned off of an academic calendar. So I always thought of my year sort of starting at, at this time fall, my favorite time of year and ending somewhere May/June, which would be the case if someone were starting a cosmetology program right about now. 

ASHLEY: Especially if it’s one that is housed within a high school or a vocational school that adheres to that same calendar. So we still have that same kind of idea of starting in the fall right around Labor Day, and I love looking at new school supplies, and even though it’s not something that’s been a part of my life for a long time, you can’t help but feel the excitement and the promise of a new year.

JAIME: I don’t have any statistics to back this up, but my senses tell me that there are no shortages of students, and once those students enroll, there’s no shortage of enthusiasm. 

ASHLEY: Exactly. I love the feeling of the possibilities that are open to us, especially when starting beauty school because there’s just so many options that we have available to us and whatever discipline we choose, or if we’ve decided to be specialized like you and I are as nail technicians, manicurists, just feels like the world is opening up to us. So we thought it would be great this week to share some of our favorite observations and our best advice for beauty school students only because this is a very different industry in the past two years than it has been really in its history and everything is different. Looking at it through that lens, I think it’s a good time to think about our experiences and how we can impart some wisdom to the next generation.

JAIME: I love this idea, but let me start with my first piece of advice because it actually predates the decision to go to school. And that is if you’re going to join this industry, if you want to be a professional, if you want to be a colleague, please obtain your license. Don’t rely on what you might learn from various sources and just set up shop wherever. Get your license. And when you do that, do it the cheapest and fastest way possible.

ASHLEY: I totally agree. We are both very pro licensure on this podcast only because it is the best way to set yourself up for success if you are serious about making beauty your career. And there are lots that say, oh, you can learn just as much on YouTube. And while that is probably true with regard to some of the technical skills and a lot of the theory, having your license sets you up for so many other steps in your career, like being able to purchase from a distributor and get good product pricing, being able to open your own salon, whether that be a suite or your own standalone commercial space. Without this license, you’re going to be setting yourself back for your future, which sounds like a movie, back to the future of beauty. But this is the foundational step that will set you up for success for so many different things moving forward and not having your license and being in beauty can only limit your options.

JAIME: Not only does it limit your options, but if you want to earn the respect of others in this industry, you want to join it the right way and that’s through licensure. And then when it comes to the regulatory and legal aspects of building a business, why would you want to invest all of this time and money into something that you could get penalized for doing because you weren’t doing it the right way?

ASHLEY: When it comes to social media, I always talk about building on rented ground. This is like building on quicksand. Getting your license is such an important thing to do, and I’m so glad you brought it up first and foremost, Jaime, because it’s not just something to do just to do it. It is something that your state requires. And so whatever you build from that point on, you know that it can’t be taken away by a potential fine, or censure, or seizure, or whatever that might be. So let’s just put a pin in that. Make sure everybody knows that’s where we stand and what we recommend for all potential entrepreneurs.

JAIME: And we’ll likely elaborate on this point in other episodes when we focus more on choosing a beauty school, choosing a program, but I want to emphasize again, the cheapest and fastest way possible.

ASHLEY: And tell me what you mean by that, because I, that makes my ears kind of perk up a little bit, cheapest and fastest. I want to know exactly why it is that you recommend that.

JAIME: There’s no equivalent of the Ivy League when it comes to beauty schools, as much as they like to compete as if they were.


JAIME: That’s just the case. The license is the same. There’s no indication of where you went to school on your license. The bottom line is nobody cares. Once you have your license, nobody really cares where you went to beauty school. So the equivalency should be how much do I need in terms of the hours. You know what the hours are for the license type. Don’t enroll in a program that promises you more by requiring you to attend for more hours, for example, just to qualify for financial aid. 

ASHLEY: Oh, yeah, and that’s such a scam and great point. There are so many options out there, and if this is a career that you’re looking to step into, and you’re very serious about, definitely shop around, look at different schools, look at different options. That’s such a great point and thank you for bringing it up.

