What ABOUT My Tattoo

Yes, I know body art and adornment isn’t where it was back in the day and that my opinion of your tattoos, piercings and gauges is irrelevant. As the mother of two adult kids with tattoos, piercings and unusual hair, I’ve been well informed about how archaic and out of touch it is to view tattoos and piercings as inappropriate for business.

My kids were right. My opinion is irrelevant, but out there in business most of the people who make the rules and do the hiring are of my generation. As long as you work for these old, up-tight, anachronisms, you end up influenced by their prejudices.

Larissa Faw in Visible Tattoos and other Corporate No-Nos talks about the fact that not only is this sort of display viewed as inappropriate in the business world, dress codes and prohibitions may actually be getting more rigid in some companies in response to what some see as lack of self-monitoring by some employees. She reports that, for instance, companies go so far as to prohibit shiny lip-gloss and bangs and limit the amount of jewelry. According to Faw the financial giant UBS dictates women must wear scarves knotted in an approved way.

Roughly one-third of traditional age students now have visible tattoos and an increasing number have visible piercings in other places besides the ears. Gauges are common in ears of both men and women. Obviously when this generation matures into those positions of authority, attitudes may change, but so far, at least for many companies, they haven’t. In addition, there appears to be some gender disparity between what’s tolerated for men and women.

What I want you to think about is this, no matter how skilled you are or what the company policies are, given a choice between hiring a “clean-cut” employee and an equally qualified one with a more edgy image, most HR managers will choose the plain-vanilla candidate.  According to a Forbes report, these are the percentage of hiring managers who reported they would not approve a candidate for each of these reasons: piercings 37%, bad breath 34%, visible tattoo 31%, wrinkled clothes 31%, messy hair, 29%.

So, yes, I understand this is who you are, and that you shouldn’t be judged for such superficial reasons, BUT with the job market being so tight, I’d think twice about anything that limited my employability. You can express yourself now without doing anything irreversible. I did influence my kids to keep their tattoos where they were easy to cover. My daughter outgrew blue hair and shaved accents. My son cut his long red locks and took out the earrings. I’m happy to report that they are both very well employed in conservative environments. Their current mild looks are a façade for their unorthodox interiors. Neither of them is any less an individual.



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