Until recently, tattoos were considered totally inappropriate at work. Also, many people considered that having a tattoo on a visible body part can prevent them from getting a job. However, recent surveys show that more than 1 in 5 people have at least one tattoo. Nearly half of the people ages 26 to 40 have one. Also, 45% of law students have a tattoo by the time they graduate.
So are tattoos still taboo when it comes to the workplace? If a law student has a tattoo, does that mean s/he won’t make a great lawyer? Can you become CEO if you look like you’re on parole? In my personal opinion, tattoos have absolutely nothing to do with the way you think. Judging a person by its physical appearance alone is a mistake, even if at first s/he may appear as a rebel.
In some professions, tattoos are not only generally accepted, but even expected. We all know celebrities, hair stylists and professional athletes who have tattooed their bodies. However, would the same hold true for lawyers, doctors or economists, for instance?
Gretchen Sutton, an IT professional in the medical field, said: “I have a college degree. I’ve worked in the healthcare industry for seven years. I have a house. I have a family. I’m just like everybody else… and I have tattoos”.
“I have six tattoos and plan to get more”, she added. Gretchen got her first tattoo on her ankle. Then, she got one on her back and afterwards, a half sleeve on both arms. At her job, she must sometimes meet with office managers, hospital executives, and doctors. Even though she is aware of the fact that it is better to cover her tattoos when she does an interview or meets with a client, they are sometimes visible to coworkers when she’s in her office.
“Typically, I get double-takes, and they’re like <>”, Gretchen said. “As I told my mom, I like tattoos, but I like money more. I want to make sure that I have a good job and get paid well, and I can get tattoos in other parts of my body”, she added.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says he received many complaints from the public regarding a tattoo-covered deputy who appeared in news coverage of a trial. This prompted him to move forward with a new policy on tattoos, which says that if short-sleeved shirts don’t cover their tattoos, deputies have to wear long-sleeved shirts year-round.
“I don’t think it looks professional in our type of work”, the sheriff said. “We just try to get then where we can’t see them”.
John O’Connor, owner of a Raleigh-based career counseling company, warns that visible tattoos can have an impact, especially when it comes to traditional jobs. “Yeah, it’s an issue”, he said. He also added: “Privately, employers have told me it does affect their decision. It only takes a pause, when there are that many candidates for each job, to potentially reject you”.
In a recent survey, 42% of hiring managers said their opinion of someone would be lowered if they had visible body art, which includes both tattoos and piercings. 76% of them said that visible tattoos were unprofessional.
When his assistant came in with a small tattoo on her wrist, O’Connor admits he was caught of guard and remembers thinking: “Wow, why did you do that? How might it affect people’s opinion of you? The perception of business”.
According to other studies, most individuals don’t regret getting tattoos. However, most of those who have those tattoos removed cite employment reasons as their motivation for undergoing the procedure.
Clearly, tattoos can still be an issue at work. That depends, of course, on the type of work that you do and the open mindness of the people you work with. This is why you should carefully weigh your decision before getting a tattoo. If you are determined to get inked, than it would be best to have the tattoo done on a part of the body you can easily cover up with clothes when working. If you already have a tattoo, try as much as you can to cover it up when going for an interview or simply going to work.
Even though we live in the 21st century, people still have misconceptions and are quite judgmental when it comes to body art. While this is unfortunate, everyone is entitled to their opinion, so you should be the bigger person and not judge them for being conservative.