How Much “Experience” Do You Really Have as a Spa Professional?

 The word “experience” in the spa profession is a double-edged sword. It can either make you or break you.


Spa employers are having better luck with just-out-of-school massage or skin care graduates. They can be molded to perform services according to the spa’s protocols. They bring energy and enthusiasm to the field. And most importantly, they haven’t learned any bad habits.

So how much clout does “experience” really hold as a spa professional? If you are not present or engaged while performing a service, it will come through in your touch. “Coasting” through a spa service or performing a service in “auto-pilot” can be discerned by each guest, especially if they exit the treatment room and wonder why they don’t feel any better.

Having 20 years’ experience doesn’t put you ahead of the curve either. If you’ve barley taken a continuing education class since graduating from massage or skin care school, how do you expect to grow in this industry? Don’t be surprised if a spa therapist who hasn’t been in this profession as long as you have is getting more repeat requests. She may make continuing education a priority so much that she shares what she has learned with each guest who appreciates what she can bring to their session.

Giving the same massage or facial to every guest you encounter may be a relaxing experience for them, but you will start to become bored with this profession because of the everyday norm. Your treatments will feel uninspired, predictable or they will become “old-school” to the guest who has received them many times.

A common mistake a spa manager makes is rewarding a long-time spa therapist with seniority booking. First, run reports on that spa therapist’s retention rate. A retention rate has to do with how many visits a guest has made to that spa therapist in a certain bracket of time, i.e. over the course of six weeks. A good retention rate should be at least two visits by a guest to the same spa therapist within six weeks. The numbers don’t lie. You don’t owe them a raise, a higher commission or “pick of the litter” on every treatment that is booked simply because they have been with you a long time and show up for work on time. There has to be more to it 

When I interview candidates who are experienced in this field, some are fantastic. However, others have too many gripes or they have been so jaded by poor spa management, they really belong in private practice at this point.

As with any profession, you either have it or you don’t. It all has to do with what you bring to the position.The magic words a spa therapist can say during their in-person interview are “I plan to take a continuing education class on that subject.” To become re-energized as a spa professional, you have to be willing to make sacrifices. This means requesting off well in advance in order to register for an upcoming workshop that will revisit anatomy and physiology, discuss contraindications, and demonstrate new techniques. Register for the class immediately. Spa professionals usually wait until the last minute to enroll and then the workshop is canceled due to the lack of interest. You will have to put the money aside and be willing to lose a couple of days from your work schedule. This is imperative, as you may become the dinosaur of the massage or skin care profession with archaic routines and simple maneuvers that feel nice but aren’t as effective as an invigorating new stretch you have learned or a more dynamic way to analyze skin or perform extractions.

Many years ago, I lectured to a group of massage therapists. Licensure had been passed the previous year and they were only attending the lecture because they had to fulfill a continuing education requirement.  The interaction with this group was unfriendly, attitudes were poor and they acted like they already knew everything. They had sort of this, “Let’s just get this over with,” mentality. I would not want to receive a massage from any of these people. When I lecture to an audience that attends for their own enrichment, the response is much more positive.

If you are a spa therapist with many years of experience:

  • Reflect on the last time you attended a spa workshop.
  • Expand your range of spa services.
  • Examine how many repeat guests you’ve serviced.
  • Determine if you really have a “book” or if it’s a figment of your imagination.
  • Are you too set in your ways and unwilling to embrace new spa menu additions?
  • Are you as well-versed as you believe yourself to be?

The bottom line is that if you are tying up a treatment room and relying on the spa’s reputation to generate several services in your day, you are not calling upon your experience in this profession to carry you to the next level. You are using the spa as a crutch in order to make a living.

Sooner or later, the experience you have in this field will come in to question. Guests are becoming more spa savvy. They have their preferences when booking services and are able to gage which spa therapists give the most effective treatments.