As we continue our National Career Week spotlights, we speak to the inspirational Claire Martin, who is currently studying a weekend course at Champneys Beauty College in order to facilitate a career change.
What qualification are you studying?
iTEC Level 2 Diploma in Beauty Specialist Treatments
Why did you choose this qualification?
I chose this iTEC qualification, as it is known worldwide for its quality in accreditation. It also provided me with the underpinning knowledge to put the building blocks in place for my new and exciting career as a Beauty Therapist.
Having had previous experience, in obtaining my iTEC Anatomy & Physiology and Swedish Body Massage qualifications, I knew the content would be fully comprehensive and well-structured within its coverage of learning.
Additionally, it would be held by Champneys, a spa name that is known by anyone should you mention the name. I knew the reputation of both organisations would be professionally-recognised building blocks for my new career.
What have you liked best about your course?
Although working on paying clients can initially be daunting when you are learning a new skill, there is nothing more enjoyable than that positivity you get from your client after their treatment, seeing that they are happy with the service you have provided. This enforces an enormous amount of confidence in you as a therapist. There is nothing better than making someone else feel fantastic about themselves. After all, clients are the backbone of the industry and so it’s important to build on those experiences as soon as possible. The variety of learning is also great, in being able to achieve each module before concentrating on the next.
“Make-up… gives me confidence, if I’m not feeling so good that day, and that allows me to address the day, no matter how I’m feeling.”
What was something you weren’t expecting but enjoyed?
Make-up has always been a joy for me, since my teenage years. Putting it on most days and tailoring it for that day’s occasion. It gives me confidence if I’m not feeling so good that day, and that allows me to address the day, no matter how I’m feeling.
However, the make-up module within the course, which involved applying make-up to someone else, filled me with complete fear, to be honest. Perhaps because I’ve been applying make-up to the same face for the past 35 years. But, I have to say that once I did it on a client, I really enjoyed it. It allows your creative juices to flow, and each client is a new canvas for you to bring out the best features and for them to look and feel their best, according to skin type, tone, and the occasion.
“Ten years ago, I didn’t really know who or where I wanted to be within the industry, so maybe it wasn’t my time then, but now it is my time”
What was the biggest challenge you have faced?
The biggest challenge for me initially was applying for the course, knowing I would be a mature student, at the age of 50. Within a highly competitive market, you must be on your game, and up to date with the latest skills and therapies. All the usual thoughts went through my mind. Am I too old to get into a new career? Will I still be capable against the younger students on the course? Have I missed my chance in life? If I don’t go for it, will I always regret not doing it?
I had thought about joining the beauty industry in some way over ten years ago, but I put it to the back of my mind, as my day job became busier and it took my focus away. Now that’s my biggest regret, not having done it sooner. However, I can now put that to the back of my mind, because I have changed the tide, I am now in the beauty industry, at that place as a therapist, where I wanted to be. Ten years ago, I didn’t really know who or where I wanted to be within the industry, so maybe it wasn’t my time then, but now it is my time, and I feel good about that.
What do you plan to do after you complete your qualification?
I’ve a few thoughts for after I qualify from my Level 2 course. Firstly to apply for the iTEC Level 3 Facial Electricals Course as this will give me the fundamental training and qualification that most salons and spas will look for in a qualified therapist. To get some day-to-day experience within the industry will also be a priority for me. That may mean getting a weekend job, to fit around my current job, and make the transition.
I’m also quite keen to investigate the iTEC Level 4 Diploma in Spa and Salon Management course, as this will be the icing on the cake, and enable me to understand if I want to be a self-employed mobile therapist or work within an organisation. Either way it would be a great building block for either outcome that I choose.
Did you always have an interest in a career in beauty therapy?
I did, but never knew how to go about it. I looked at attending a beauty college years ago but at that time I didn’t really know why I wanted to or indeed what I wanted to do that or what I wanted it to bring me. I’ve always loved hairstyling and regularly change the style and colour of my own. I loved to paint my nails regularly and got to know more about the brands associated with that (OPI and Perfect Formula are my favourites by the way).
I’ve always been a product junkie, but not because friends and family are using something, I never had the FOMO on that level. I wanted to know what was in the product and why I should use it, what was it going to do for me. Being a beauty therapist fits fantastically well with that, with getting the best out of a product, how it works for each skin type and condition. To bring the best results that it can for you and indeed your client.
“You can tailor-make your role within the industry, be that big or small”
What appeals to you most about a career in beauty?
Being within an ever-evolving industry, where you can and will always learn about new skills, and formulas. Giving you the ability to grow no matter your age. I’m learning day by day that it’s an industry that provides so many opportunities, whether that’s as a hands-on therapist, tutor, nail technician, bodyworker, administration role, managerial role. It also allows you to travel the world, should you wish to, as well as work locally. You can tailor-make your role within the industry, be that big or small. Being your best is important to me, and attaining CPD points is important for continual growth; again iTEC are there to help you achieve that.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I’ve a couple of thoughts on the years to come. I’d like to see myself in ether a managerial role, or a Global Training role. Be that as my own boss, as a self-employed therapist, or spa manager. I’d like to hope that by then I have a dedicated client base that I can support, be that by myself or with a dedicated team behind me. I’d have a dedication to providing the best in skincare information, whilst also providing the latest therapies to bring out the best in my clients’ lives and lifestyles.
What was your previous career? And why did you originally choose that career route?