JAIME: As I said, we’ll go into more detail on this later, what to look for in a beauty school program, because I do think it’s something that not only students need to consider, but beauty school owners and instructors need to consider when they’re out there promoting their programs. What is it that students really need? They need the training that will qualify them to take the licensing exam. That’s what they need, ultimately, from a beauty school. 

ASHLEY: Exactly, and we all know that a beauty school experience, while it can prepare you for some of the technical aspects of things that you’ll encounter in the salon, it is really just that. It’s test prep. And a lot of the learning that you’ll be doing for what it is that you’re going to be doing in the salon happens in the salon, happens when you’re hands on, happens when you are working with a mentor or working alongside someone you’re assisting, like there’s still quite a bit left to learn once you finish school. And we just need to understand that school is a time to soak up as much information as possible, but just know that it’s, the learning doesn’t stop when you finish.

JAIME: Do you want to expand on that, Ashley, because I think that’s one of the.

ASHLEY: Expand on that?

JAIME: Best pieces. Yes, please. Because that’s one of the best pieces of advice that you would offer students is just what you said.

ASHLEY: Absolutely. 

JAIME: About lifelong learning.

ASHLEY: Well, and if we know what beauty school is, we also know what it isn’t, right? It’s not something that is going to help you hit the ground running the moment you pass your state board. There’s still a lot of learning to do, and so you’re going to have a great framework from beauty school, hopefully, as to what to expect and the technical aspects of the services, and sanitation, and all of those things, but my biggest piece of advice would be to seek out a mentor and find someone who is willing to teach you the right way. But also, in doing so, you admit that you don’t know everything from the first day you enter the industry and it helps you maintain the mentality of continuing to be a student, even if you don’t hold that official title. You’re always going to be learning. You’re always going to be seeking out new information, a better way to do things, and alternative ways to do things. Our careers are an evolution, and we need to make sure that we have the tools available to us in skill mastery, technique, perspective that allows us to evolve with it.

As our bodies change, as we age, as our interests change, you want to make sure you’ve got this great Rolodex of skills to draw from as opposed to just being laser-focused and then not being able to be agile when the industry changes. I mean look at the past 18 months, we’ve all had to pivot in some way.

JAIME: What just struck me, as you were saying that, Ashley, is that in an academic setting, our instructors, our professors would be our mentors. And I don’t think that’s true in a beauty school setting. I don’t think students look to their instructors as their mentors. I think they look beyond the school. They look to the industry, to professionals who have a huge following on social media or who are presenting classes and a technique that they really want to master. I think it’s interesting where people do find those mentors. It’s not in school. So that should be sort of indication that school is the place where you get your start, but it’s the quality of that start, and that commitment that you’ve described to acknowledging that you don’t know what you don’t know.

ASHLEY: And mentorship is different than idol worship. And I think if you go back and listen to a couple of our episodes about like Consider the Source and some of our episodes about like influencer culture in our industry, it’s odd. And without totally getting into it here, I think we just need to take a step back and look at who’s doing things correctly, who’s teaching you ways to complete services in a way that’s going to maximize your output, maximize your income, as opposed to someone who’s really trendy and just is good at getting attention. And so finding a mentor is really about looking for and seeking out high quality education and making the appeal to them because a mentor might not be somebody obvious, right? It might not be a brand educator and it might not be a platform artist. It could just be someone who graduated from your school two classes ahead of you and just has a really good handle on things. Look for people who are continuously successful in their businesses and who have the mentality of wanting to share. There’s a lot of gatekeeping in our industry, as we’ve mentioned. And so finding a mentor to me is probably going to be harder than completing beauty school just because you’re going to probably find a few different people who might fit the bill, and you’ll just find out that you don’t mesh personality-wise, or you don’t understand their teaching style, or whatever it might be. Seeking out a mentor is something that is like your resume. It’s never finished, and so you may have several mentors. You may have several mentors at once, but that’s my biggest chunk of advice to anybody looking to enter our industry or in the process of doing so, find someone that you can bounce ideas off of and someone that you can collaborate with. It will do nothing but positive things for you and your career.

