Remember that high you felt when you came home with your first tattoo? You had finally gone through with it. You endured the pain. And you had a sick work of art to show for it. You were proud. You were on top of the world. You felt like you could single-handedly conquer the whole of the Roman Empire before lunchtime.
And then came family Thanksgiving. Things were going great. The cousins and uncles were oohing and aahing over your new ink. You sat down with the rest of the family around the table and reached out to hold Grandma’s hand while Grandpa gave the blessing. And that’s when she saw it. “What is that?” she gasped. So, you briefly explained the deeply meaningful reason behind the piece. It was no use. “Now you’ll never get a decent job,” she lamented. “Not with that eyesore.”
It’s often assumed that tattoos can hinder your chances of getting a job–or at least what would be considered a more “grown-up” job. But is that really the case? I mean, it’s 2023. Everyone and their mother has a tattoo at this point (well, maybe not Grandma). Surely we’ve moved past all that, right?
Don’t worry, Grandma, things aren’t the way they used to be. In today’s job climate, it is far easier for a tatted individual to get hired than it used to be. In fact, recent studies have shown that people with tattoos tend to work more days than those without. So, even if you’re sporting a rad full sleeve, there’s hope for you yet.
But seriously, what is it with all the stigma around tattoos? And how can you be prepared to enter the workplace confidently without losing your mode of self-expression? Let’s get into it.
What made tattoos taboo in the first place?
Tattoos have been around nearly since the dawn of time. Mummies who lived thousands of years ago have been found with tattoo-like markings. This form of self-expression has been around longer than some religions, so how on earth did they manage to still be taboo by the 21st century?
Well, speaking of religion, that played a major factor. Many believed that because the body is said to be a “temple,” permanently defacing it would be sacrilegious. In ancient times, tattoos were sometimes used to identify slaves or criminals. During the last century, the link between tattoos and gangs has also played into a nasty stereotype and was typically seen as a sign of rebellion. For these reasons, government, military, and most white-collar jobs prohibited employees from sporting visible tattoos to keep a “professional” look.
When did the shift happen?
Today, tattoos are seen more as an art form and mode of self-expression than an act of rebellion. After all, you’ve got moms sporting dainty florals, dads displaying their children’s names, 20-something-year-olds with Bible verses on their wrists, and inked memorials to loved ones who’ve passed away. Not exactly the picture of danger or rebellion. As tattoos have become more of a social norm, many companies have changed their hiring policies to be more accepting of them.
Should I mention my tattoos in my interview?
Despite the increased acceptance of tattoos in the workplace, you might still experience some nervousness before an interview. What if they ask about tattoos? Before going in, look through any material you have about the employer and the job requirements. Sometimes, employers will list any deal-breakers in the description. If not, don’t be afraid to ask about their policies in the interviewers. Most employers will appreciate someone who is upfront and makes an effort to understand company guidelines.
What kinds of jobs might still hold stricter guidelines regarding tattoos?
While many jobs have updated their tattoo policies, with more doing so every day, some fields are more likely to hold stricter guidelines. If you’re interested in a career in any of the following areas, you’ll want to find out what will fly on the job:
- Financial services
- Corporate jobs
- Government and civil service
- Medical professions
- Hospitality and fine dining
- Conservative businesses
- Educational institutions
- Churches and other religious organizations
- Modeling and acting
What kinds of jobs are more accepting of visible tattoos?
Tattoos might be a big deal to some, but other employers couldn’t care less. To improve your chances of finding a job that will accept your incredible ink, try looking in these fields:
- Media and entertainment
- Graphic design
- Beauty and cosmetology
- Service industry
- Wellness and fitness
- Self-employment and freelance
- Tourism and travel
- Tattoo apparel brands
- Tattoo merchandise
What if I need to cover my tattoo for work?
If you end up landing a job where you’re asked to cover your tattoos, don’t worry. It can be done. While wearing long-sleeves on the job during the summer months might not seem ideal, many business-appropriate button-down shirts feature lightweight, breathable material to ensure comfort. Small tattoos can be covered with patches or bandaids during work hours, while lower arm ink can be covered with tattoo wraps. If you need to cover a neck or face tattoo, grab some heavy-duty concealer and learn how to conceal it like the pros.
Policies can differ from company to company and industry to industry. For every employer who might be inclined to turn away tatted professionals, ten more are ready to welcome them with open arms. After all, it's what’s on the inside that makes an All-Star employee. So don’t lose heart. There’s time to make Grandma proud yet.