Utilising Mentorship Opportunities

Dealing with difficult patients | Facial Aesthetics Mentoring by Julie Scott

No matter where you find yourself in your aesthetics career, as someone who has been through it all, I have learned along the way that it is imperative to have a mentor with you at every step.1 Mentors can be called many things and wear many hats – advisors, guides, confidants, counsellors, consultants, therapists, gurus, tutors, trainers, coaches – and can embody all of these along the course of someone’s journey…..

From being freshly qualified in foundation toxin and fillers to having a successful clinic and perhaps working with brands and being a key opinion leader, everybody can benefit from someone to guide and challenge them.

What is mentorship?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, mentorship is defined as ‘the activity of giving a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school’.2 Within aesthetics, it is not just help and advice, but clinical guidance and practical tips as well. Mentors provide different kinds of support at different stages of one’s career, so let me, as both a mentor and mentee myself, breakdown what mentors should provide and what could be gained as a mentee at a few key stages of your career.

Freshly qualified

This is possibly the hardest stage of anyone’s aesthetic career, when you’re newly qualified and trying to find your feet in this oversaturated and competitive industry. Most likely, you are full of insecurities at worst, with thousands of questions at best. If you’re a more experienced practitioner reading this now, cast your mind back to how you felt when you were newly qualified – perhaps after finishing your training, you felt buoyant and ready to inject anyone! But once you were face-to-face with your own patient and no one watching or assessing you, maybe the penny dropped and you realised that you still needed some guidance. Unfortunately, I know this lack of self-assurance, combined with a beginner’s knowledge of aesthetics, can sometimes lead to spiraling or self-doubt, and in worst cases, poor practice.

I am sure that every single injector in this industry has asked themselves multiple times: ‘Is this a bruise or a vascular occlusion?’ or ‘This patient has a heavy brow but wants their forehead lines treated with botulinum toxin, can I do this without dropping their brow?’ As we gain experience in the industry, these questions become less frequent and answers come more easily and autonomously. However, in the beginning, to provide best practice to your patients, it’s imperative to have someone to ask these questions to. Of course, complication groups such as Complications in Medical Aesthetics Collaborative (CMAC) and Aesthetic Complications Expert (ACE) Group World are invaluable resources, and I’d recommend them to any practitioner, new or experienced. However, one specific, trusted practitioner to turn to time after time, who knows you as an individual and understands your unique style of practice, can provide an important additional layer of support when it comes to safeguarding your patients and providing the best level of service.

Additionally, when you benefit from somebody else’s years of experience, you can avoid the pitfalls they made on their own journey. Common mistakes I find new practitioners making range from being sucked in by trends or splurging on shiny new machines instead of investing in their hands, to approaching treatments like botulinum toxin as a ‘paint by numbers’ exercise. Mentors can not only help practitioners avoid these mistakes, but also help encourage focus, set goals and plug gaps that we all inevitably start off with.

I know it is usually the hardest time to find the finances to invest in a mentor, but in my experience I believe it is crucial to do so. Mentors usually charge by the hour or for a set package, and prices can vary significantly, but you can expect to pay at least a couple of thousand pounds over the course of a year. So instead of buying that new device, perhaps think of what a mentor can bring to your practice and your business instead. In terms of how to find the right mentor, industry conferences like ACE and CCR are a great place to start. Many experienced practitioners offer mentorship and will frequently present at these conferences, so you can listen to them and see if you think you could work well together. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching them in person, check out their social media and see if they have a website you can enquire through. Many of my mentees have found me this way, and it’s always encouraging to hear they connected with me from an audience!

Growing your business

Once you’ve landed on your feet and found your stride in clinical practice, you will probably want to grow your business and/or your presence in the aesthetic industry. You are no longer a deer in headlights, but equally you are not yet at the top of your game. Often once we’ve become confident in our clinical ability, the next unanswered questions we have relate to business. These can be questions such as ‘How do you successfully market yourself?’ or ‘How do you say no to patients who try to haggle with you on prices, or have unrealistic expectations?’ And importantly, we need someone to ask the question, ‘What will make you happy?’, because this is the basis of your business, but it is not something we ask ourselves often. 

When I was at this stage of my practice, I too was more secure in my clinical abilities, but needed help in other areas. I invested in one-on-one sessions and group seminars with business coaches, and it proved instrumental in growing my practice. My business coaches helped me realise that what would make me happy was not more patients, but a less overwhelming workload – I couldn’t do everything I was doing and still be successful. It was time to outsource some jobs and expand my team. Through mentorship, I gained advice on how to do this successfully, and thankfully avoided burnout; separating work and personal phones is a good tip here! I know my business wouldn’t be where it is now without my team’s input at that vital stage, and I’m so grateful I had objective insight and advice into my business at this pivotal point in my career.

In addition to preventing burnout, I most often work with practitioners on how not to fall into the trap of being generic at this stage. We also often work on brand awareness, offering new treatments, pricing (particularly increasing prices and patient spend) and communicating with patients. And of course, we still discuss individual patient cases, as clinical reflection and support is vital for every practitioner, regardless of level of expertise. So, if you are an aesthetic practitioner who is proud of your growth so far, but you’re ready to take that next step, consider how a mentor can help you kickstart the next chapter of your journey. 

If you still need clinical support, it is best to look solely within the aesthetics industry, but you may find that you can look elsewhere for business coaches and general mentors. Even better, you can look for both in the same person – business and clinical expertise rolled into one. Wherever you search for mentorship, ensure the person is someone you aspire to emulate. If they have specific experience doing what you want to do, they’ll be best-placed to help you reach your goals.

Expert level

I believe there is no such thing as an expert. I’ve been in this industry for more than 20 years, and I still have a mentor myself. There are obviously brilliant practitioners with decades of experience, but even they have something to learn from others. Regardless of the industry one is in, there will always be someone that’s more skilled, and always someone else to bring different qualities to the table. For example, did you know that Oprah Winfrey had a mentor? The late Maya Angelou was a prominent figure in Oprah’s life right until she passed in 2014. Additionally, Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs, and JJ Abrams calls Steven Spielberg a mentor! No matter how far we progress in our careers or in life, we never stop learning.

So, if you’re a highly-qualified and experienced aesthetic practitioner, what can you gain from mentorship? Someone to challenge you, ask you the difficult questions; someone to stop you from hiding in a metaphorical ivory tower. No matter how skilled you are clinically, no human being can be truly objective, and every individual’s practice sometimes needs an objective eye. Challenges are essential for growth, so contrary to what you might think, I believe experts sometimes need mentoring more than anyone!

Of course, experienced practitioners in this small field tend to know or know of one another, so this may work out as a more informal and reciprocal arrangement than typical mentoring agreements. Networking will be the most likely way to find a mentor at this stage of your career, and practitioners should look for someone who can both challenge and inspire them.

Take the next step

Everybody has a unique journey to success in this industry, but what we all have in common is that familiar phrase, ‘no man is an island.’ Having a trusted mentor in your life can be the difference between struggling with feeling alone for ages, versus having the support and resources in place to make great strides forward. It is true that new practitioners need different kinds of support than long-established ones, but it is support that everyone needs nonetheless. I learnt this throughout my own career, and I see it time and time again with my mentees. Therefore, regardless of where you are in your career in this specialty, if you are working alone and feel you need to take the next step, I highly urge you to look into mentoring — it could be just the thing you’re missing!

Originally published in https://aestheticsjournal.com/feature/utilising-mentorship-opportunities/ 

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