On the Soft Skills of the Nail & Beauty Professional

header image of creative by polish for fee wallace blog on soft skills

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What is it we think of when considering the skills of the Nail & Beauty Professional? First off, we think of the hard stuff. Which treatments are they qualified in? What are they insured to do? What equipment and products do they have in order to complete their services and treatments? Various disciplines exist in our industry, both brand specific and generic, and it’s education that furnishes the professional with these ‘hard skills’. But we all know it takes more than simply attending college and/or completing a few training courses to end up with a successful business. So what else is going on?

When I reflect on my own career, and I am almost 2 decades in at this point, I can see that although I have come to some useful conclusions through the years, there appears to be one significant area that I’ve been wrong about this whole time. As an employer, and to a lesser extent, as an educator, I pretty much stuck with the theory, ‘You can fill a skills gap, but you cannot give someone a personality transplant.’ What I meant by this, was that if someone wasn’t naturally ‘a people person’ (whatever that means), or if someone was a bit shy and not gregarious enough, or indeed too forthright and intimidating, then I would certainly not be employing them and have my doubts about whether they would ever be successful at all in our beloved industry. Pretty brutal, right? It occurs to me that employers are making this same mistake every single day.

I’ve been told over the years that I seem to have this magical way with people, and I’m not telling you this to boast by the way, I’m just giving some context for how I came to understand what I thought was the reason for my success. This was not a skill I was formally taught. Of course I saw it modelled every day by my Mother as we worked for years side by side at our respective nail tables, and then by other great mentors as I moved through the ranks, but what I am trying to explain, was that I always put my success down to something intangible, that it seemed some people were just able to do naturally. When I saw others in the industry fail, I often concluded that it was not really their fault, they just didn’t have that natural ability as ‘a people person’. A bit of a ‘you’ve either got it or you’ve not’ attitude.

Over this last year I have been expanding my knowledge and investing time in a new skill set, studying general counselling skills and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). What I have learned has totally obliterated many of my old ways of thinking about people and what they can really do. I have come to understand that what I used to think of as an intangible ‘gift’ is actually in reality a set of skills that can be be learned and have been extensively studied and written about. The qualities I’m talking about here can be referred to as ‘soft skills’. Under this heading we have the skills of communication, advanced empathy, active listening, genuineness and the ability to show everyone unconditional positive regard. What we see is that much of this does NOT come naturally to everyone, but that’s ok. Applying nail polish with precision and efficiency does not come naturally to everyone, that’s why we have training courses for it. Creating the perfectly designed brow does not come naturally to hardly anyone, yet thousands of beauty professionals become highly skilled brow artists every year.

One of the things I am most fascinated by, are the limitations we apply to ourselves, without every stopping to think about it. Now don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into the ‘anyone can do absolutely anything’ chat. If I rocked up to the Bolshoi Theatre tomorrow with no formal training or experiance in Ballet, and asked to become a principle dancer, quite rightly the answer would be no. What I’m talking about here are the irrational, unfounded limitations we place on ourselves. The ones that don’t make any factual sense, but that we carry on believing anyway. We all carry hundreds of assumptions about ourselves and others around with us. Samantha Sweet has often told me ‘Fee, when you assume, you make an ASS of U and ME.’ And never has that saying been more true than in this context.


1. A thing that is accepted as true, or certain to happen, without proof.


Our assumptions about ourselves can be very subtle. Because we just accept them as fact, we don’t realise they are assumptions in the first place. A colleague has told me multiple times over the years that she ‘isn’t creative’. I asked her about it one time and it turns out her Primary 4 teacher told her this, during a project where the teacher was assigning different tasks to the members of the class. ‘No, you can’t go in the group, you are not creative.’ And right then, that wee 7 year old girl took that on as truth. Now, I saw her create beautiful nails, find genius solutions to challenges we had in the salon, and then go on to build her own successful business from absolutly nothing. And she’s telling me she’s ‘not creative’?

We all do this as children. An authority figure passes a judgment about us and we carry that through our entire lives allowing it to define us, preventing us from even trying things. ‘I couldn’t go to art school, I’m not creative.’ ‘I can’t do nail art, I’m not creative.’ ‘I couldn’t write a story, I’m not creative.’

Here are some others to think about…

“I couldn’t run my own business, I’m terrible with money.”

But are you though? Are you really? What’s the factual evidence here? You may have made mistakes with money in the past, sure, but hasn’t everyone? Think of someone you know who is successful in business. Do you think they never made any mistakes with money in their time? Is it possible you are simply so regretful of a particular mistake that you have blown that one piece of evidence out of all proportion? What would you say to a friend who was holding back from fulfilling their potential based on one mistake they made long ago and may have already learned from?

As Nail & Beauty Professionals we have a unique opportunity to get to know people in a way that that can be very meaningful and of significant long term value to our clients, and to us. It’s not just about nails, we know that. They come for the nails, but they stay for the connection. Isolation and loneliness often lead to depression. If someone is going through a tough patch in their life, that time with you once a fortnight for their nail appointment could be more valuable than you’ll ever know.

So, if you have taken the time to read this, I invite you to continue thinking about these points:

  • What is it about a ‘people person’ that makes them a ‘people person’?
  • What skills do you see in yourself and others that keep clients coming back, aside from the treatments themselves?
  • Do you think you hold any assumptions about yourself that could be holding you back? What labels do you put on yourself, without having any actual proof, or only based on one icolated piece of evidence?
  • How valuable is our industry in terms of support and connection in the community, and not just for beautification?


I would love to hear your thoughts here in the comments section or over on Facebook. As ever, you can join in the discussion and check out lots of sexy nails across the various social media platforms.

Hit me up on Facebook.com/fee.wallace

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My step by step videos and tutorials are on YouTube.com/feewallace



3 thoughts on “On the Soft Skills of the Nail & Beauty Professional

  1. Fee everything you have said is very true for me. I was bullied out my previous job which I loved for 34years in the public sector by a woman boss who for some reason decided she wanted me out of my supervisory position to make room for her pal! It took me two years to realise what she was doing. She told me I was useless, uncreative, terrible with my staff etc etc and made me feel totally unworthy useless and basically s—t at my job.
    I have now picked up myself given myself a shake and doing what I’m loving in this industry thank goodness 😅 I know that I am not the best but always challenging myself at new skills doing nails and tanning in my own home. I love to chat with my clients and sometimes just listen and always feel great when I finish up for the day looking forward to whatever the next may bring!


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