90 Days.

For those of you unfamiliar with New Zealand Employment legislation, 90 days is the period of time during which a new employee is essentially ‘on trial’. The intent of the legislation is to enable employers to take the risk of employing a new staff member who may not have been given an opportunity should the trial period not be available. If, at the end of the trial period, the employee should prove unsuitable, the employer is able to release the employee without having to go through the normal extensive process of dismissal. There is a caveat to this, of course. During the trial period, the employer must give feedback and provide any training or advice needed in order to bring the employee up to standard. Should they not do this and dismiss the employee at the end of the trial period, the employer risks a potentially damaging appointment with the employment tribunal.

The reason I bring this up after an extended time between posts is because I have just completed my trial period in the new job. If it wasn’t for the 90 day trial, I doubt I would have received the opportunity I did with Bascik Transport, so I’m quite happy with that particular piece of legislation. I’m very pleased to say that the powers that be at Bascik’s have decided to keep me on as an auditor/driver.

Those of you who have followed my earlier posts will notice the new word ‘auditor’ in the job description. Well, it’s been an eventful 3 months. I started off in the trucks for about 3 weeks, some of it driving, some of it assisting the other drivers. Then, one day, I was called in to the office to fill in for absent admin staff. I spent a week in there answering phones and learning some of the administration side of things. After that, I was asked to assist in the warehouse helping out the auditor. Auditing involves checking the inwards freight to make sure the consignment note matches what freight is being delivered. So lots of measuring, weighing, counting and organising. We also make sure the freight is properly labelled and goes to the right place. It’s not difficult in an intellectual sense, but it can be hectic at times, particularly at the end of the day when lots of freight comes in all at the same time. One has to be observant and a tendency towards being a bit OCD is probably helpful.

According to the Ops Manager, I’m fairly competent at this part so they’ve decided to keep me in that role, with the occasional escape into one of the trucks if we’re short on drivers.

The future looks good. There are plans afoot and opportunities are available to me should I wish to pursue them. I feel a loyalty to this company: they took a gamble in giving a chance to a forty-something year old hairdresser with no logistics experience and I appreciate that.

Bascik Transport specialise in the movement of fragile freight, particularly from Auckland to the South Island and return. We have three South Island ‘hubs’ in Nelson/Blenheim, Christchurch and Dunedin. This week, things got turned upside down.

The tragic major earthquake that struck the East Coast of the South Island at the beginning of the week caused fatalities and extensive damage to infrastructure, including road and rail. Our ability to freely move freight has been disrupted and alternatives have had to be found. We are still moving but we’re doing it differently. Everyone has banded together and getting to work. It’s still quite fluid, and aftershocks are continuing, but we do what we have to.

From a personal development point of view, I’ve been observing how the crisis has been managed and tried to learn as much as I can about how the company is going about this. Obviously, I’m not privy to all of the information but it’s been interesting nonetheless.

So that’s the last three months in a nutshell. I didn’t want this to be a blog full of daily irrelevancies, so I will only write when I have something important or amusing to share. Stay well and keep on trucking.

First Week In.

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After a week in the new job I’m kind of champing at the bit. I want to get on with it and start working autonomously. Unfortunately, I don’t know how quickly that will happen. Hopefully soon.

The job is simple. Driving a truck is not complicated, you just have to be more aware of things like size, momentum and cornering, following and stopping distances. Loading is also simple, although it will take time to get my speed up on the fork hoist. I’m taking my time on that as being slow is better than damaging product. The only thing that requires a little concentration is the paper work, but again, it’s not difficult.

So, I’ve spent the week with Carl, one of the drivers. I can see why I was put with him. Efficient and productive, he will instil good habits in me before I have the chance to develop bad ones. Carl’s a top bloke. Works hard, puts in the hours, an asset to the business. Family man too. He doesn’t talk shit either, which helps when you’re spending all day in a truck with him.

For the first couple of days, I was chauffeur driven around the place while he was showing me the ropes. As the week progressed, I got to do more driving and for the last couple of days we shared the driving pretty much evenly. No problems, no stress.

