How to (Not) Become a Nail Tech

When we last left our hero …

For those who don’t know me … and for those for whom I am just a hazy pre-pandemic memory … allow me to briefly introduce myself and summarize where I left off my story.

Back in September 2019, I began attending nail school at a local community college. Things went well … I worked and studied hard. I did well in my theory lessons and consistently got good grades on the tests. The practical part of nail class started out slower for me. But I could tell I was at least improving with practice.

As I said – things went well for the first semester. I got good grades and got some practical experience. And none of my classmates ran in terror at the suggestion of a practice service from me. After the first semester ended there was an extended break until the second and final semester was scheduled to begin.

The second semester began the first week of March 2020 and … well, I probably don’t need to tell you what happened next. Nail school closed during the first week of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Now, I do not want to compare the relative tragedy of having one’s nail tech career interrupted with the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on millions of individuals and families around the world. Yet I think we can all agree the pandemic has been horrific. At last, thanks to the overall global effort to combat the scourge it looks like we may soon see the pandemic in our collective rearview mirror. It remains to be seen what the “New Normal” will look like but it definitely has to be better than the past fifteen months has been.

Anyway, time passed and eventually I was able to resume nail school in late Fall 2020. To date the community college has not resumed offering manicuring classes and has no plans to do so in the near future. Fortunately, I had remained in touch with classmates from my first semester of manicuring school and I ultimately enrolled in a private school, Jasmine Beauty School, where some other former manicuring school classmates had subsequently enrolled.

Although private nail school is more expensive than public school, I discovered there were some definite advantages to resuming my lessons at Jasmine. First, the school granted me full credit for the classroom hours I had previously completed at the community college after I provided an official Proof of Training from the prior school. Although obtaining the Proof of Training from a shuttered school proved to be a challenge, through perseverance I eventually acquired it.

Second, since I already had a complete school kit and textbook from the prior school it was not necessary to purchase those items again.

And third, because the nail classes begin every week it was not necessary for me to wait until the next semester rolled around to begin classes.

In prior installments of this blog I covered what attending the community college nail program was like. In many ways attending the new school was similar to the prior one.

Once again, I was the only male in the classroom; or as I see it – the lone thorn in a bouquet of roses.  

Although there was some surprise on the part of my new classmates at my arrival, my (feigned) confidence and work ethic soon led to their acceptance of me as one of them. Plus, it did not hurt that there were some former community college classmates present to vouch for me.  The way I ultimately knew I had been accepted occurred the day I was first asked “We’re all pitching in money for tacos for lunch, you want in?”

However, there were also ways that my second semester was different from the first semester. In some respects the atmosphere was more relaxed than the community college. The latter had some of the feel of being back in high school in some ways; that is more regulated and less flexible. That is not to suggest the private school students were any less serious about their school work. In fact, I would say in most of the cases just the opposite was true. To clarify, due to the relative low cost of attending the community college program there were a fair number of students who were not fully committed to a career in nail technology. Their apparent interest level was more of a “I’ll try this and see what happens.” attitude. Whereas the Jasmine students’ involvement more closely matched their financial investment.

The more tangible difference between the two school experiences was that due to Pandemic restrictions no practice client services were permitted. In fact, not even the students practiced on one another. Licensed nail technicians reading this blog may have difficulty comprehending how a nail program could not include working on practice clients – and I completely understand that reaction. The hands-on practice is one that I was accustomed to during my first semester and indeed a number of my previous blog installments describe experiences with various practice clients. Even the classroom instruction was split between classroom and on-line instruction. In lieu of the classroom time normally spent on client services we focused more on theory instruction and mock state board exam practice.            

A partial mitigant to the lack of client services in the classroom was the school’s encouragement of participation in an externship program. The State of California permits cosmetology students to complete up to 10% of their required classroom hours in a participating salon. In California that means manicuring students can work up to 40 hours in an actual salon under the guidance of a licensed nail technician. I was fortunate enough to identify a participating salon and thus took advantage of the externship program. We of course followed all applicable state mandates for beauty salons. I am grateful to the salon and the clients that allowed me to take advantage of the externship opportunity. 

In future installments of this blog I will cover more about practicing for the state board exam and the actual examination experience.

Until next time … sayonara muchachos!

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