Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Pro-Tip for Students & Graduates

Get to know your instructors — build good relationships with them. You may want or need professional references and letters of recommendation after you graduate.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Overcoming Professional Performance Anxiety

Over the last decade, I've met and worked with hundreds of people. I've participated in local events, made friends with industry leaders through Facebook and Twitter, and impressed my work colleagues with my tech savvy and know-how.

I'm also an Introverted perfectionist with generalized, social anxiety. People I perceive as having any kind of authority intimidate me. While I still approach them with the utmost respect, it took a long time for me to loosen up around my current bosses (and their bosses).

I didn't come into this career with a lot of strong interpersonal skills -- like any skill, they had to be learned and practiced. Becoming a parent and working with young kids helped me develop other skills around empathy and communication in ways that I couldn't have predicted.

Some days are easier than others. I'm very good at being a duck: appearing calm and collected on the surface while paddling like crazy underneath. I've learned what things I can let go of and not take as seriously. When things go wrong, I approach the situation with my usual dry humor and say, "Thank you for your patience."

— And then there was the day at clinic when two massage tables broke down moments before we were due to take clients in to their sessions. It happens. It wasn't pretty in the moment, but we got through it and I got over it. The world did not come to an end, the school didn't close down or fire me, and the clients were likely none the wiser.

So what do you do when anxiety hits in-the-moment?

● Take some deep breaths. Drink some water. Clear yourself, if you're energetically inclined.

● Have a conversation. Build a relationship. Don't worry about making a sale or trying to impress every single person you come into contact with. Accept that you will connect with some people more easily than others; you're not going to be everyone's cup of tea (or coffee, or hot cocoa, etc.).

● Remember that when you're meeting prospective students and clients, they're probably more intimidated by you than you are of them. Think back to when you were in their shoes. What would you say to your past-self in encouragement?

● Remember your why: why did you choose this career path? Why did you say "yes" to this specific program? What did you envision at the end of your training? What does that professional-version of you look like? (A la Gramma Tala from Moana: "Who are you meant to be?")

● Call upon those pieces of you; bring in those characteristics. Square your shoulders and stand a little taller.

● Know that "Imposter Syndrome" is a valid fear -- that feeling of being a fraud in spite of everything you've accomplished thus far.

● Accept that you will make mistakes.

● And then push through it, anyway. It takes courage to stand up and put yourself out there. Each time you push through the discomfort and come out the other side, it gets easier.

"Fake it 'til you make it!" and "be yourself!" are cliches, but there is truth to them, making them effective strategies. You will stumble and struggle. Some tears may be shed. You are a real person with very big feelings and that's okay -- it's what makes you relatable, and that's what others are looking for.

Even professionals get anxiety. Even professionals make mistakes. Know that the best ones will see you, empathize with you, and encourage you to keep going.

"Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!"

- Ms. Frizzle, the Magic School Bus

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Sanitation Pep Talk!

The views expressed in this video are my own and do not reflect those of any particular massage school or my current employer, nor should they be construed as such.
Recorded on my day off with sub-optimal equipment and a coughing child off-screen; very loosely cut together because done is better than perfect. If every video were perfect, we wouldn't have ... uhh... Tik Tok?

If you can't watch the video, here is a summary of the points I make:

Why do we make students do sanitation duties and help clean the school?

Short Answer: because your potential employers have told us that they want you to have a good work ethic outside of your hands-on skills. Our advisory board of business owners and professionals tell us what they want to see in their employees. This is something they have specifically asked us to instill.

You could have the best massage skills ever, but if your space is dirty, dusty, or cluttered, clients won’t give you a chance to show off those skills. Making the best first impression includes upkeep and maintaining your work area, whether you’re self-employed, an employee, or an independent contractor.

As an example, I bought a gift certificate from a tattoo studio with a dirty, dusty lobby area; the only reason I finished my purchase was because the actual tattoo space was clean and sanitary. As another example, while my first paying massage gig didn't specify that employees were responsible for snow removal, it quickly became an issue of client safety.

I rent space and cleaning services are included in my rent. They vacuum my floor and take out my trash, as well as cleaning the bathrooms and other common areas. (I still have to do my own laundry, dust shelves, sanitize surfaces.)