Already, I have been able to pick up on who the good, the bad and the ugly people are. Everybody does their job, just some more than others. As with all workplaces, you get a variety of dedication. Some do what is required to stay employed and get paid and no more. Others are more in tune with what they need to do to help move the company forward and make it successful. A few of them have the odd whinge about some of the things they have to do, but it’s nothing I wouldn’t expect to have to do as part of the job, so I can’t really see what they’re complaining about. So what if you have to go to some dingy corner of Auckland to pick up or deliver? It’s not your truck or fuel and you’re getting paid by the hour. Just get on with it. There’s plenty of other things that will make your life difficult without looking for small issues to get pissed off about.

I’ve not encountered any animosity yet. Everyone has been welcoming, if a little surprised at my change of career direction. As usual, my name has created confusion for some, but they are learning. I can’t really take the high ground on that, as I’ve been introduced to around twenty coworkers and already forgotten half of their names. But that will come in time.

Out on the road it’s pretty standard. Normal Auckland traffic and weather issues but nothing unusual. I haven’t hit or damaged anything yet although I’m sure it will happen at some stage. But I’ll do my best to prevent it. We had one issue where we went to do a pick up and it wasn’t ready. We went back later and it still wasn’t ready. We asked them to call us back when it was, which they did and when we got there the guy asked us if we needed to know the location of where it was being sent to. Well, yes, that would be helpful. Clearly, common sense is not that common.

Suppliers usually pack their own product for us to pick up, some better than others. We had one pickup where the pallet had been stacked up pretty high and the boxes on the bottom where getting crushed. We questioned it, as we don’t want to get blamed for damaged product when it gets to the receiver. But the supplier said it was fine. I took a bunch of photos on my phone at the pickup point with the suppliers in frame so if there’s any comeback we’re covered. But aside from that, there’s been no complications.

I’m enjoying being out and about. My knowledge of Auckland will no doubt be greatly enhanced by this job. I’ve already learned new ways around that I didn’t know of before.

I’m pleased with my decision to change career. I’ve got a new lease on life, I’m happier and I look forward to going to work again. I’m excited to get a truck allocated to me so I can ‘fly solo’. As much as I like Carl, I want to start progressing in my new career. To do that, I need to prove myself capable. I think I may be floating from truck to truck to begin with. I haven’t noticed any spare trucks so they may use me to cover for drivers on leave. I’m not sure of the exact number of drivers but if you have 10 drivers then you’ve got forty weeks of holiday leave to cover for and then sick/bereavement leave on top of that. That’s close to a year of full time driving alone. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

See you in a week.

The End Is Nigh

So tomorrow is my last day as a hairdresser and I have to say this is excruciating. Not the job, not the people, but having to tell clients that this is the last time I’ll be doing their hair. Some of them have been with me for twenty years or more and a few of them have not taken it well at all. Tears and everything. Which makes me feel like a right arsehole. It’s almost like a relationship break up.

On the other hand, I’d feel worse if I just left without saying anything. That would definitely make me an arsehole. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

My week was practically booked out as people wanted to get in for one final appointment before I leave. I’m trying to come up with the best options for them as to where to go from here. We have a few alternatives in house and hopefully we find a replacement for me shortly. While an advert has been in place for a few weeks, there is unfortunately a shortage of qualified senior stylists out there. So if anyone’s looking for a job…

The reaction from clients has been fairly consistent. Lot’s of, “Well done, good on you, best of luck”, along with plenty of, “We hate you for leaving…”. What can I say to that?

Some of my clients have been through a lot in life. They’ve confided in me and I’ve been their one consistency in life when all else has changed around them. Now I’m going as well.

Tomorrow will be difficult on a few different levels. It’s going to be busy so I won’t have much time to dwell on the emotional aspect until the end of the day. I’ll be having a few leaving drinks with my co-workers after and it will be hard to end my working relationships with them, but at least I know there will be times when I can catch up with them so it’s not ‘goodbye’ as such.

I’ve worked with many different people over the past 23 years. All different in their own way but united in their profession. There are always characters in any profession and hairdressing is no different. I’m lucky to have worked with the people I’ve met over the years. I’ve enjoyed the banter. Some workplaces can be a bit stale but that’s definitely not the case here. Hopefully, my next job will have a similar atmosphere. If not, I’ll try and make it that way. Personalities make the work environment much more interesting.