JAIME: Ashley, let’s transition into what you want to discuss about networking because I think that follows directly from what you’ve just said about trying to find a mentor. First of all, recognizing what it is that you’d want from one and then, you know, where do you find that person? Where do you find information? And I think you accomplish that best through networking. 

ASHLEY: Well, you’re very sneaky because you can see my list and I can see yours.

JAIME: I can, I can, but I, but I think what you just said flows more neatly into what you want to say next, as opposed to what I want to say next, which I think will flow after this. So.

ASHLEY: I agree with you. I was just thinking the same thing. So when it comes to seeking out a mentor, the beauty school can feel very isolating and you can feel like nothing exists beyond the four walls of your school. But then if you go to industry events like trade shows or external classes, you have a choice. You can either stick with your group and be a wallflower or you can get into those situations and really squeeze as much juice, which I hate that phrase, but that’s really what it is. Squeeze as much juice out of the opportunity as you can, which is to introduce yourself to others in the class. Follow each other on social media. Find a way to connect with them outside of that class, because you can build a network of support, contacts that you can lean on that can help you with maybe technical questions, industry advice, best practices, jobs, potentially down the line. Especially if you are looking to start out in our industry as a renter, maybe you’ve built clientele through your time in school or through social, that’s happening more and more in our industry and we have to understand that. I guess our industry is as isolating as you make it to be. So if you’re sitting in your suite by yourself wondering if you’re doing things correctly, or if you’re feeling lonely, whatever you’re up against, we have the option to network with each other and it can be through industry associations. It can be through events, like I mentioned. It can just be through Instagram, reaching out to someone and saying, hey, I really love your work. I think that we have a lot of the same thoughts on our industry. I would love to be able to connect with you more frequently and just bounce ideas off each other. Because we know having partners, and families, and friends that aren’t in the industry, they can be empathetic to what we’re going through or what we’re up against, but no one really understands the ins and outs of our industry, and the little annoying things, and the little client things like someone else who deals with it on a daily basis. And so if you want to make a network, make a family of industry members, it can only serve you.

JAIME: Well, making a family of this industry goes along with this idea of making a career of this industry. And I always thought that whatever it was that I was doing in the moment, I would apply myself wholeheartedly and take the long view, even though I might’ve thought at the time, you know, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do it really well, but it may not be what I’m doing 10 years from now. But that’s okay because I’m going to approach it like my life depends on it and this is what I have to do in order to be successful. And in developing your skills and learning about the industry, oftentimes, students are told from the beginning that, you know with a little effort, they’re going to be making six figures, and there’s all this talk about potential in the industry, and not enough about actual performance, like what are you actually accomplishing as you work through beauty school and as you launch into your first workplace environment, whether you’re an employee or you’re venturing out and renting space right away, which is very bold. I don’t recommend it for everyone. So I think there’s this idea that if you want to have longevity in the industry, there are certain things that you need to do. Of course, the continual learning, the developing a network, and that sort of thing, but you also don’t want to burn yourself or other people out on grandiose ideas of what you’re going to be able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time. 

ASHLEY: This so true. Your student loan repayment doesn’t care about your potential. It cares about your performance. And I see a lot of that being advertised as well. And it, it makes me think about if you happened to catch, Jaime, the LuLaRich documentary on Amazon Prime. It’s some of the same rhetoric I’m seeing from MLM, of you have the potential to make six figures, from your phone, 10 hours a week. We’re being sold on this idea that the sky’s the limit. And to some extent, that is true, but to bring it back to reality a little bit. There’s a general range as far as income potential in our industry, based on where you’re located, your specialty, your marketing skills, and to tell someone that they’re going to be making six figures the moment they walk out of school with their license in hand, people saying that have some sort of ulterior motive and in general, something to sell you.