Misconception: the school doesn't want to pay for a cleaning service. 
Our cleaning service comes three nights a week to do the grosser things like cleaning toilets and emptying the bins of used hygiene products.

Misconception: the other groups of students - aesthetics and cosmetology - don’t do sanitation duties. 
The other programs have their own lists of duties that they perform at different times than the massage classes; just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t do them.

“Your mom doesn’t work here — pick up after yourself.” Cleaning and maintaining a space introduces fundamental life skills that not everyone has had the opportunity to learn and put into practice. No judgement; just a fact. (I bring up laundry as an example, but there are other things we cover.)

Every employee in school has a job to do to keep things running smoothly. Not doing your fair share breeds resentment in the next person who comes along. Helping out garners appreciation and makes things easier for the next person. When you see someone cleaning, say thank you! It's an unpleasant job, but it has to be done.

We have potential students and their families, potential employers, representatives of other schools and companies, and accreditation representatives coming and going through the school throughout the day. With so much foot traffic along with classes, things get messy -- paper products run out, trash cans fill up, and carpets get dirty.

We want to impress the people coming in, but we also want you to take pride in your school. We wouldn’t be here without you -- and you probably wouldn’t be here if previous students had left things a mess during your tour. Doing a little bit throughout the day adds up and makes life easier for everyone. Team work. Take ownership, treat your school and work environment with respect.

When things break down, go missing, or if there’s a safety issue, let someone -- an instructor or administrator -- know that there’s a problem.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Why High Schoolers Should Consider Massage Training

This post was originally published in October 2014 on a now-defunct version of this site. It has been edited for clarity, but the tone is... more like the bright-eyed, 26-year-old massage school graduate that I once was. I was younger then, and full of hope.

My mom, Laurel; me in my high school graduation cap and gown; and my dad, David.

I graduated high school in 2006, and I remember very keenly all the buzz and options that surrounded the question, “What will you be doing after high school?”

College wasn’t exactly my dream, but I figured it was expected of me: my mother had her Bachelor’s and my dad was on his way to earning his second doctorate shortly before he passed away. I had a lot to live up to! I was in the top 10% of my class!

Well. My experience with my one year of private, out-of-state college did not go so smoothly. I’m still paying for it in many ways, including financially.

One of my passions right now is talking to teenagers about going into massage therapy. Like anything else, it has it upsides and down, so let me quickly go through them:

The Best Things About Massage Schooling

— Timing. My program was 600-hours long. I could choose between going full time, 8:00-5:00, a few days a week, and finish it within six months — or I could go part-time, in the evenings, and spread it out within a year. I went with the latter because I had my kiddo during the day and family could watch him at night. Some programs require 900-hours or more, so it’ll take you a little bit longer. It’s still better than having to wait four+ years for a piece of paper that says, “Hey, I know stuff! (You should hire me!)” Which leads me to...

— Certification. As soon as you graduate your program and get your state licensing and insurance and whatever else your state might require, you’re all set to start working as a massage therapist. The sooner you start working, the sooner you can start socking away money to pay your student loans. Speaking of...

— Cost. When I went, it was just over $13,000 for those 600-hours, and it paid for my tuition, books, and my own portable massage table. My school was federally accredited, so I qualified for Federal Stafford Loans. The school also provided private funding. Compare the cost of this program to one year of private college — even some in-state, public colleges can get pricey.

The Not-So-Great Things About Massage Schooling

— Portability. This has less to do about the schooling itself and more to do with the varied standards throughout the country. Unfortunately, because I only received 600-hours of schooling, I can’t practice in, say, New Hampshire, because they require more than that. To get around this, you could look into taking the MBLEx, which costs money for taking it (and retaking it if you fail) and isn’t recognized by all 50 states at this time.

— Dealing With Clients. You will meet all sorts of people from all walks of life. They will have varying hygiene practices and standards and you are likely to see them in varying states of undress. Some will be demanding; others will fall asleep. Yes, you will probably have to deal with at least one inappropriate client. Yes, some clients will get erections at inopportune times, and yes, sometimes other clients will fart when you’re working on their backsides. If you’re uncomfortable with nudity or natural bodily functions and hair, massage therapy may not be for you.

