How to Get Your Dream Job

By Laura Allen
[Business Side]

Massage therapists have more choices today than ever before when seeking employment. Massage may be performed anywhere: on the beach, in a hospice, and anyplace in between. There are many options to consider; one is bound to be just right for you.

If you’re in the job market, carefully consider your own wants and needs before filling out employment applications. Instead of taking the first thing that comes along and finding out it isn’t ideal for you, start by thinking through your priorities. For example, most people need a certain income to pay their bills and maintain (or improve) their lifestyle. Some people may have time constraints, such as needing to be home with children during certain hours, or other commitments to honor.

Another important factor is the type of work you want to do. Practitioners who want to focus on medical massage probably won’t be satisfied in a day spa, but that might work out great for someone who loves to do stone massage. Some might enjoy being part of a large staff in a resort spa, while others are more comfortable in a smaller, cozier environment with just a few coworkers. Asking yourself a few simple questions can help you decide what type of job you want.

Write down what you want and be specific: “I want a job in a day spa, making at least $600 per week, with insurance and paid vacations, a five-day work week, and the opportunity to advance into management.” Having concrete goals is the first step. Of course, it’s a rare occurrence when we get everything we want, so you must also decide which points are negotiable and which are not. You might be willing to compromise and work on Saturdays, for instance, but if it’s written in stone that you won’t work on Sundays, you’re obligated to let potential employers know that up front.

Make the Most
of Your Abilities

If your talents lean toward neuromuscular therapy and other techniques for relieving pain, you’ll be happiest in a medical setting. Some possibilities for you include working in a chiropractic office or working for a medical doctor, a hospital, or in a group practice with other therapists or practitioners such as acupuncturists or naturopaths.

Sports massage enthusiasts have opportunities to work with athletic teams at their venues; some are lucky enough to travel with the team, while others may work at the gym, a health club, outdoors at the track, or in a stadium. A practitioner who enjoys pregnancy massage may have success in applying to work with an obstetrician or at a midwifery office. Prefer a constant change of scenery? You might want to work for a mobile massage company that provides outcalls or corporate chair massage.

Many therapists prefer being employees and working as part of a staff. They’re well suited for working in a spa, a salon, or on a cruise ship. There are many different types of spas nowadays: day spas, destination spas, medical spas, resort spas, and even dental spas. There are lots of opportunities to enhance or learn new spa techniques, but having some spa skills before you apply is a definite plus.

Working on a cruise ship requires stamina and the ability to be traveling for months at a time; stamina is a must because therapists are expected to perform 8–12 treatments per day, sometimes working 12-hour shifts as many as six days per week, and the average cruise contract is for eight months. Other realities of cruise life include sharing close quarters with others. Some therapists report feeling culturally isolated on a cruise ship, since Americans tend to be the minority on the ship’s staff. But for others, that would be an incentive. One cruise veteran I interviewed said she was the only American out of a spa staff of 80 on her ship.

Massage therapists who work for cruise lines, salons, and spas are often expected to do more than massage; many are also expected to sell retail products, for which they are paid a commission. If you’re good at making a sales pitch, you may do well at enhancing your income. If you don’t feel comfortable counseling clients to buy products, you’ll be better off seeking employment elsewhere.

Franchise massage membership clubs, such as Massage Envy ( and elements therapeutic massage (, are becoming more popular as employers. Clients pay a monthly membership fee, which gets them one massage per month, and discounted services if they choose to get massage more often. Staff enjoy employee benefits, such as health insurance, paid vacation time, and opportunities for advancement. Larger cities may have more than one location; one therapist I know regularly worked between three Massage Envy studios that were all owned by the same person. When one place wasn’t busy, she was sent to another; it suited her fine and kept her income at a steady level.

Preparing for the Job Hunt

After you’ve narrowed down your list of possible places to work, based on your desires for employment and what’s available in your area, you should maximize your chances of being hired by preparing a resume.

