Lexie Shutic: My Externship Experience

We provide students externship placement opportunities with partner salons where they practice their skills with experiences in real-life work settings. In My Externship series, our students talk about their personal experiences at each of their own locations and how they have contributed to their educational growth at their time in our program.

What is your name? Can you tell us a bit about you got interested in pursuing cosmetology at IBW?

My name is Alexis Shutic and I am a student of the Institute of Beauty and Wellness’ cosmetology program. As a child, everyone goes through different phases and interests, but my interest in beauty and fashion never faded for me. Whether it was doing my sister’s hair or practicing on my dolls, this was something that never got old. After high school, I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to pursue a degree in Chemistry with the hopes of becoming a pharmacist. While taking classes there, it did not feel like this was what I was meant to do. After my third semester, I decided to take a break and work full-time at Neroli Salon and Spa, where I have been working for the past seven years. While there, I was promoted to Assistant Team Lead; this is when I realized that this is what I wanted to do. Being around all these amazing women and men who use hair as a medium to create beautiful works of art, it made me realize that I wanted to do that too.

What is something you learned in the externship?

I learned a lot about how to conduct a thorough consultation and how important they are for every single guest that visits. Even if you see a certain guest every three weeks for a retouch and they never want to do anything different, it makes them feel listened to and cared for. To check in with them and see if anything has changed since their last visit, if they had any concerns from last time, or if they want to adjust anything during this visit. I have had multiple clients tell me that even though they have been seeing my mentor for years, they love how thorough she is with her consultations; it reassures that she does care and wants them all to look great.

What skills did you improve on while in the externship?

I definitely feel that a lot of my skills have improved so far, but one skill in particular has been my short-medium women’s haircuts. While shadowing with Sarah, my mentor, she had a lot of clients reserved for bob haircuts, which is something I did not get a lot of experience with while I was in school. She showed me many little tips and tricks to be able to get the perfect crisp bob which has then increased my confidence in that area of hairstyling.

What was your favorite part of the externship?

My favorite part of the externship was that I felt like an actual hair designer at Neroli. At IBW, I felt like a student, but being in the salon, I felt like I was a real service provider. Being able to work on my own and have the comfort of knowing that my mentor is there if I needed them, but not having to check in at specific points of the service was a terrific experience for me. My favorite part of the externship was that I felt like an actual hair designer at Neroli.

How did you decide where to complete your externship?

I chose Neroli Salon and Spa in Mequon to do my externship because I have been working at that location since 2015 as an Assistant Team Lead. I was a little nervous about externing at the same location; I wondered if boundaries would be crossed because of my two roles. I also wondered if I would be called on to complete managerial duties during my externship time. However, this did not happen at all; my team was very respectful of my time, and I was able to feel as though I was just one of the hair designers on the team. The main reason I decided to stay there was because I felt so comfortable with the team and in the space, to be able to ask questions and help with whatever they needed. It was also enjoyable to see a lot of the regular guests request that I practice services on them to help me further my career.

Do you have any advice for other students on how to choose an externship location?

I think the most important thing is to choose an environment that you feel comfortable in. This is going to make such a huge difference to your overall externship experience. If you are in a space where you feel like you are being annoying by asking questions or uncomfortable in any way, you are not going to learn any of the things that you are interested in learning. I would recommend that if you are interested in a specific salon, that you reach out and ask if you can come in for a day of shadowing with the team before committing to an externship with them. This will give you a chance to meet the team and get familiar with and their products. From there it is totally fine to either move on with another salon or move forward with that salon. I would recommend doing this at a few of your top choices before you make a final decision.

How did the externship experience change your overall view of the industry?

"She explained that the guest had recently begun cancer treatments, and this was a big deal for her as they were cutting off the majority of her hair that day. I understood this and did not shadow that service, but it goes to show that we not only make our guests look great, but make them feel great too."
I feel like it gave me a new appreciation for the things that hair designers go through on a daily basis. I already had an idea of this fact but watching someone go through their entire day and just catching more than glimpses of it is definitely more enlightening. This is a difficult job; you are taking on the responsibility of making sure someone absolutely loves their hair. This can be even more difficult if you have regular guests because it can get very emotional. For example, one of the days I was externing, my mentor pulled me aside and asked me if I could work on my mannequin during a service. She explained that the guest had recently begun cancer treatments, and this was a big deal for her as they were cutting off the majority of her hair that day. I understood this and did not shadow that service, but it goes to show that we not only make our guests look great but make them feel great too.

How did the externship enhance your cosmetology program experience?

It enhanced my cosmetology program experience because I was able to learn something at school and then work one-on-one with my mentor to explain why a certain technique would be done and why. She really went out of her way to make sure that if I needed assistance with anything or had questions, she would be able to demo them for me, whether on a guest or a mannequin. It is also nice because in school we learn things in a certain way, but there are a million different techniques to achieve a desired outcome.I loved learning things that might have been different from how we were taught in school, but that might work better for me. I would recommend that every cosmetology student take advantage of externship opportunities to get additional professional experience and get started on their career.
Institute of Beauty and Wellness
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