— Travel & Living. I was lucky in that my massage school was a half-hour away from where I was living, I had reliable transportation, and I had low-cost childcare. You might have to do some research to find a school that is close to you that best meets all of your needs. The ones I know of in Maine don’t offer on-campus housing; a few students I knew during my training actually stayed in a nearby hotel because driving home every day would have been too much.

— Other Costs. You’re going to have to buy linens, your own lotions and supplies, and possibly invest in Continuing Education after you graduate. Maine doesn’t require CEUs, but other states do; it’s just a good idea, anyway, so as to keep your work fresh and to help you learn new techniques and modalities.

There are two big prerequisites for attending the massage school I chose: you have to be 18 or older, and you have to have your high school diploma or GED. The rest is just gravy — writing skills and knowledge of anatomy and physiology will be a big help. CPR and first aid training is not only helpful, it's required for graduation and certification in Maine. Get massages: keep track of your "why" for going into massage therapy and what things you would do differently.

If you ever have any other questions about getting into massage school or massage therapy as a career, definitely get in touch with me! It’s something I could babble about for hours.

(Oh, and if you’re out of high school but you’re thinking about trying massage therapy? That’s totally cool, too. High-five!)

(2020-Bethany adds: ... For reference, this photo is 2014-me with my son and my mom.)

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Music Legalities

(No affiliate links were included in the writing of this blog post. None of this should be taken as legal advice. Dang it, Jim, I’m a massage therapist —- not a lawyer.)

Many of us strive to act and to run our businesses in an ethical manner by following personal and societal mores and norms. Ethics not only relate to how you interact with clients and peers -- it also can include obligations imposed by law.

The use of music in your office or massage space is governed by your country's laws surrounding copyright: protections given to authors for their original works. If you play copyrighted music "in public" without proper licensing, you could be hit with statutory damages of $750 at minimum to a maximum of $150,000 per song (depending on whether or not you knowingly/willingly violated the law).
The reason behind this being illegal is that when licensed music is played in a commercial space, it is played with the intention of creating an experience for customers that is conducive to the interests of the business (getting customers to pay money for the goods and services on offer). The business gains from the music being played. For that reason, the law says that the creators of the music should get a piece of the profit being made.
-- Can I Play Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, or Other Music Services in My Business? from Cloud Cover Music.

"But I've bought copies of my music and/or pay for a consumer-level streaming service!"

Sorry, no. You can't get around the copyright regulations if you've only paid for individual, personal services and products:
The law distinguishes between owning a copy of music, like a CD or a song saved on an iPod, and owning the rights to those songs, including the right to publicly perform them. When you purchase a CD or DVD or download an audio file, software, game or other product containing music, even those specifically marketed for business purposes, you are only buying a copy of the music and the right to play it “privately.”
... When music is streamed over the Internet, however, there is a distinct performance right with respect to the “sound recordings” of songs publicly performed via digital audio transmission. So, theoretically, streaming online music into shared spaces could also require a performance license from the sound recording copyright owners.
-- Music Licensing Basics for Apartments, by Cindy A. Tune, .PDF accessed 1/23/2020 11:00AM EST. 
There is one specific exception to be aware of:
There are exceptions to when a license is required to play copyrighted music; stores under 2,000 square feet, and restaurants and bars under 3,750 square feet, can play music over a radio, TV, or similar device [i.e. cable or satellite broadcast], but there have to be fewer than six speakers carrying the sound.
-- In-Store Music Laws in the U.S.: Licensing, Legalities, and Fines from Cloud Cover Music.
However, this exception strictly limits you to using those specific sources (radio, TV, cable or satellite broadcast) and only the music and visuals licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

For any other device or music source, you need to have a Public Performance License through one or more Performance Rights Organizations (PRO). Rather than go through the individual PROs (the costs of which can be over $1000 annually), there are services that will provide you the public performance licenses and access to music covered under those licenses. These services will cost more than your standard consumer subscriptions, but you will be able to rest easy in knowing that your butt (and your business) has been covered.

"Okay, what are my (cheapest) options?"