I will have one day on Sunday to gather my thoughts and prepare for my new career. People have said I should have taken a few days off to rest in between jobs but I don’t do things that way. I’d rather stay in a work frame of mind and get on with it.

To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s fully sunken in yet. It probably won’t until Monday when I arrive at my new job. For now, I’ll just enjoy the last day with my clients and colleagues.

That’s about all for now. My next entry will probably be on Monday night after my first day as a truckie. If I survive it…

Chemical Warfare.

In an earlier post I mentioned the role chemistry plays in hairdressing. Most of the products we use contain various chemicals that are essential to the services we offer. Some are fairly benign, others are quite active, but they all play a role in what we do. The chemicals and processes have become a lot more refined than they used to be. Compared to modern products, the chemical services used 20 or more years ago could be likened to sledgehammer therapy. Modern products usually contain enough chemicals to do the job and no more, lessening the possibility of over-processing and damage to the hair. Which is all well and good, provided you know what you’re doing.

It’s a common misconception amongst clients that when you have a chemical service done in a salon, we go out to the back room, open a box and put the contents on your head. That’s simply not the case. Boxed colours that you purchase off the shelf at chemists or supermarkets bare about as much resemblance to what we use in the salon as a Toyota Corolla does to a Formula 1 racing car. We will mix any number of different colours together with any of a number of different developers in order to give you a mix that is individual to your hair type and the colour you want to become. You can’t get that out of a box. The mix we use is based on a bunch of different factors; your hair type and natural colour, percentage of grey hair, presence of previous artificial colour, condition of your hair, whether you are going lighter or darker and, of course, the final colour you want to become.

This, however, doesn’t prevent people from attempting to replicate what we do in the privacy of their own home with products purchased from their local store. Sometimes it works okay in the case of a simple application. Sometimes the results can be calamitous. And amusing.

I want to share with you some stories of what I’ve seen over the last 23 years. I’ll leave the names out as they are irrelevant, but the actions speak the loudest.

I’ll start with a mild little incident that gave me a hell of a shock early in my career. It was one of the first permanent waves I carried out on a client. I wound the rods into the hair, applied the solution and set the timer. When I came back to check I was rather shocked to see the hair had turned pink. Hiding my concern, I checked the hair, told the client it needed a few more minutes and went out the back to my senior stylist and said, “Her hair has gone f**king pink!”. The stylist informed me that it was quite normal as the client in question lived in a house that used bore water and the metallic compounds in the water react to the perming solution to create the pink colour. It rinsed out without a trace. Would have been nice if I could have been informed of that earlier.

So that was harmless enough. But when someone tries to perm their own hair at home…

One day a lady walked in the door wearing one of those woven hats that cover most of your head. That’s not unusual, but it was the middle of summer. I asked how I could help her. She sat down and proceeded to tell me a story I will never forget. After having her hair permed for years, she had decided she didn’t want to fork out the money for it anymore. So she went and bought herself a home perming kit. Fair enough. Problem is, she didn’t really have a clue what she was doing. So she wound the rods into her hair and applied the solution. So far, so good. Here’s where she made the mother of all mistakes. She was under the impression that the amount of curl you get depends on how long you leave the solution on for, when it’s actually the size of the rod that dictates the curl. Small rod gives a tight curl, large rod gives a loose curl. So she put the little plastic cap on and went to bed, leaving the solution on overnight. Keep in mind that the solution contains thioglycolic acid and is designed to be left on for around ten to twenty minutes depending on the hair. The expression on my face when she told me this must have been a sight to behold. Needless to say, when she awoke in the morning and removed the cap, all the rods fell out and she was left with nothing but the occasional small tuft of hair no more than a few millimetres long.

She then removed the hat exposing her near bald head and asked me if I could fix it. Certainly Madam, let me fetch my magic wand.

Sometimes a catastrophe can occur when a client lies to their stylist. Around the same time that the above incident occurred, a lady came in for a permanent wave. As she had a regrowth, my co-worker asked what colour she used in her hair. The client said she didn’t have any colour in her hair.

“But you have a regrowth”.

“No, that was from my last colour a month ago. I don’t have any colour in my hair”.

“The hair on the midlengths and ends has colour on it so you do have colour in your hair”.

“Okay, fine. Whatever”.

