Growing up, I’m sure a lot of people heard the same warnings I did about getting tattoos. “Don’t forget they’re permanent,” “be careful where you get it when you start to age” and, most commonly, “Are you sure? What about when you’re applying for jobs?” There’s always been a bit of controversy about tattoos and the workplace. For some reason, people associate and have taught us to associate tattoos with being unprofessional. And while there are certainly some jobs where it makes sense to cover up and hide your ink, in other areas it just doesn’t make sense.
I’ve interned and worked at a menagerie of places, and only one of them made sense to not show any tattoos. At that particular place, my job required interacting with a lot of children and families, and it was recommended to cover up any tattoos or piercings (besides the regular one-hole on ears). Asides from wanting to project a professional vibe, covering up the tattoos had more to do with making the kids feel comfortable and not nervous to approach any employees for help. While grown adults shouldn’t make first judgments towards someone because of how their hair is styled or whether they have a colorful sleeve, it’s hard to expect that from children, especially really young children. In that instance, all employees were asked to cover our tattoos not because they found them unprofessional (in fact, a lot of my superiors at that job had tattoos themselves), but because they wanted to create the most comfortable environment for their younger target audience.
At other places, however, being required to cover-up a tattoo is completely unrelated to appearing less intimidating to children. And that is where I believe change needs to be made. The physical way people choose to express themselves has no bearing on their work-ethic or intellect. Some of the smartest, most professional people I’ve met definitely didn’t look like the “normal” working guy or girl, and I think that’s great! Places that hire people simply because they look a certain way usually have a rude awakening in store later. Finding a good employee shouldn’t be determined by anything other than if they’re qualified for the position and if they can do the work well.
Now obviously, if a tattoo is inappropriate for a workplace environment, such as curse words or drug-related subjects, that might be a different story. Every job is going to be a case-by-case scenario, much like other things in life. However, a lot of tattoos are just people’s way of expressing themselves, and if someone’s personality is professional enough to fit in, then usually their tattoo will be too. It’s time that the work culture shifts from putting so much emphasis on appearances and focuses on the aspects that actually matter.