I didn’t really choose the career I’m currently within, as a Project Co-Ordinator and Customer Operations Team Leader, it chose me. I left school at 16 not really knowing what I wanted to do. We lived in Luton at the time and to work at the airport was always an inevitable option, but not what I felt was a passion of mine. University or college wasn’t an option, and I was told to go get yourself a job. So, I did. Initially I joined my present company on the YTS as an office junior doing the basics of the office, photocopying and tea making. Since then I’ve had a multitude of roles within the same Healthcare IT solution providing company since that time. All of them always increasing with experience and responsibility: Order Entry Clerk, Stock Controller, Local Purchase Buyer, and Customer Care Centre Team Leader. I’m sure you can understand that to take a leap of faith into a completely different industry and role has been a massive but immensely rewarding decision.
When did you decide to change careers? Was there a particular turning point or inspiration?
There were two defining points when I knew I needed to do more for my career. The first was in 2003 when I suffered a short period of depression, after a long-term relationship ended. I had to let our home go, as he went to another part of the world, and I felt my job was under threat at the time. A friend suggested I go for a massage, which I did, and that’s when I knew I wanted to make another person feel so much better, as I had. I then trained to be a massage therapist, but I never really knew how this would fit into a career long term, so I shelved the idea at the time.
Then more recently, I turned 50, and the staffing within the company I still work for changed again, as it does regularly in larger companies, and that made me feel vulnerable again, even with my years of experience. That’s when I thought its time to get another string to my career bow, maybe even turn a new page- time for me to take control myself of what was to come for me in the second half of life. Time to get myself a new trade, so to speak. Time to fully absorb myself into a new skill, and not just dabble in it. Time to decide what it was I really wanted and know if I was serious about the change.
“I knew that I had to look for somewhere that would provide the top quality training, professionalism and worldwide recognition that came with that.”
Why did you decide to pursue a career in beauty?
As I mentioned earlier, I’d already trained in Swedish Holistic Massage at another iTEC approved college, so I knew that I had to look for somewhere that would provide the top quality training, professionalism and worldwide recognition that came with that. I saw the online information for Champneys Beauty College iTEC courses in beauty therapy.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m very interested in skincare, and I’m an avid fan of Keeley Aydin, Skin Care Expert at Elemis. So, I contacted her via social media, thinking I’ll never get a response, and the same day she came back to me. She was so helpful in talking to me about the industry, what it may involve and the opportunities it could bring, with hard work. She too has worked her way up within the beauty industry, so she knew where I was coming from. The industry is flexible, so I could transition from one career to the other, without putting myself into financial uncertainty. In some cases, you can also work part-time around family commitments. As I had also done before, you can climb the ladder within the industry in many ways, be that clerical, managerial etc. That was my defining light bulb moment in time, when I knew this could be, would be, the new me.
Did you know how to go about changing careers? Was it a complicated or simple process?
I had no clue where to begin my transition to a career I felt I needed to be within, so I started online and just typed ‘how to become a beauty therapist’ into my usual search engine. Not many changes in life are simple, that I have learned.
“No matter what you may have done previously you will be able to bring a part of that, which is a part of you, to the new career.”
Did you find it a challenge to shift from one career to another? What are the key differences you have found between your previous and new career?
Dipping my toe into a new industry, and not being at the top of the tree in experience, has been scary and a big adjustment. That said, I’ve learnt that you shouldn’t look upon that as a negative. No matter what you may have done previously you will be able to bring a part of that, which is a part of you, to the new career. I found it daunting to be amongst much younger students initially, but now I enjoy it, they remind me I was young once, still am in my own head, and they make me be brave. Whereas, I bring a lifetime of experiences to the younger members of the group, keep their feet on the ground a bit and show them how a more mature client may like their treatments versus a younger client.
What I would say is, surround yourself in the aura of your new career as much as you can, feel that the new world, and the noises and experiences it brings, then it will feel less and less alien to you, and more and more achievable. We all must start somewhere, to make the shift, and to know that there are no rules in how to get to where you want to be, we all have a world of choices in how to get there. You need to find what sits best and works well for you, and only you. You are your ultimate challenge, and only you can make that change happen.
What advice would you give somebody that is thinking about a career change?
If you’re remotely thinking of changing career, then that may tell you something. You’re already thinking of moving on and changing your career. What’s going to happen next for you to trigger the next step? Are you ready to make the change? Do you know enough about your new career? Good and bad points. If necessary, write up a pros and cons list, it’s a cliché I know, but its worth doing. Research, research, research. Find out as much as you can about it. Sleep on the idea if it feels right.
What I would recommend is to look at the bigger picture. Can you envisage your new life on the other side? Is it what you want every day or is it a fleeting thought? It took me over 15 years to really understand where I needed to be heading; it’s not necessarily going to take you as long, of course, to make that leap. What I would say though is just start researching. The internet is a great place to do that to see what’s available to you. If you need to retrain, how much and how long is that going to take you, will that fit into your current life style? Can you take a break and attend a full-time course or maybe a part-time course would fit your lifestyle and time pressures easily, but still get you to the same result?
Try before you buy- a lot of establishments hold open days to give you an idea of the course you may want to take before signing up. Talk to people in the industry as much as you can, absorb their experience and information like a sponge, and then you can take all of that on board and see what works best for you. If you see it, you’ll also begin to feel it, and then you can start to breathe it. Good luck!
We wish Claire the very best luck in her new and rewarding career as a beauty therapist. Her story certainly demonstrates that it’s important to do what you love.
You can learn more about Champneys Beauty College here