So the stylist asked the client what sort of colour it was. The client said it was done in a salon and she had permed it before with that colour on. So the stylist proceeded with the service. I must point out here that certain colours react violently with the neutralising solution used in permanent waving. So those types of colour aren’t used in professional salons as we like our services to be compatible. The colour that this client had used was actually a henna type colour that she had purchased from a health shop as they are chemical free. They are also full of metallic compounds. There is a reason why we don’t use metal combs during chemical services. They react with the chemicals. So this lady had lied to her stylist. When the stylist had completed the application of the neutraliser, she noticed that some of the rods had started to bubble and fizz. In the matter of seconds it took to get the client from her chair to the basin and apply water, the rods had already started to fall off her head. She ended up with what we call in the industry a ‘chemical haircut’. The reaction had dissolved the hair from the regrowth line and she ended up with hair around 1 cm long. While she was understandably upset, this whole sorry episode could have been avoided if she told the truth.

Colouring is no different. You’ve no doubt seen people walking around with very strange looking brassy coloured hair. They most probably had dark hair and decided to buy a box of colour in an attempt to turn themselves blonde. Lightening the hair is the most difficult and potentially damaging colour service you can do so please leave it to a trained professional. I have had colour corrections that have been so complicated, labour intensive and required so much product that the cost has exceeded $500.00 whereas if they had of come to me to get the job done professionally first it would have cost them less than $150.00. Likewise, if you have very blonde or bleached hair, don’t buy a box of brown colour and put it on at home. You will end up a not very fashionable shade of khaki green.

Some say colouring is an art form. Maybe. It is creative for sure. But it is a science more so. The techniques and knowledge of the chemicals used takes years of formal training to get to the colour specialist stage. Don’t be fooled when you hear the term ‘colour technician’. That is merely a trainee who has completed their colouring assessment during the course of their standard training. They are competent in the application of colour services but their knowledge is limited.

So they are some of the more memorable moments involving chemicals. There have been many occasions I have had to fix home colour jobs but they are relatively straight forward if not time consuming. Occasionally, I have had to do corrections on colour jobs done by professional stylists but that is rarer and usually less problematic. People are reluctant to return to a salon to get a colour fixed up, even if it will be done free of charge, which it should be, due to a loss of confidence in the ability of the stylist. They will often go somewhere else to have it corrected and pay more again. This is where I have picked up many colour clients over the years, through correcting botched colour jobs.

 

 

 

Back Story (cont)

And so it was that in the early days of this revolution I started hairdressing. I was thrown into an industry where the modern, independent, career woman wanted a hairstyle that looked amazing all the time with minimal to no input. Enter the ‘power bob’ and the ‘urchin’ cut. Both low maintenance styles that held their shape well despite almost anything you threw at it. Not entirely expressive though, so people turned to creative colouring to put their individuality to their hairstyle. I saw the potential there and undertook further training in advanced colouring to give myself more tricks of the trade. A further benefit of this additional training was more in-depth knowledge of colour correction. This allowed me to correct the mistakes of others and was a great source of clients. Believe me, when a lady walks in with khaki coloured hair and you send her out looking fabulous, she will stay with you for life. She won’t think the World revolves around you, but she will think it revolves around the Sun that happens to shine out of your arse.

Coming into the industry at that time was an advantage, I think, in as much as you were exposed to more styles over a shorter period of time, not having to wait for years for another look to come out. Previously, you would have had to spend 30 years in the industry to encounter the same amount of styles that you could see in 5 years in the 90’s. Hairstylists of my generation are quite adaptable by necessity and benefited from a high standard of training at the time, with industry leaders often showing their methods at various hands on courses and shows provided by suppliers such as Wella, Schwarzkopf, Redken, L’Oreal and so on.

From then on, I established my position as a colour specialist, continuing to build a loyal clientele, some of whom have been with me from the start. I’m going to miss all of them, but some more than others.