Here are three under $30/month services to consider:
  • Soundtrack Your Brand: high quality, wide variety, connection to Spotify and its playlists (as it was originally sponsored as "Spotify for Business"), and a free 30-day trial. After that, it's $26.99 a month.
  • Cloud Cover Music: not quite as robust as Soundtrack Your Brand, but if you're only needing licenses in the USA and Canada, the ~$17 a month price tag is a little easier to swallow.
  • SighTunes: specifically designed for massage therapists, providing 10-hours of royalty-free music, refreshed each month (so long as you're connected to WiFi... and remember to do it at the start of each month), for $9.99 a month. Plus, if you have a professional membership like ABMP, there is a discount code to take up to an additional 40% off. I have tried it... it's not my favorite due to the design of the app itself, the "blah" choices of music, and the aforementioned need to connect to the Internet before you drive out to a client's house on the first of the month and suddenly can't access the previous month's music. (ಠ_ಠ) (This may have changed since I last attempted to use it. I'm not holding my breath.)

Another option would be to actively look for music that is within the public domain (i.e. works written before copyright law was established, or the copyrights have expired/been lost, etc.), music that is considered royalty-free, or music where the copyright-holders have explicitly given their permission for public use. Artful Touch Music is one such resource:

Artful Touch Music was created for, and inspired by, the healing arts. We invite you to use this music in your professional bodywork offices and yoga studios.

These songs are effective as music therapy for all ages and are enjoyable as a soundtrack for massage therapy and yoga practice.

This music encourages relaxation, a resting heart rate, deeper breathing, a calm and centered mind, and a general sense of well-being.

-- Artful Touch

Other References:

I went down the rabbit hole so you don't have to.

"But wait! What about Pandora and SiriusXM?"

These companies are jointly owned by Liberty Media, the heads of which collectively gave $1 million to Trump’s 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee (currently under federal investigation). In 2016, Sirius moved to eliminate 80 percent of its Latin music channels. In 2017, they reintroduced Steve Bannon as a regular host on its Patriot channel until he stepped down in 2018. (Source: Pandora’s New Corporate Parents Gave Millions to Trump, GOP, Sam Lefebvre, January 2019, KQED.org)

Personal ethics are just as important as professional ethics. Therefore, I cannot and will not endorse these platforms.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Tips for Massage School Success

  • If you have a syllabus, write down the dates beside each class so that you know exactly when they're taking place. 
  • Related: write down the due dates next to assignments and projects. 
  • Also related: put all of these dates into your calendar(s). 
  • Work ahead when you can because life will happen and you can fall behind. 
  • Keep track of any missed classes and clinics: my suggestion is to have a column for the date, a column for what was missed and/or how many hours it was worth, why it was missed, and a column for the "Made Up" date. You can download mine or make your own.
  • Keep a Massage Journal.
  • Ask friends and family for gift certificates for local massage businesses. 
  • If you're having difficulty moving your body -- i.e. if you're lacking flexibility -- checking with your doctor, visiting a chiropractor, or taking up gentle yoga (such as yin yoga) can help you move easier and with less pain. 
  • Anatomical terminology (anterior, posterior, lateral, medial, etc.) and movement terminology (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, etc.) are two different but very important things for you to study early on. 
  • Flashcards are your friends. 
  • Strong thighs save spines: more lunging, less reaching and leaning. 
  • Twin and Twin XL-sized sheets work great on massage tables. Keep your pillowcases to use as face cradle covers and for draping. Microfiber sheets are lighter and dry quicker, but higher thread counts last longer. 
  • When you are struggling, ask for help -- from friends and family, classmates, teachers, other staff members of your school. 
  • Make a Facebook group or an e-mail or text loop for you and your classmates.

Friday, December 13, 2019

7 Pro-Tips For Improving Your Massage Session

-- Ask, “Are there any areas you don’t want to have massaged, today?”

Clients may be wearing makeup or going out to work or dinner after their session. Some clients cannot have their feet touched at all. This will also help you to make better use of your time if you know you have wiggle-room.

-- Ask, “What kind of pressure do you prefer?”