JAIME: Yeah, where’s the money back guarantee on that? And if that were true, why don’t the labor statistics reflect that kind of income potential? It’s because it’s very few people will ever achieve that like the top of the pyramid in a pyramid scheme. And yes, I did watch LuLaRich and I loved every minute of it, and I have to tell you there’s a bit of schadenfreude watching something like that, because I think smarter people might tell themselves, I would never fall for that. But it doesn’t have to be that obvious for someone to get invested into something or to believe in themselves to the extent that it’s not realistic and that they’re not appreciating the opportunities that do come their way, that while not as flashy or exciting really would help them build that solid foundation they need to make a lifelong career out of the beauty industry.

ASHLEY: I love the idea of knowing that the sun kind of rises and sets with ourselves as individuals in this industry. And it is a very singular path that we walk, even though there are several other people on the path with us moving at different speeds, going in different directions, but your success or your failure is yours to own. And so there are predatory institutions, whether they be schools, or coaching programs, or systems, or other parts of our industry that basically tell you that exact thing, but make it your problem if you’re not reaching the heights or hitting six figures month one. It’s just because you don’t want it badly enough, and because you’re not working hard enough, and it would be nothing if you were serious. I could actually turn this into one of the things I had listed, which is trust your instincts and question anything that can’t be cited with state board regulations, labor laws, statistics, like you mentioned. Because there’s a lot of, well, they said going on in our industry and it has been for years and years, or this is how we’ve always done it. Or, uh, don’t worry about what the state board requirements are. This is what we actually do, and then when the inspector comes, and we do, you know, what it says in the book. Trust your instincts. This is why I only lasted two weeks in a salon setting. It’s because I knew something didn’t add up here. And it was because I was being misclassified, or actually, not misclassified, I was just being compensated illegally. I thought, how can anybody make any money in this industry if you’re only making $12 a service and nothing when you’re not doing the service? How does anybody pay their bills? Even though it was a big, beautiful, West Loop Chicago salon with amazing interiors and stylish and trendy stylists, it was still wrong. It was still illegal. And even though it’s like, oh, this is how we’ve always done it, and you’re looking around, and this whole huge thing is built upon this lie. If it feels wrong, it’s wrong. And trust your instincts, trust your gut, and then verify with something that you know is correct like laws, and regulations, and the things that are on the books because just because it’s the way our industry has been run for years and years doesn’t mean it’s right.

JAIME: Any claim that’s made, if it could be validated at all, chase that down. Look it up because as you said, regulations and laws, those are in black and white. We know the legitimacy of those, but any claims that seem questionable, seem too good to be true, there may be a place where they have to validate those claims and they’d have to sign under the penalty of perjury that a certain percentage of their students pass their exams or that they are gainfully employed after leaving the school. I recently, as part of our research on the practical exam, signed up for and am receiving emails from a company that offers test prep after beauty school. And one of their sales pitches is that according to their statistics, which I have not verified, 50% of beauty school students fail their first licensing exam.


JAIME: What a great pitch. Like don’t waste your, like, you know, you need us. You need us because 50% of cosmetology students fail their licensing exam. And I thought, okay, whoa, whoa, whoa. Okay, if in fact this were true, which let’s say it were true, that’s pretty damning on the beauty schools. What a racket. 

ASHLEY: It’s feeding into that same mentality of like, you know, you’re fully responsible for any success or failure because hey, dumb, dumb. You’re probably gonna fail the test. How predatory and sad, but it’s everywhere you look. It’s pretty sad and so.

JAIME: Let me go back to your analogy of like walking this path, and I think it’s because the path can diverge so much and people can get stuck in certain places, and get comfortable in certain places. I guess whether you feel stuck or comfortable is just all a matter of your personal opinion. And because it’s so divergent for each of us, I think that’s where so many get lost and in getting lost, we might do things along the way that looking back on, we wouldn’t be so proud of, or wouldn’t do again if given the second chance. So I’d like to think that we’re a more principled industry than we actually are, but in order to do that, we have to develop our own code of ethics, our own moral compass to get us where we want to go in this industry, and we have to hold ourselves accountable to it because really no one else will, perhaps state board at most, or maybe the IRS, but we have to hold ourselves to this code and then hold others accountable. As you’re networking, as you’re seeking out a mentor, as you’re verifying information, compare that to, you know, what your code would require in terms of does that meet the standard for what I consider to be professional behavior.

