A Letter to all would-be body piercing apprentices...
I get asked for an apprenticeship nearly every day I work. Obviously, that means I need to say “no” to an awful lot of people. It’s not in my nature to be painfully honest and tell people what they don’t want to hear. That having been said, a lot of you folks out there that are looking for jobs in the piercing industry are just not the right fit. So I have written the following not to be insulting, self righteous, or egotistical. I’ve written it to be as honest and helpful to you as I can possibly be.
There are a lot of things that can make you a good candidate for an apprenticeship, and a lot more that can kill your chances. I want to be very clear about the criteria and qualities necessary to be a piercing apprentice at my shop:
1) I need to have a place for you to work.
Why? Well, let’s say I train you and you become a competent piercer. Won’t you be frustrated that you aren’t actually piercing for a living? I know it would bother me that I could pierce well and wasn’t actually making money doing it. If you find yourself working one shift a week, or just substituting for the other piercers, you are going to go stir crazy. Eventually, I’m going to lose you to another shop, and now I have trained someone who will be my competitor. Keep in mind, taking on an apprentice is extra work for me, and now I’ve worked for months (or years) on someone who will be a competent competitor. That’s bad business.
2) I need to know that you are really motivated to be a great body piercer.
Being really motivated seems easy enough, right? I mean, you are already really motivated! Well, at least you think you are. To work at my shop, you must attend the Fakir Musafar Basic Piercing Intensive. When you say, “I’m really passionate about body piercing, but I can’t afford the school or the flight right now”, try to put yourself in my shoes. Essentially, you will need to save about $2500 to take the Fakir Basic Piercing class and stay in San Francisco. If you can’t save that amount of money it means to me you are either too irresponsible to save money or you want instant gratification. Neither of those qualities is especially compelling to make me take you on as an apprentice.
3) Getting an apprenticeship is a popularity contest.
My shop doesn’t need the brooding, quiet, introverted type. We need the body piercing equivalent of a cheerleader. We need happy, friendly, positive folks that can light up a room with their smile. Body piercers need to be clean, smart, creative and passionate, but they also need to be likable, approachable, and able to command the center of attention for the length of time it takes to perform a piercing. If you hate people, hate public speaking, and hate awkward social situations, why on Earth would you want to be a body piercer? Make no bones about it: body piercing is a job for people who like people.
4) My shop is not the stepping stone to a tattoo career.
Piercing is not the way to get into tattooing. That’s sort of like becoming a dentist so you can eventually be a gynecologist. Don’t waste either of our time. Start drawing.
5) When your apprenticeship is over, do you want to open your own shop?
That’s good! You’re an entrepreneur and I can relate to that! You will need to pay for your apprenticeship, though. No one wants to train another piercer out of the goodness of their own heart. We, the established piercers, need to see a profit in the future, whether that is from
your work as our employee or from actually being paid for the apprenticeship. I think you will save us both a lot of drama by being up front about this. By being forthcoming and being prepared to pay for your apprenticeship, you also nearly guarantee that you’ll actually get taken on for training. This also goes back to #2, and if you pony up a large chunk of money for an apprenticeship, I know you are serious about becoming a good piercer.
Here are some final tips for making yourself into an attractive piercing
apprenticeship candidate not only to me, but to most good body piercers:
• Wear good body jewelry. Better yet, wear body jewelry from my shop.
• Have retail sales experience.
• Take a bloodborne pathogens class from an OSHA approved instructor. (Health Educators, Inc for example) www.hlthedu.com
(EDIT 2016: Looking for online Bloodborne Pathogens Training? The Association of Professional Piercers [APP] now has online Bloodborne Pathogens, Infection Control Plans, Exposure Control Plans, and Personal Protective Equipment Standard classes. I suggest all would-be apprentices take them all! http://www.safepiercing.org/learn/online-courses/ ) - full disclosure, I am a Board Member for the Association of Professional Piercers (President and Membership Liaison)
• Learn CPR/First Aid at the American Red Cross.
• Take anatomy and physiology classes at your local community college.
• Volunteer to promote my shop.
• Read a lot about piercing. Learn its history.
• Work on your people skills.
• Go to Sky Renfro’s apprenticeship primer class from Professional Piercing Information Systems. More info is available at www.Propiercing.com
• Go to the Fakir Intensives Basic Piercing class. More info is available at www.Fakir.org
An Open letter to all would be body piercing apprentices by Jef Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.