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.