As a student in their final year of study who has been in and out of many different interviews for a variety of different internships, out of all the things I could be worried about, one thing I was most cautious of was the fact that I had tattoos. Although I only have two that can be easily hidden, it was still something that lurked in my mind. I still had this ounce of dishonesty and lack of transparency that I wasn’t comfortable with as I made a conscious attempt to hide this part of myself.
I didn’t want to take any risks in what would be a crucial component to the start of my future career. I had despised that this was the case. I despised that society had to be this way and that I had to feel so wrong about something that was nothing more than an extension of who I was, the journey of my own personal narrative.
This is an important facet of fairness at work due to the growing number of people deciding to get tattooed. According to research conducted by Pew Research Centre, 40% of millennials have at least one tattoo (Rebell, 2015).
70% of these respondents have admitted to making a conscious effort to get a tattoo in a place that can be hidden from employers (Ibid).
This mindset has stemmed from the negative connotations associated with being inked. Currently, those in higher positions at an organisation are gen x or baby boomers and pertain beliefs from their understanding of tattoos growing up. However, with the rise of young adults taking on upper level roles and bringing their open mindedness to the workplace may help diminish these outdated beliefs and allow those who are exceptionally talented, driven, clever and who happen to have a tattoo excel in their deserved roles. Rather than looking at the qualities of the candidate as; exceptionally talented, driven, clever AND has a tattoo.
In a career building survey, it was found that 31% of human resource managers agreed that visible tattoos on a prospective employee could have a negative impact on their decision to hire them. Even more interestingly is that bad breath weighed higher in regards to impacting a persons chance of employability (Monty, 2014).
So I guess rolling up your sleeves and showing your ink is fine provided your coffee breath isn’t too pungent. That minty gum might just score you the job!
Back to my personal reflection, looking at Michael White’s work and the concept of the absent but implicit, by using this framework I want to guide my own beliefs and to gauge an understanding of my own values which will inherently shape what I truly want out my own future of work.
- Identify a smallish event where you were annoyed or frustrated.
When being interviewed for roles I’ve wanted I became frustrated at myself because of the perception that was viewed of people with tattoos and was worried that If this part of me was discovered that I would be less likely to be employed.
- What is the opposite of this, that suggests how you would prefer things to be done.
The opposite of this would have been to wear exactly what I wanted that could have revealed my tattoos and in the process and put me at a greater risk to face the consequences that I was trying to avoid.
- “connect the dots” backwards to see other times when this other preferred value has worked out well? How did you enable that?
In an old job I used to have at a shoe store. This shoe store actually stated in their job description that they would like candidates that were unapologetically themselves and the more unique and expressive they were in their appearance, the more they would fit within the stores brand identity.
- Is there someone in your life that knows or values this about you?
My close friends. They value that my perception of success is happiness, and that I would rather work comfortably where I am wanted for who I am rather than not.
Theo Priestly, a writer at Forbes explains how his tattoos have not prevented opportunities in the workplace, but instead provided a means to express his own visual narrative. He defines his tattoos as a piece of art and uses them as an ice breaker to break down barriers and allow more meaningful and honest relationships with those within his industry (Priestley, 2015).
Priestley’s take on the matter is interesting to note, especially in regards to his understanding that his tattoos carry integral elements of himself and who he wants to be perceived as. In a workplace stringently controlled by dress code and sets of rules can sometimes carry hypocrisy as employers generally want to hire people who have a distinct edge. In these statements however tattoos don’t generally counter in. But why is that? Because people still don’t see tattoos as a piece of art and the canvas as a body. Whether the tattoo is merely there for an aesthetic appeal or to commemorate an important part of the person’s life, they all carry their own unique narrative and for them to be misrepresented as a form of rebellion is an outdated mindset.
When getting my tattoos, I always held the idea that if they weren’t going to accept me for the person I was, I wouldn’t want to work for that organisation anyways. In my current internship colleagues know i have tattoos but value my consideration to cover up especially when working with clients/representing the organisation. In the interview phase however, I knew I didn’t want to be held back from my own goals because of it and I’m comfortable having been able to prove myself, but still reflect on how I might not have been so lucky had I revealed this upon initial meeting. I hope that as a society we can grow from these misconceptions and debunk myths associated with tattoos in the workplace for the future.
Grasz, J. (2011). Career Builder Findings. Available: http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?sd=6%2F30%2F2011&id=pr642&ed=12%2F31%2F2011. Last accessed 28-08-18.
Ham, L. (2014). Do tatts matter at work?. Available: https://www.smh.com.au/business/small-business/do-tatts-matter-at-work-20140802-3d0lj.html. Last accessed 27-08-2018.
Monty, L. (2014). Workplace tattoo taboos fading. Available: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/09/11/tattoo-taboo-workplace/15449719/. Last accessed 27-08-18.
Priestley, T. (2015). How Technology Is Changing The Perception Of Tattoos In The Workplace. Available: https://www.forbes.com/sites/theopriestley/2015/12/10/how-technology-is-changing-the-perception-of-tattoos-in-the-workplace/#4b5576f45392. Last accessed 26-08-18.
Rebell, B. (2015). Why Tattoos Are Still Taboo at the Office. Available: http://time.com/money/3974956/tattoo-millennials-hiring/. Last accessed 27-08-2018.