Jessica McDonald

Beauty Therapist for Virgin Atlantic

Jessica says that ‘To succeed in your chosen profession it is important to be passionate about the beauty industry and never give up when you have a personal ambition.’ Perseverance was an essential quality that helped her become a ‘Virgin’ beauty therapist. 

She says one of the best things about working for the company is the interesting people she meets every day. There are many interesting travellers who become regulars as they jet around the world from one business meeting to the next. Some even travel as far afield as South Africa for a one hour meeting, or Sydney Australia where they don’t even leave the airport when they arrive. Jess says ‘These frequent fliers become regular clients and provide us with many stories of their travels which give us ideas about where we want to go when we use our tickets. She is off to Dubai in February and California and Vegas in September!’

Her career journey started in her last year at school when she chose her final week’s work experience in ‘Escape’ Beauty Salon in Knutsford. Throughout the week she was lucky enough to experience every treatment they provided and she was thoroughly hooked! She says the experience was amazing and she had so much fun that it made her mind up about becoming a beauty
In 2001 she started a full time NVQ level 2 course in beauty therapy and in the 1st year she learned about all the basic beauty treatments but it was whilst studying for her Level 3 qualification that she realised that she really loved the more advanced and holistic treatments. She says ‘Before I started I thought I would enjoy the beauty side of the course like make up and nails, but by the end of the year it was the holistic aspect which I enjoyed the most. Being able to change how someone feels from when they come in all stressed to when they leave completely relaxed.’ Part of this course also required her to find work experience and she was fortunate enough to find a place in a large Spa in Knutsford, called ‘The Cottons Hotel and Spa.’ This was a completely different experience from the
salon and she quickly realised this was much better for her as she preferred the longer more relaxing treatments they offered rather than the shorter beauty treatments. On completion of the two weeks work experience they offered Jess a Saturday job, carrying out basic beauty treatments, then they sent her on a training course with ESPA to learn about their products and treatments. 

Working for the spa helped her gain confidence and quite a few regular clients. It allowed her to experience business firsthand this she believes to be vital in gaining future employment. When the college course finished, Cottons asked her to work full time and over the next three years she learned many new treatments gradually working her way up to a senior position which enabled her to train other therapists. Training or teaching is something that Jess hopes to do in the future. The five years spent at Cottons helped make Jess into a flexible and highly skilled therapist offering all beauty, spa and holistic treatments, this helped her embark on the next stage of her career plan, which was to work for Virgin Atlantic. 

She applied for what she considered to be ‘the best beauty job in the world’, a position with Virgin Atlantic as an in-flight beauty therapist. Part of the attraction was that the job included free flights for friends and family and cheap accommodation at some amazing hotels and spas around the world and it offered a good wage too! Unfortunately, the first time round she didn’t even get an interview and because there is a small staff turnover, as it’s such a perfect job, she didn’t think she would get another chance to work for this company. However someone gave her some good advice and encouraged her to try again as Virgin are renowned for never accepting a candidate the first time
they apply, they like to see how keen you actually are to work for them. On the second attempt Jess was given the interview which she says was a challenging experience. It was a group interview with 28 other therapists all going for the same job. There were tasks to complete throughout the day,
exams to sit and interviews; it was hard but something she really enjoyed. There were three candidates left at the end of the day and she was pleased to be one of them, but as luck would have it, there were only two jobs available. She waited patiently for the decision and was thrilled to find she had been selected!
All she had to do now was to get through the intensive 9 weeks training course before starting the job she had always wanted. Unfortunately she failed halfway through the course which was all about the aircraft and health and safety etc. a vital part of the job but nothing to do with beauty. Even though she was very upset losing her dream job at this stage she decided she wasn’t going to give up on her dream to work for Virgin Atlantic. To this end she put in a great deal of effort persuading the manager of the First class lounge to help her find a job within the company as they also offered passengers treatment on the ground. After finally managing to get another interview she was lucky enough to be offered a position in the ‘Cowshed Spa’ at the Heathrow clubhouse. This meant she kept all her free flights and perks of the job but it did mean she had to relocate to London on her own. Six months after starting her role, the in-flight therapists were removed from all of Virgin’s planes, meaning the majority of the therapists were made redundant. If she had succeeded in working as an in flight therapist then she thinks she would certainly have lost her job so in the end it all worked out for
the best!
She says Virgin has been a great company to work for, she has had a great four years and it has helped her mature as a person, living on her own away from the security of friends, family and boyfriend, it made her grow up very quickly, learning how to be independent and responsible for paying all her own bills etc. Jess says ‘I love this job and there is never a dull moment, I am busy all day every day. Virgin has a vision to expand the Clubhouse lounges all over the world and I would like to grow and move with it, who knows I could be living in San Francisco before I know it. I am currently on a trial for a senior position and see myself being a Virgin employee for a long time yet.
The only advice I would give an aspiring beauty therapist is make sure that you are passionate about the beauty industry, make sure you enjoy the treatments and the effect they can have and also realise that life hardly ever goes to plan, but if you persevere you will succeed, so just go with the flow!’