Ink, piercings and the workplace: Oh my!

April 29, 2015

Royal Purple Staff Opinion

Throughout our younger years, we are told we are unique and we should embrace our differences from one another. We are taught that self-expression is a good thing, and we should be individuals and be proud of who we are.

Once we get to college, however, the messages change. “Be yourself” changes to “be someone who can get hired” and “express yourself” becomes “do things that build up your resume.”

This is just something that comes along with many of the bitter realities delivered with a “that’s just the way the world is” message from older generations.

So when you do decide to express yourself, you face two options.

1. Make sure you are careful enough with how and where and around who you do it, or 2. Do it and prepare for the consequences.

There is no better example of this dilemma than tattoos and body piercings.

As college students, and therefore future professionals, we are warned that if we really must get tattoos, they should be in easy-to-hide places. We’re told we really shouldn’t get piercings on our faces, because it makes us unprofessional.

Now this article certainly does not endorse you to go out and get a crazy tattoo on your forehead, but it does call for a consideration of the current views society has on body modifications.

Some may argue that tattoos and piercings in the workplace are slowly becoming more acceptable; however, there is still enough of an issue that those who choose option two – just do it and see what happens – can face struggles with finding a career.

So does the issue come from the people who are doing the hiring, or is there a bigger picture to this issue? The truth is this issue comes from societal perceptions of people with piercings and tattoos. Yes, the people who hire us require us to look “professional” which oftentimes means no visible tattoos or piercings; however, they are going by the definition society deems as “professional.”

Therefore, it is the job of our generation to not only prove that we can be professional while being tattooed and pierced at the same time, but to ensure that when we become those professionals who are hiring the future generations out of college, we do not hold the same perception and discrimination as many of those making the hiring decisions now.

Before we reach that point, though, here are a few things you can do to find a balance between expressing yourself and getting that career.

First, think long, hard and smart about what kind of tattoo you want to get and where you want to place it. This is something that stays with you forever, even beyond the workplace, it can affect your life in the future. A piercing can be taken out whenever, but a tattoo is always going to be there, so it’s important to make sure you’re not being impulsive, because that may lead to future regrets.

Second, do some research on the companies within your field and ask them about their policies. You may be surprised to find that some are more lenient about it, while others can be more strict about it than you imagined.

Third, remember that where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you absolutely need or want that tattoo in your life, if it’s super important and meaningful to you and your self-expression, then do it – but don’t be afraid to compromise with yourself about sizing and placement. Instead of getting it on your wrist, maybe choosing your shoulder would be a better idea.

There is no quick-fix to the societal stigmas of body modification; however, we can make the most of what we have to work with and we can try to be the change we wish to see in the future. Finding the balance is key.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email