Remember that pressure is a subjective measurement. Use a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lightest feather-touch and 10 being crushing. Your pressure of 3 might feel like a 7 to your client, or vice versa. This tolerance or preference can also change between sessions.

-- Ask about a bolster and client’s comfort upon entering your space.

My routine after I close my office door to start a session includes turning off one of my lights, giving a client a bolster if requested, and wrapping their feet with warmed towels before I sit at the head of the table (if they’re starting supine). Any lapses or interruptions to the routine can throw off my groove and then I’ll realize I left my lotion on the shelf or missed another step.

-- Get to the client’s focus area within the first 10-20 minutes.

I love to save “the best for last,” but you don’t want your client to sit in a silent panic that you won’t have enough time to give their problem area your focus. It’s okay to...

-- Shake up your routine.

Head-to-toe and toe-to-head is a great framework, but it’s not a cardinal rule. You’re allowed to start a client face-down. With hand sanitizer ready, you could start by working on their feet. Try out new ways of performing the usual strokes (i.e. using a forearm instead of knuckles, etc.).

-- Consolidate strokes and steps of your routine.

If you’re aiming for a relaxing session, minimize turning the client’s head side-to-side or flipping them over frequently. Do one gliding, encompassing motion on each finger or toe. Steps that involve the hairline or anything above it should be done as part of the scalp routine so as to...

-- Minimize or Avoid Getting Lubricant in the Client’s Hair

Clients hate this. Unless they’ve signed up for an Ayurvedic oil treatment, it’s best to have clean, dry hands for scalp work. You might also choose to have a small can of dry shampoo available for freshening up after their session.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

How Journaling Can Make You a Better Massage Therapist

If I could go back and give myself one piece of advice before starting massage school, it would be to start and keep a massage journal.

As we learn and practice our massage skills, we need to understand that our inevitable mistakes are opportunities to reflect on, "What worked? What didn't? What can be changed?"

A journal becomes a container for thoughts, ideas, inspiration, and reflections. They can be used to hone or spark new interests, to give yourself direction and focus, and to explore how you best work as you navigate the professional world.

Journaling doesn't have to be super fancy -- don't get bogged down in the bullet journal craze and all the "must haves!" and artistic perfection that the Internet implies you need. You can grab any old notebook and a writing implement. The journal doesn't have to be wholly physical, either, if you prefer to do things digitally. Finally, remember that you don't have to share it with anybody else unless you choose to -- this is a tool for you.

[ID: a bullet journal page titled "Massage Journal," with bullet points expanded on in blog text.]

With that said, here are some journaling suggestions to get you started:
  • What is your "Why?"
    Why did you get into massage therapy? Sometimes having a big, specific goal goal doesn't work for everyone; what are the little things about performing massage therapy that bring you fulfillment?
  • Receiving Sessions:
    As you meet other professionals and explore their businesses, write down your observations for later. Since they'll be written down, you won't have to try and pry them from your memory.
    • What did you like?
    • What would you do differently?
  • Names & Contacts:
    Sometimes called a Client Relations Manager (CRM), include contact information that might be helpful for you or others to reach specific people in the future.
    • Classmates, Teachers
    • Practice & Potential Clients
    • Potential Employers & Referral Partners
  • What are you curious about?
    What are the things that spark your interest? What would you like to research?
    • Other Modalities, CEUs
    • Specific Client Bases
  • Who do you enjoy working with?
    Whether it's specific client niches, working as an employee, or collaborating with other professionals, what does your ideal work environment look like?
  • Make Lists:
    This way you can have all the things in one place instead of on a thousand sticky notes and pieces of scrap paper strewn through your house and car...
    • Pros & Cons
    • Due Dates & Deadlines
    • Events & Commitments
    • Media Ideas
  • Collect Things:
    What are clients saying about your work? What quotes or visuals light you up and keep you motivated?
    • Testimonials & Feedback
    • Inspirational Photos, Quotes
  • "Give yourself permission to be messy and make mistakes!"
    "Siri, how do you spell 'curious?'" "Curious: c-u-r-i-o-u-s." "... Ugh." *adds in the second 'u'*
  • "These are written on paper -- not in stone. You can always change your mind!"
    Your vision of your career might change and adapt -- it probably will. And that's okay.