During the latter years of my hairdressing career, I have started cutting the hair of children who’s parents hair I cut when they were children. It’s about then you start thinking, “I’ve been doing this for a while now, haven’t I?”. It’s not unusual for me to have three generations of the same family come to me as clients. Ask any hairstylist and they will tell you one of the great challenges in hairdressing is cutting young children’s hair. Some of them are great, some are impossible, the rest are fairly evenly spread in between. But it’s the screamers that get to you. I’m not entirely sure what goes through the head of a young child when they come to the hairdresser. We don’t hurt them. We give them a lollipop at the end for a treat. Yet they still think we are evil torturers spawned from the depths of Hell with the sole aim of destroying them. Generally, the only thing that gets injured during a child’s haircut is my eardrums. Occasionally they will move quickly which can result in me taking a chunk out of my finger with the scissors. Most hairstylists use techniques when cutting children’s hair that ensures the stylists hand is between the scissors and the child’s head so the child is less likely to get injured. Doesn’t help the stylist much though. And don’t get me started on headlice. So we charge less for a child’s haircut which often takes longer and is far more disruptive to business than an adults haircut. Go figure.

But that’s the bad one’s. Now, I’m going to tell you about Daniel.

I first met Daniel when he was maybe 2-3 years old. He walked in the door with his Dad and sat in the reception area. I came out from the backroom and seeing a toddler at the front of shop immediately thought,”Great, here we go…”. Putting on my friendliest face and voice, I said, “Hello young man. Are you having a haircut today?” This blonde haired, blue eyed kid looked at me, smiled and said, “Yes please”. First shock over for me, I asked him to come and sit in the high chair, which he did. Put the cape on him and he didn’t freak out, totally relaxed. Then, without any prompting and quite clearly, he asked me what my name was. I told him. He repeated it back to me perfectly. Most adults I meet screw that part up. Okay, sure, my name is unusual but it’s not that hard. I guess sometimes people struggle with two syllables…

This very young child then proceeded to have a mature, coherent conversation with me. Asked me how my day was going, told me about his. We discussed various topics during his time there and it was like talking to a very small adult. Amazing. He sat perfectly still, put his head where it needed to go and co-operated fully and without protest. When we were finished he got down, looked up and said, “Thank you, Carlin”. I was blown away. I asked his Father, Dennis, how he did it. Apparently, Daniels always been that way. If someone could guarantee that I would have a child like that, I may relinquish my long held opinion that having a child is not for me. But, unfortunately, we can’t pick and choose.

Dan has continued having his hair cut with me, along with his Dad, for more than a decade now. I’ve watched him grow and develop into a well mannered, highly capable young man who will go far in life. It’s clients like these that will be the greatest loss for me.

I’m very fortunate. The vast majority of my clients are great people, lot’s of fun and I can joke around with them. I never have a day when I wake up and think, “Oh, no, I’ve got that person coming in today”. Some of them are hilarious, others a little more straight laced and some are downright filthy minded. I can relate to all of them but the hilarious and filthy minded make my day. Kindred spirits, they are. My kind of people.

There’s not many industries where you have physical contact with your clients. The medical field obviously. That other one as well. It breaks down barriers instantly. Within seconds of a client walking through the door my hands are on their head, touching their hair. They could be a total stranger when they walk in, but by the time they leave I will know plenty about them. Discretion is a very important part of the profession. I know things about people that I will never repeat. To do so would have a substantial impact on some peoples relationships and reputations.

I’ve been propositioned more times than I can recall, particularly in the earlier years. It still happens, but with less regularity. I must be losing my sex appeal.

You become a surrogate son, father, brother, uncle, boyfriend, husband, life coach, psychologist and just about anything else, most of which I’m not professionally qualified to do, but that’s what happens when people open up to you. You fill a gap in their lives. They value your opinion above many others, even if those people are more experienced and trained, so you have to be careful what advice you give as you don’t want to lead them down the wrong path.

I was once fortunate enough to attend a lecture taken by Andrew Collinge. An extremely talented stylist and businessman, Andrew told us how, at a younger age, he was called upon to do the hair of Margaret Thatcher, who was Prime Minister of England at the time. She had a function on and her usual hairstylist was away. Apparently, she asked him what he would do differently with her hair. Andrew gave her some ideas and said he’d be happy to do it for her. Ms Thatcher thought about it for a while, then decided not to as she “didn’t want to upset her normal hairdresser”.

So the ‘Iron Lady’, who sent an expeditionary force to the Falkland Islands to do war with Argentina, was not prepared to upset her stylist. Well played, Madge. Well played…

Back Story.

