Something Alternative: Think Ink – How do employers and the older generation feel about tattoos?

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By December 13, 2013 August 24th, 2016 Blogs, Culture, News, Something Alternative

How do employers and the older generation feel about tattoos?

Dana Isaly

It’s a question I’ve asked people multiple times. It’s always weighed a heavy burden on me when deciding where I should get a tattoo. I don’t want it to be too obvious in case an employer doesn’t approve and most, if not all, of my family hates tattoos and therefore I don’t want to upset them by having them on display 24/7. I always ask people questions regarding this: “Aren’t you afraid of not being hired?” and “Do you think I can get away with this tattoo here for future jobs?”

A woman came into where I work last week and noticed a colleague’s tattoos on his arm and chest. She had the most unexpected response from an older woman: She absolutely loved them. She even walked over closer to him to examine them and ask a lot of questions whilst declaring how much she loved body art. It was really strange to hear an opinion in favour of tattoos when I’m normally hearing how the older generation hates them and thinks them unprofessional.

My friends will complain all the time about how upset their parents or family members get with each tattoo they get. And I’m not exempt from this. I try to break it to my mother gently, or just keep a couple of them covered so that I never have to go through the hassle.

So what about in the big scary grown-up world? What do employers generally think about visible tattoos? My boss doesn’t give two sh*ts about tattoos or piercings and I don’t think many retail shops really do, and neither do bars or clubs. Some shops, such as Urban Outfitters, are actually interested in tattoos and piercings; things that make people unique. I think this is because shops and bars obviously cater to the younger people who tattoos are very popular with.

Yet, when I ask my parents, I get a completely different response. My father, who is in charge of hiring/firing at an aluminium company, says that he would be very reluctant to hire someone with visible tattoos and so would his superiors. My mother says that her bosses most definitely would discriminate against tattoos. When my friend who has a full sleeve and various tattoos on his legs and feet applied for a job in a museum, the hiring manager asked for pictures and explanations of the visible tattoos. Even the US Army is trying to pass a new law that bans tattoos below the elbows and knees and above the neck. There are thousands of articles out there on how the workplace discriminates against tattoos, and not very many about how that’s actually wrong.

In 2012 there was a study done that showed one in five adults had a tattoo in the US. And a study released in 2010 showed that seventy percent of people between the age of 18 and 29 years that have tattoos decided to cover them up in the workplace to avoid discrimination. There’s always that fear that we are going to be judged for the artwork we decide to put on our body, which is a shame because once you have it it becomes a part of who you are and no one should have to hide that.

In the end, I guess it’s just better to be cautious with employers. I’ll always be too paranoid in a job interview to show my tattoos anyway. First impressions will always have a huge impact. But, employers and the older generation are going to have to get over it eventually. It’s difficult to walk down the street and not see someone with a tattoo. And who knows how many people you see have one that’s just hidden? It’s going to be slim pickings if the older generation keeps basing who they hire on whether they have a tattoo or not.

Just because we have tattoos doesn’t mean we are in a gang, rebellious, irresponsible or unprofessional. It means we have a personality and we like to show it on our skin.

Here’s a link to some useful survey statistics:

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