"That's all well and good, but how exactly does this make me a better massage therapist?"

Having your "Why," front and center, can help to keep you going -- even when you feel like throwing in the towel.

It gives you a place to record data: you may start to see patterns in your work or in your preferences for how you work. For example, if dirty and cluttered businesses make me not want to spend money there, I will make it a priority to keep my own space clean. Or if people really like my neck and shoulder work but my leg work is lacking, I might need to review old techniques and study new ones.

If you're not the right therapist for a potential client, you can say, "I know someone else who specializes in what you're looking for!"

You can better know yourself -- by acknowledging your limitations and setting your own boundaries -- and reward yourself accordingly.

You have an opportunity to explore your personal values and potential visions for your future. Having these bits and pieces in one place makes it easier to build resumes, request references or recommendations, write copy, compose business plans, and develop marketing materials.

[ID: a screenshot from the Disney movie "Moana," of a dark-skinned village elder with long gray hair and a necklace, holding a burning torch in one hand and pointing ahead with the other.]
"Who are you meant to be?"

Remember to have fun with it. Write down the funny things your classmates and clients say. Leave room to doodle in the margins. Treat yourself to a set of new pens and stencils. Daydream about winning the lottery. Print out and glue-in your favorite meme. Just start, and trust that your journal will evolve with you.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

So You Want to Make Your Own Content

My favorite resources for royalty-free images without the guilt of copyright infringement:

Need help choosing colors? Try these (and remember to write them down!):

Want to play with fancy fonts, symbols, and emojis? There are sites for that:

Once you have your images, text, and colors, here are some free/inexpensive resources for putting them all together:

For the ultimate $299 business investment, check out 99Designs' Custom Logo Design contests.

Happy Creating!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

When the Best-Laid Plans Go to Pot

August 10, 2019. I had two clients booked at my office on Main Street in Buxton, Maine. I was leisurely going about my morning at home when I was told there would be a parade going past my office that morning.

I was instantly gripped with anxiety. I called and messaged my clients to ask what they wanted to do, as there was no telling when the parade would end and whether or not we could get in and out of my parking lot.

I rushed to my office, frustrated with the cars doing 35 in a 40, frustrated with the town, and frustrated with myself for not connecting the dots sooner.

Pulling into my parking lot was easy; things weren't busy yet, though a local side-street was already reduced to local traffic only. As I finalized rescheduling my first appointment, I looked around my office...

And got to work.

"If you can't beat 'em" became my mantra as I put out my signs on the street, and then added Small Business Saturday balloons and business cards. I washed windows and mirrors and dusted surfaces, both inside and outside. I moved more signage and decoration around and tacked up an outlet cover to hide a hole in my wall. These are all things that I never would have made time for, otherwise.

I took a photo and shared it on Facebook, with a bit of (malaphoric) humor -- because that's how I deal with life when things go wrong.

The Importance of Being Adaptable

Yes, I allowed myself a few moments to wallow and bemoan the situation, as well as the (temporarily) lost income. Once that was over with, I made the best of it.

In massage school, I emphasize the importance of rolling with whatever situations arise -- because things can change in an instant, regardless of whether you're in a school clinic, working for someone else, or running your own private practice.

  • You will have no-show clients.
  • You will have five clients vying for the same day and time slot.
  • You may plan to work on a client's shoulders but, when they arrive, you find out they have a sunburn.
  • You may plan to start work on a client who is face-up, only to walk in and find them face-down.
  • You may plan to have no clients at all and come to work to find three of them.
  • You may expect to be fully booked and find out everyone cancelled at the last minute.
  • The business next door will throw a road race and BBQ in your parking lot and not tell you about it.
Life happens.

It's easy to panic and get upset and run in circles, but none of these things accomplish much in the long-run.
  • I can't guarantee that anyone is going to take my business cards while they walk up and down Main Street. 
  • Probably nobody is going to appreciate the cleanliness of my windows and office. (Though, trust me, they notice when things aren't clean -- they are just too polite to mention it.)
  • My landlord is going to have to pry that outlet cover off to fix the hole properly, someday.
But all of these little things add up. They didn't take much time or effort out of my day while my original plans were already thrown out the window.

