The crowning glory of a coiffured career

Hairdressing practitioners can gain useful life experience and succeed far beyond the salon.

PEOPLE are born with different looks and characters but that’s also true of their talents or inclinations.

For example, not all students would be good in studies although that doesn’t mean they are dull. It’s simply because they aren’t academically inclined.

Such people don’t like to read and write words or calculate numbers, but they do like to draw, make crafts, or do things with their legs or hands. And they are very good in those practical things.

So, people with this sort of talent should be given every opportunity to develop their potential.

This is the opinion of Yovy Chin, who has been a hairdresser for eight years.

Chin believes many young people may be very artistic and talented in hairdressing without realising it because their ability never had a chance to be discovered by themselves or others.

That’s why she has given career opportunities to especially young school leavers interested in learning, to use their eyes and fingers in shaping hairdos and teasing out elegant looks in hair fashion.

Chin is always honest with young potential coiffeurs, whom she intends to take in as apprentices.

She advises them that every job has its beauty and plainness and the beauty of hairdressing is that it could be a very satisfying career because of the opportunity to make a decent living and lots of friends.

However, she cautioned that different customers have different personalities.

“Most are reasonable and pleasant but there are those who are harder to please. They may complain about you or scold you over the slightest things.

“But don’t take it personally. Treat the grumbling as part of the job. After all, which job doesn’t have challenges?”

In fact, Chin advises her apprentices to take the complaints from customers as a blessing in disguise to help them upgrade their service.

Most of the apprentices Chin has accepted for trial are Form 5 school leavers.

According to her, most stayed for only one or two months before quitting. Some were a little too sensitive and left because of her candid approach.

“How can you learn without your mistakes being pointed out and corrected? What can I do if they want to leave?

“I just see myself as giving these youngsters a chance to find out if they like what they are doing. It’s like enrolling for a free vocational course. They can quit anytime if they don’t like it.”

Chin with her staff (from left) Fam, Cynthia, and Eveylin.

Ready to teach

Chin said some places charged a fee for teaching learners but she doesn’t do that, adding, “In fact, I even give them some an allowance.”

She is ever ready to teach those who are willing to learn.

“There are many things to learn in hairdressing – like hair washing, hair chemical treatment, and hair trimming. These are tasks that require interest, patience, and perseverance.”

She said her student Fam Sze Joon showed all these attributes and has stayed on the longest.

“She has picked up all the required skills, including the trickiest techniques of haircutting,” Chin said of her protégé.

Several of her former students are now self-employed with one even running her own salon.

She is proud of them and is also happy to know she has helped to lay the foundations of their careers.

Chin currently has two apprentices – Eveylin Micloi and Cynthia Emily Sylvester – who are still schooling.
They came to her salon because they had an interest in hairdressing and wanted to make some pocket money.

She said that was another reason why she decided to not only continue providing free lessons but also giving some allowance to help learners make some side income.

She noted there were also those who wanted to take up hairdressing but could not afford to enrol in an academy.

Eveylin, 17, a school prefect, said she has worked part time at the salon for several months.

She thought it was a good idea to learn a profession while in still school so that when she left, it would be easier to find a job.

Her father passed away several years ago and she is the only daughter in a family of five siblings.

“Life’s hard without a father. I feel for my mum who has to work very hard to support us by selling vegetables at the Mile 10 bazaar. That’s why I have decided to work to help out.”

Eveylin said she liked to further her studies after Form 5 if she could get a scholarship otherwise she would have to quit school and get a full-time job.


Inspiration from lady boss

She added that she got plenty of inspirations from her lady boss and also learned the intricate art of hairdressing from her.

She also found the Internet a treasure trove of knowledge and has used it to learn more about styling hairdos.

“I’m here to learn something and earn some pocket money. Some people may think negatively about what I do. But I know what I’m doing and I want to help my family,” she said.

Her mother, who is supportive of her taking a part-time job, has even joked all the siblings could now have free haircuts at home.

“I can see myself being successful in this career five years from now. My dream is to open my own business one day,” Eveylin added.

Cynthia, 17, also a single mum’s child, said she started working at the salon during the long school holidays last year.

She needed to earn money to buy books and other school items. Her father died in an accident in Sri Aman when she was in Form 3 and she had to help the family – her mum and two siblings – make ends meet.

She said she would continue working at the salon until she completed Form 5 and see what comes next.

Cynthia feels lucky her mother is very supportive of her taking up hairdressing and has even suggested she could use the skill to set up a home-based business.



Cynthia found that most older people have a misconception about girls working in salons, thinking there’s no future in the job.

“According to them, I should just concentrate on my studies and not work but they are not in my shoes. What’s wrong with earning a living while schooling? Isn’t learning a skill also a form of education?”

Cynthia said she enjoys hairstyling and is always excited when learning new things from her lady boss, whom she described as very generous in sharing her knowledge and the many lessons of life.

For her, the most challenging part of hairdressing – usually the final thing to learn in a salon – is haircutting, which requires a certain technique of holding the scissors.

Cynthia admitted she was quite nervous when she started working in the salon, fearing customers would scold her for making mistakes.

“Fortunately, my boss was always there to watch and guide me, and I’m grateful for that.”

She has now gained a lot of self-confidence and is beginning to enjoy her work even more. She believes there is future in hairdressing – contrary to what some people think.


Ups and downs

Fam, 24, said she started working after Form 5 six years ago.

She said she dreamt of becoming a hairdresser when she was young. Now that she has finally gotten to live her dream, she said she would not quit just because hairdressing turned out to be less colourful than she had imagined.

“I’m already six years in this profession. There are the ups and downs, including, of course, unpleasant moments of being scolded by customers.

“But those challenging times have helped transform me from a very shy quiet person to one with self-confidence.”

She said her family was naturally supportive of her career choice as her grandfather and an uncle were barbers.

“It’s a job where the purpose is to make the client look good. You get a lot of job satisfaction if the client is happy with your work.”

Fam said although hairdressing may seem an unpromising profession, practitioners could gain useful experiences from it to succeed beyond the salon.


Career choice

Meanwhile, when asked what led her to pick hairdressing as a career, Chin said she had worked different jobs in Singapore after Form 5, but none had seemed to work for her.

Then one day, her boyfriend (now her husband) suggested she go to Kuala Lumpur to try her6 luck.

She took his advice and applied for several office jobs there but had no luck. She was still jobless after several interviews.

After that, her boyfriend suggested that she learn a skill. That was when she decided to enrol in a hairdressing academy in Kuala Lumpur.

When she told her family she was learning to be a hairdresser, they were not supportive at first because of the salon girl stigma.

“When you use your hard-earned money to pay for a course, you want to make sure you work hard and succeed,” Chin said, adding that she was already thinking of setting up her own salon at that time.

She pointed out that hairdressing has gone through many changes to keep up with changing tastes and fashion.

“Many new equipment and hair treatment tonics – even modern premises – are now available. The hairdressing industry is a huge global business and no one should look down on it anymore. Gone are the days when it was seen as only an occupation for the uneducated. There is always something to learn – new techniques and new trends that come into vogue.”

Chin said she always kept her eyes and ears open to new developments in the hairdressing industry. And she would make it a point to attend workshops or courses to remain relevant.


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