What it’s like to work at MJS: A stylist’s POV
09.01.10 | When you have a great job, you come in each day knowing what to expect, and at the same time, poised for the unexpected.
During my days as an assistant, the unexpected was not what I was looking for, yet it lurked everywhere. I could lose control of the shampoo hose, drenching a client: that would be unexpected! I could arrive in the laundry room to find the dryer’s gone haywire: that would be unexpected! Or maybe a water main somewhere in the financial district has burst and everyone will be getting a cold water rinse today: definitely unexpected. I worried about the unexpected before entering work each day until I finally figured something out. Work hard, listen closely, and you’ll be fine. Everyone at Mitchell John is actually nice and they respect you, because most of them started out as assistants, several at MJ. They remember their own mistakes and they help you feel better when you inevitably make yours.
Being an assistant isn’t an easy job, but once I’d learned the ins and outs of my salon, it became manageable. That was not my ultimate goal, however. Where I wanted to get, where all the hard work was leading, was a position behind the chair. And, after a year, when at last I earned that privilege, there I was once again, a babe in the woods. It is said that MJ is a great salon for education, but I had no idea how precious all my cutting classes with Mitch were until I was a stylist. If I hadn’t been paying attention, every client I had would have simply been a reminder of how little I knew. Instead, each one was an opportunity to learn.
Raptly, I watched the stylists around me to see how they handled different types of hair, how they executed a certain cut or placed a foil. I even listened for the manner that they used speaking with their clients. And how comforting to hear one of them seeking the opinion of another on a color formula! Nobody’s done learning here. When you’re done learning, you’re dead. When you’re no longer looking for something new, you might as well hand in your shears.
Now, three years in, I come to work each morning with a well-earned sense of calm. The names in my appointment book are friendly and familiar; they are people who got engaged, traveled to China, have children; they love their gardens or their jet skis, they have wild stories of last weekend or of how-I-got-that-scar. They are my regulars and I look forward to the familiarity we share and of the control I have over the outcome of their familiar heads of hair.
On the same day, in my appointment book, I also welcome the unexpected. The mysterious walk-in, the folks who ask me “What would you do with my hair?” Clients who want to get creative with their color, or try bangs, or just need something, anything new. They sit down in my chair I think, how lucky and what a pleasant surprise that I get to be the one to give them that.
I recently came back from a three-month maternity leave and many of my clients ask me, “Was it hard to come back?” Of course, I say, it’s hard to leave my daughter in the morning, but coming back is a lot easier when you have great job.
- Paige Enright, stylist