Like many college graduates, Heather Adessa went out into the real world unsure of what she wanted to do. The 26-year-old took the first job she could find that paid the bills after graduating from Manhattanville College in 2006. She soon discovered she disliked everything associated with working a desk job. Then the recession hit and no matter how hard she worked, she wasn’t making enough to get by, she says.
Today, she has combined her passion and knowledge of makeup and hairstyling to create her own business, Makeup & Hair by Heather A, and has become her own boss. She is one of a growing number of 20-somethings who are ditching the cubicle life and striking out on their own.
OOTS: After graduating college, did you try to find a job that would use your degree?
Heather Adessa: I graduated from Manhattanville College in 2006 and went out and got your normal 9-5 jobs. Graduating with a liberal arts degree, since I didn’t know what I wanted to do, helped because I could have gone in any direction. I had worked in car dealerships in high school and for some of college and then worked in Bloomingdale’s at the cosmetic counter, one of my hobbies, towards the end of college. A few months after graduation, I realized that working part time wasn’t helping with me in my situation with health benefits, 401Ks, etc.
OOTS: What was your experience like trying to find a “real” job post-graduation?
HA: Since I didn’t know what I wanted to do, it wasn’t too difficult to find a job. I just looked for something with benefits on monster.com because I wasn’t sure which direction I was going. I wasn’t sure of a “real” job. I am much happier now. However, people still don’t think I have a “real” job because it’s not full time.
OOTS:You mention you disliked having a desk job, why?
HA: Desk duty. Hated it. Loved the people I worked with, for the most part, but the sitting at a desk and answering phones and doing work in a computer all day was not something even remotely close to what I wanted to do.
OOTS: How did the recession impact your job and income?
HA: At that time I was selling cars. I was great at it! I didn’t have to stay behind a desk all day, I got to work with people, it was great! Until fall of 2008 when the recession hit full force. No one was buying cars. I was working 80 hours a week for a $200 paycheck. Not good.
OOTS: You decided to go into makeup. Can you talk a little about why and how you came to that idea?
HA: I loved working with makeup since I was in high school. I had done makeup on my friends for our proms and high school dances. During my last two years of college I worked for MAC Cosmetics as a part-time job. I loved it there, but soon after I graduated I realized I needed to be working full time. Instead of trying to stay working in the field I loved, I grabbed the first job I could find that hired me: a car dealership receptionist. When that didn’t pan out, I realized that maybe working in the field I loved I could find the right job.
OOTS: What has been owning your own business been like? Is money a concern, having enough clients, etc?
HA: The hardest part is not making the appointments, but making them not turn into cancellations. Just like any hairdresser or makeup artist, clients schedules can get in the way, hence a cancellation. I can’t rely on an appointment until I’m doing it, which is hard. I need to make sure I am booked enough to pay all of my bills, which is also difficult because I can’t force anyone to get their hair or makeup done. Now, I am doing well because it’s wedding and prom season, but wintertime is much more difficult.
OOTS: What are the positives and negatives of working for yourself? How have you been able to make a decent income and get the business off the ground?
HA: As I stated earlier, the income can be difficult depending on the season. There are definitely positives and negatives on working for yourself. You can make your own schedule, that way if you have family or personal appointments, you can work around them. The negative is that you are the boss. If you don’t work, no one is going to tell you to do your job. You have to be self-motivated.
OOTS: In your opinion, do you think the majority of 20-somethings are cut out to work in an office environment? Why or why not?
HA: I think that this is hard to answer. Just because someone is older doesn’t mean they have the ability to obey their own rules, you need to be pretty disciplined to do so. I know that some days I just don’t want to work, but I know I have bills to pay, so I get up anyway. It is very easy to “call in sick” when your boss is yourself.