“Guy walks into a job interview. He’s wearing a t-shirt, has a couple piercings, tattoos on his arms and his hair is 3 different colors. The manager who was interviewing him liked the resume and decided to advise him a bit. He tells the guy, “You’re resume is great but I can’t have someone looking the way you do with my clients. You aren’t even wearing a tie.” Guy’s response was something along the lines of, “This is who I am; this is me.” The manager sat up, visibly annoyed and says, “You’re such a fool; you and your whole generation. Get a real shirt and tie, keep your hair to one color, lose the piercings and hide the tattoos. If you can do that, come see me next week. Once you become the manager from the hard work I think you can do, fire everyone and hire only people with multi-colored hair, piercings, tattoos and get rid of ties if you want.” -M.A.H.
From the beginning, I knew my first tattoo was going to be on my shoulder. I did this for two reasons. To hide it from my parents and so no one would see it at work. Long story short, when my parents visited me when I was in the U.S. Marine Corps, they asked me about my tattoo. My response?
To say tattoos are not becoming mainstream is an oversight. Although most countries do not track tattoo sales or statistics, in the United States almost 14% of Americans* have at least one tattoo and over 30% of those people say “they’re addicted to ink”. The issue with employment is all in presentation. You don’t have to get a tattoo, you don’t have to grow a mustache, you don’t have to have piercings, and you don’t have to wear a tie.
With that said certain companies or certain fields frown on piercings; require you to wear a tie; keep facial hair to a minimum and don’t even want to sniff tattoos. There’s a dress code. Some employment fields are easier than others.
The fact is, in the workplace, there’s more fear then there is knowledge. Many people in power still view tattoos as trouble or feel threatened by them. When Mike Tyson got his tattoo, regardless of what his intentions were do you think he now looks more or less menacing? (Love ya Mr. Tyson). When I met my first wife, her father did not want me near her. Coming from Sicily, if you had tattoos, you did prison time.
If your response is the same as the story up top, it’s not that you may not be ready for a tattoo- you may not be ready for a job. For every action there is a reaction. If you cannot accept the responsibility of this, then it really doesn’t matter what your job is, does it? If having a tattoo in a prominently open, viewable area (IE forearms, hand, wrist, neck, etc.) is more important to you then the possibility of a career in your chosen field, cool. This isn’t to say you aren’t going to find work. It’s just may become difficult initially. Of course if your field of expertise is OK with tats send me a message asking for an apology for wasting 10 minutes of your life reading this. I will humbly apologize.
Things are changing though. I walked into my local grocery store recently; one of the largest grocery store chains in the U.S. The assistant manager has a large forearm tattoo. He didn’t start off as the manager; he’s been there for some years. I had to take my daughter to the hospital overnight for some testing. The male nurse had two sleeves and they were bold tattoos too. Really vibrant, could see them from a mile away. He had short sleeves on too. He had been a nurse for more than 5 years. Things are changing.
Your tattoos are an enhancement of you. You are not your tattoos. Give people reasons to know about you before they know about your tattoos.
If there is any advice I could give and I have hired and fired thousands over a long career. I would say this:
Be smart with your tats initially. Get your tattoos in strategic places that are covered up with everyday clothing. Once your skill level grows in your trade; hiring officials will look more at your body of work and less at your tattoos. Give them a reason to look beyond your tattoos.
Never forget that an interview is a first impression. I have seen people not get a job because they had facial hair (crazy). Do what you need to do to get the job. Then when you’re the boss, fire everyone and hire everyone else with tattoos.