As I have a couple of weeks before I start in the new job, I should probably touch on my history in hairdressing. On the 6th of June, 1995, I was accredited with my Trade Certificate in Hairdressing after an apprenticeship of around two years. It normally takes three or so years but who wants to stay on an apprenticeship wage any longer than they need to? Hairdressing is not rocket science, but there are right and wrong ways of doing things and you need to know them. There is an element of the sciences, with chemistry and biology making cameo appearances throughout the theoretical training aspect. Chemicals are interesting things. Some chemicals get along fine with others, some don’t. Sometimes catastrophically so. I’ll touch on that more later.

The industry itself is one of the oldest in history. The medical field is older. I won’t mention the other industry that is of a similar age…, but needless to say, humankind has an extensive history of trying to make themselves look good, or at least better than usual. The reason is fairly basic. Most animals have plumage or other physical features in order to attract the most suitable mate. Humans are no different. There is an element of society who believe that how you look should have no bearing on how people perceive you, but I’ve yet to hear someone walk into a room and say, “I’ll bet that unkempt, scruffy looking person over there is great spouse material”. First impressions matter and if you walk around the streets with scruffy hair, baggy trackies and a shirt with stains on it you’re not going to make a great one. Pair that ensemble with some crocs on your feet and you will probably guarantee your celibacy for the foreseeable future.

So the industry was borne out of peoples desire to look good and attract/keep a partner. Styles change regularly and up until the 90’s you could tell what decade a hairstyle came from. The 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s all had defining looks. Some were atrocious, some not. But then the 90’s came around and things changed. Brought on by the likes of Madonna and various boy bands people became much more individual in their looks. Styles changed dramatically from year to year, even season to season. Since then, no one decade has had a defining ‘look’. This coincided with the changes in women’s outlooks towards staying at home or following a career. Ladies were no longer going to the hairdresser for their weekly set or blow-wave. They were now juggling a family, home and career. Styles had to be more versatile and easier to manage. A mini revolution was taking place in the hairdressing industry…

Hello world!

After 23 years as a Hairdresser/Barber I’ve decided to change direction. Completely. At the age of 44. This is my journey away from my comfort zone. Which was becoming uncomfortable, to be honest.

The thought entered my mind around a year ago. I’d done pretty much everything I could in the hairdressing industry and I was in danger of becoming stagnant. Problem was, what else could I do? I’d been a hairdresser for so long, it was my trade, I wasn’t qualified to do anything else. Then I thought about a few papers I did at Uni years ago. One was Operations Management. I enjoyed it quite a lot. Must have been the OCD kicking in…

So I began researching different industries. I came across Logistics and Supply Chain Management. “That looks interesting”, I thought. I may have even said it out loud. So, how to get into the industry? “I know. I’ll walk into their office and ask for a job as a truck driver!”, said no hairdresser, ever. Well, almost. Over a few months, I trained in heavy transport, forklift and dangerous goods licences and endorsements. After I had passed these (at the first attempt, I might add), I sent my CV off to a bunch of companies. Within ten days I had three interviews. Within two weeks I had three formal offers of employment. I chose the company who gave me the most opportunity to advance. Today, I had my induction. I start in two weeks. It’s been about one month since I sent out my CV.

So, that got me wondering; if a middle aged hairdresser with no experience can get a job as a truck driver, why is there such a thing as unemployment? Everyone has their different challenges in life and only they can answer that question as it relates to them. But still…, maybe we’re just a little too proud and selective when it comes to what we should do for a career. Are we looking to walk into a high level position without doing the hard yards first? Are we not prepared to get our hands dirty in order to progress? I’m not that proud. I know I’m going to have to start again from the bottom. It’s going to be tough, particularly financially, but that’s what it takes sometimes. The alternative is merely existing in your workplace, going through the motions, so to speak. Can’t do it. Won’t.

So, this is my blog, my journey if you will. Sounds a little cheesy, the whole ‘journey’ thing. But I’m not sure how else to describe it. My aim? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s just to help me stay motivated. Perhaps someone else will read this, realise they are avoiding the inevitable and take the steps they need to change their life for the better and get out of the rut they’re in. If so, well and good. If I can do it, well, you know…