Things I learned my first year out of massage school – How to be in charge of your interview: making sure your employer is a right fit for you.

M I L K  M O U S T A C H EI came from a unique position when I finished massage school. I had already been working for several years as a health coach specializing in many energy medicine modalities – none of which were hands on requiring a license to touch. I’d built a stable part-time practice seeing 10-15 clients a month around the needs of my young family. When I completed school, and received my license, I was in a place of wanting more. I had strong ideas for my business and where I knew I wanted it to go. I had strong marketing ideas, commitments to further my education through several continuing education classes, and a drive to build a full-time practice of clients seeking my unique talents.

I also knew that building the practice of my dreams would take time, so I made the decision to seek outside part-time employment while I continued to build my private practice. Thus the need to seek an interview!

I determined there were several things to consider in my preparation. Beyond understanding basic job duties, and policies and procedures, I knew the interview was a time to understand the owner’s business plan, goals, and purpose for the future of their business. Before accepting a position for employment, I felt a need to check the owner’s ambitions against my own. Would there be a match? A match didn’t necessarily mean “perfect” (because that is what I was hoping to build!), but I did want to be happy, have potential for growth and a certain level of satisfaction in the care of the clients I would be working with.

Because I knew what my long term goals were and carried my vision of an ideal practice vividly in my mind, I had several key questions to ask those that I interviewed with.

  • First I asked the basics. What were the company policies and procedures? Were they written? What did a typical massage session look like in their establishment? I asked what products they used and why (I’m pretty picky about what products I use and wanted to be sure theirs was of high quality). What was base pay?
  • I asked about their bottom line. (Yes, I was bold!) Were they making money? Were their therapists making money? Were they staying busy? What did a slow shift or a full shift look like in terms of client loads?
  • What was their marketing strategy? (Did they have one?) What percent of gross sales went back into client retention programs? What proof did they have that their marketing was working?
    What was the average turn-over rate of therapists and receptionists? How long did people stay?
  • Would I be able to talk with other therapists employed there before accepting a position?
  • Would there be a place for me in their business model with my specific education, background and skills? Would they be willing to point out to clients that I offered other modalities in addition to massage?

In the end – for me it came down to an over-all feeling when I chose the position I did. The first place I interviewed I was disappointed in the owner’s lack of purpose (beyond money, why were they in business?) and lack of shared understanding on the importance of continuing education. (It was important to me, not to them – and wasn’t supported), so I didn’t take the job. (There were a few other quirky things too!)

The second place of interview did not offer as high of base pay as the first, but the feeling was better. They had a clear marketing plan, clear expectations of my roles and responsibilities and had a track record of moderately consistent foot traffic through their doors. In doing the math between the two offers, the second outpaced the first due to consistency of client traffic. I took the job.

Ultimately, my experience with that employer only lasted 10 months before my private practice reached a point of replacing the income from my employer. Honestly, I had a really difficult time going into “employee” mode when I was used to and continued as “owner”, but found I was grateful for the experience. I was grateful for the opportunities I had in observing operations of a large spa, and in a small way felt pride that I was able to leave when I did. It was equally scary and liberating my last day of work to cut away my safety net!

In summary, don’t come from a place of desperation when seeking employment. You know you need the job, but have enough faith in yourself to know and recognize the right opportunity for the right moment for you! Second, have a clear vision of your long term goals. Although I could not understand the logic of it, there were many therapists where I worked that had been there for years and were completely happy with that. If that is you – and you find that job, celebrate it! If that is not you, be bold about what it is you do want and don’t let the ideas get lost in the day-to-day survival in a job that is only a means to an end.

To be in charge of your interview- to find the job with the best fit for you- you must be very clear with yourself about your expectations, goals and ideals. When you are clear, the right opportunity will be easier to see and you will know it is the right one for you!