There are three main types of resumes: the chronological resume, which begins with your most recent employment and works backward; the functional resume, which highlights your experience in the area of employment you’re seeking; and the combination resume, which uses a functional style listing of relevant skills and accomplishments and then describes employment and education histories in reverse chronological order. The experience section directly supports the functional section.

Your resume should be accompanied by a cover letter that briefly explains the type of employment you are seeking and why you are applying to the particular company. Many word-processing programs contain templates for resumes and cover letters; there are also numerous free examples available on the Internet. One caveat: use the spell-checker and ask a couple of people to proofread your documents. Nothing puts an employer off faster than receiving a sloppy resume full of typos and bad grammar.             

Get Your Foot in the Door

There are several ways to go about getting a job interview, which is your all-important opportunity to land the position you want.

You can mail in a resume, and follow up a few days later with a phone call to make sure it was received. If you’re going to go this route, don’t just send in a resume addressed to the XYZ Spa. Call first and find who’s in charge of hiring.

You’re taking a chance if you just walk in the door hoping for an interview. That can be annoying to a busy manager who doesn’t have time to talk to you right then; on the other hand, you might be lucky enough to appear on the same day a therapist quit and they’re looking for somebody. In order to maximize your chances, have your resume in a large manila envelope clearly labeled with your name and contact information, state that you’d just like to drop it off for consideration, and ask if there is a more convenient time for you to come for an interview.

As an employer myself, I am personally turned off when I answer the phone and someone asks, “Are you hiring?” No name is given; nothing is said about what they’re looking for or what they’re qualified to do. On the other hand, the person who asks, “I’m Susan Smith, a licensed massage therapist who has just moved into town, and I’m wondering if I could come by to drop off a resume?” is much more likely to get an interview. I sometimes interview therapists when I don’t need anyone at the moment; I don’t want to waste their time, so I will tell them up front that I’m not hiring today, but I’ll keep their resume on file for future consideration.

Make a Good Impression

As you know, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Whether you’re just dropping off your resume or appearing for your interview, dress professionally. If you have an actual appointment, arrive on time. Answer all questions honestly. It’s much better to say, “No, I don’t know how to do a salt scrub, but I learn quickly, and I’ll be happy to learn your menu of spa services,” than to misrepresent your skills.

The most important thing to the majority of employers is a positive attitude. Any manager wants people who are positive and upbeat and give the impression of being committed to customer service. Regardless of the venue you choose to work in, providing massage is performing a service, and it’s important to appear enthusiastic and interested in your work and dedicated to providing a good experience for the client.

Feather Your Nest

When you’re someone’s employee, you may not have any say-so regarding the decor of your work setting. Even then, there are still a few things you can probably do to personalize your space and enhance the client’s experience. For example, adding a waffle pad and/or a fleece pad and table warmer to your massage table makes it nice and cozy. Offering each client a neck warmer, an herbal eye pillow, or even just a hot towel over the face to open the sinuses are personal touches clients appreciate.

If you are allowed to decorate your room, keep it clean and simple. A cluttered space is not conducive to a relaxing experience. A picture or two, and perhaps a soothing fountain and a green plant are plenty.

Be Professional

Once you’ve landed the job, be professional. Dress professionally, even though you may not be required to wear a uniform. Be on time. Keep your space clean. Strive to give every client a great experience. Observe boundaries (yours and theirs). If you’re having a bad day, keep it to yourself and save the meltdown for after work. If a more attractive opportunity comes your way, give your employer a notice instead of just walking out the door. Building a reputation for yourself as a talented massage therapist who is also a good employee will serve you well for the rest of your career. Happy job hunting!


Laura Allen is the author of Plain & Simple Guide to Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork Examinations (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009) and One Year to a Successful Massage Therapy Practice (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008). A third book, A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Business, will be published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Allen is the owner of THERA-SSAGE, an alternative wellness clinic of over a dozen practitioners of different disciplines, and continuing education facility, in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Visit her website at