ASHLEY: Oh, it’s just such good advice because you have to know what you stand for, otherwise, you’ll fall for a lot in our industry. There are people out there that are selling success. They’re selling large incomes. They’re selling work four hours a day and make, you know, a 100K. You have to know who you are first and build that foundation before you start inviting others into your career. And that’s exactly what we do when we sign up for salon systems or we sign up for a specific brand that we want to wrap or retail or use in our salons. We have to know exactly what it is that we will and will not compromise on as beauty professionals before we start relying on others and letting them into our business and letting them into the intimate parts of our businesses. It’s exciting when you get out of school. You’re very eager. You want to hit the ground running. You feel so empowered, and I don’t want to take away from that feeling. I just want students to understand that we all make mistakes in this industry, and we all choose to invest in a product line, or choose to invest in a location that ends up not working out. And if we could avoid, or we can help you avoid, some of those pitfalls, then our job is done. We’ve done what it is that we need to do to ensure the future of the industry is bright. But everybody’s journey is different and everybody’s path is different. And so that’s why we have so many, I don’t even know how to put this in like a way that makes sense, but I think that’s why there’s such potential to be taken advantage of it’s because even though there are millions of us in this country doing the exact same job, it’s because we are individually licensed. It’s because we are individually educated and we all have different state requirements. We all have different philosophies and outlooks that it can feel so singular and that we kind of fall for some of these things that these just total scammers in our industry are allowed to get away with.

JAIME: All that freedom puts the responsibility on you to make better decisions. And that starts with what school you choose to attend, what specialty you want to pursue. And as we move through our careers, it’s just a series of decisions and it never ends. It really never ends. And what I like about the industry is that you can forge your own path. You can create success for yourself, but at the same time, you do need to own your mistakes. And I don’t want to have those who follow us on their path. It’s going to diverge in ways that I couldn’t even have imagined because this year would have been my 30th. Well, my 30th anniversary of having attended beauty school. So it’s been awhile. It’s been a minute, Ashley. You know, I, I don’t want to hold the gate. I want to like knock the gate down, create more paths, widen the path to do whatever we can to give people options, but also the tools to make their journey that much more enjoyable and successful.

ASHLEY: Well, we are creating a fabulous community of Insiders, of listeners, of just cool beauty pros who get it. And all of that conversation is happening on our social media, mostly on Instagram. And we’d love if you could follow us and comment there on recent episodes or on whatever you like. Our Instagram is at @outgrowthpodcast.

JAIME: If you’re enjoying Outgrowth, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts with one click. We make it really easy for you. Just visit bit.ly/outgrowthpodcast.

ASHLEY: Well, this was a heavier discussion than I was anticipating. I thought, oh, let’s give some students a really big, like, yay, you can do it. But it is based in reality and it’s something that I think is really important even if you haven’t been a student in a very long time, to just sort of level set and come back and think like, hmm, are there some ways that I could shape this up or some things that I could cut out of my career that just don’t serve me anymore.

JAIME: Whenever I get overwhelmed, I’m always thinking about that, Ashley.

ASHLEY: Oh, I know. Okay, everybody. Until next week, be smart. 

JAIME: Be safe.




Described as the best beauty podcast in 2020, Outgrowth Podcast is for hairstylists, nail techs, estheticians, massage therapists and lash technicians. Hosted by beauty industry experts Ashley Gregory Hackett and Jaime Schrabeck, PhD, this salon industry podcast has helpful  interviews with guests that teach topics from increasing salon clientele, salon marketing, covid guidelines, beauty industry insights, starting a salon, renting a salon suite, salon Instagram tips, and how to run a successful salon. Join us for weekly episodes of hair podcasts, nail podcasts, esty podcast, and more.

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