So when life happens -- when your teachers ask you to do seemingly menial tasks, your boss needs you to come in after giving you the day off, or your client has to cancel due to sudden illness -- go ahead and take a moment to vent about it. 

Then take a deep breath.

Do what needs to be done.

Make the most of the situation.

And then be proud of yourself for remaining flexible and handling things with grace.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Job Hunting for Massage Therapists: the Bare-Bones Basics

"Hi, I have five years experience, give me a call at 207-xxx-xxxx."
"Why should you need more than that?"
An on-point massage may not be enough to land you your first (or next) massage gig. When it comes to job seeking, your first impressions should represent your best efforts at communicating who you are. Potential employers will notice your attention to detail -- and they will certainly notice when you fall short.

Your response to a job ad is, to employers, a simple test: "Can you follow a few very, very simple instructions? Can I trust you to provide world-class customer service or to follow a doctor's order on a complex case?"

How to Job Hunt:

• Before you start your search, sit down with a calendar and mark out the days and times you would be available to give if you got a job. What commitments do you already have in place? Be honest with yourself without stretching yourself too thin.

• Consider your long-term goals. It's easy to focus on needing to get paid right away, but be reasonable in your expectations. Once you start a job, you need to build relationships with your employer, other employees, and the clients you interact with. These relationships and related skills (communication, money-handling, etc.) may take six-months, a year, even two years to build. Be ready and willing to tough out the quiet times -- your dedication will impress those around you. (A steady work history will also help you get auto and personal loans.)

• Read the job description and requirements. If your availability or credentials don't line up with what they're looking for, move on.

• Introduce yourself and show your personality! A cover letter is a nice touch to say hello and answer any basic questions that were brought up in the job ad. It’s a way to let your personality and customer service skills shine. Some examples: What do you bring to the table? (Pun intended.) What are some of your experiences with complex cases? How effective are you at rebooking clients?

• Have a resume. Consider the point of view of the person who will read it. Do a quick Google or Pinterest search for inspiration. Proofread it and then ask someone else to proofread it, too. Send it with your cover letter or when asked; bring a copy or two with you to your interview.

• If you seemingly have no pertinent job experience? Write up a list of your skills: massage-specific, customer service related, sales specialities, computer and social media familiarities, etc. What do you know that would benefit a potential employer and their business?

• Have a list of resources and their contact information -- these should be trusted individuals who can speak to your work ethic and character. Ask their permission, first! You may also need this information for your own sake when filling out job applications. Keep a couple of printed copies on-hand.

• Return phone calls and e-mails in a timely manner. 24-hours, tops. If they ask for something specific, get it to them ASAP.

• Show up for interviews. Be on time. Silence your cell phone. Throw out your gum. Be clean and fragrance-free.

• Be professional in your dress, your words, and your demeanor. You don't need to wear a suit, but please don't wear your pajamas or holiest jeans. Keep your humor appropriate. Stay humble -- don't try to demand a high salary if you only just graduated massage school. (Likewise, don't try to tell them they're missing out on your skills if those skills aren't what they're looking for. I've done that. It's not cute.)

• Clearly communicate your availability and any potential scheduling conflicts that may arise. If you agree to work one schedule and then go back on your word -- for whatever reason -- it makes you look bad, inconveniences clients and other employees, and complicates their business.

• Along with copies of your resume and references, bring a copy of your massage license, proof of liability insurance, and your CPR/First Aid certificate if applicable.

• When in doubt, get a tutor, mentor, or counselor or find a career center to help you bolster your job-seeking skills.

• You are allowed to change your mind -- just give your contact the courtesy of saying, "Sorry, I'm no longer interested."

Job searching can be super intimidating and grueling, an additional source of stress and anxiety on top of other life obligations and monetary insecurities. Knowing that returning calls and e-mails quickly is important and actually following through with it can be complicated by a myriad of reasons. Take a few deep breaths. Call up a friend, mentor, or loved one for a quick pep-talk. And then do it anyway.

It'll all be okay. I promise.

Friday, June 7, 2019


"Give the massage that you wish to receive in the world."

- Bethany A. Ingraham, LMT