Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 8.4 | Skills and Aptitudes of Spa Professionals

Skills and Aptitudes of Spa Professionals

The breadth and depth of the spa industry’s vocations and professions means that there can be an ideal, if not perfect, job for just about everyone. Taking inventory of one’s own professional and personal needs and goals can help one decide on a career. Glamour, flexibility, making a difference in others’ lives, educating others, learning, creativity, healing—spa has all of these, somewhere and at some time. For example, massage therapists’ work is more clinical, while a spa designer’s job is more creative. Discovering one’s personal style may help a job seeker decide on a course of professional development that is right for them. For instance, the massage department is generally quiet and nurturing, while the salon area can be loud and more social.

Spa careers require a combination of head and heart—business and financial acumen plus people skills and empathy. Many people do not naturally possess both of these, so building a spa career involves a commitment to developing the business side of one’s work style, the emotionally sensitive side, or both.

In the world of spa, technical skill is prized, but not at the expense of good communication skills, active listening, empathy, and sensitivity to others. As one spa director noted, “I am not looking for the best deep tissue therapist in the state. I am looking instead for someone who genuinely cares for each guest, who is interested in giving their best, and someone who fits well into our spa family.”

Desirable traits of those who work in the spa industry include compassion; interest in health and wellness for themselves and others; acceptance of all body types and physical conditions; the ability to make people feel comfortable; sensitivity to others’ needs; a thirst for knowledge and keeping up with the latest technologies and trends; a well-groomed appearance; high standards of cleanliness, health, and safety; passion; and talent for motivating others.

Spa technical professionals like massage therapists, estheticians, hair stylists, and nail technicians provide treatments and services for spa clients or guests. This requires a thorough knowledge of their areas of expertise; understanding of the human body, mind, and spirit; and willingness to learn a particular spa’s specific treatments. Strong communication skills and ability to learn and convey product and service knowledge are needed. Because spas have various philosophies and missions, it is important for job seekers to find a spa that aligns with their core values. The reciprocal is also true in that it is very important that the spa hire those people who are aligned with its core values.

Working in a spa means being part of a team, working together for the good of the clients, one’s fellow workers, and the business. Spa professionals must be punctual, organized, efficient, and detail oriented. They need to be good problem-solvers, and eager learners. For some positions, feeling part of the team can be more difficult; for example, a massage therapist or esthetician can spend hours alone behind closed doors with clients, having little staff interaction during working hours. Managers and spa directors must work with staff members to ensure that everyone feels included in the life of the spa.

The spa experience is not only the services provided; it is also creating the ideal environment for the guest. Guests should feel special, calm, nurtured, welcome, and comfortable. It is important for every member of a spa’s staff to be authentically present with each guest, whether they are the first or last guest of the day, whether they are a first-time client or a veteran spa-goer. Spa staff must also be authentically present to one another, from the director to the therapists to the receptionists and locker attendants.

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