Tattoos: should they be covered in the workplace?

Category:  Opinions
Friday, November 1st, 2019 at 11:13 AM
Tattoos: should they be covered in the workplace? by Madi Gross
Graphic by: Tyler Hendricks

Art is something that can be expressed through a slew of mediums. One popular medium is body art.

Tattoos, a form of body art and self-expression, have been around for a very long time and can be used to depict important meanings, dates, personal interests or virtually anything else.

Let’s first hit on the origin of the form.

According to Robert Arp’s “Tattoos - Philosophy for Everyone: I Ink, Therefore I Am,” tattoos can be traced as far back as the Bronze Age. Tattoos have been linked to cultural meaning, personal meaning and have “inked” history.

Something I was always told growing up was: “Be sure that if you get a tattoo that it’s something you’re going to want on your body for forever.”
I thought, “Well, yeah…isn’t that kind of the point of a tattoo? You want it to stay on you forever?”

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had moments of trying to justify why I wouldn’t want that little note or picture on my body. I have yet to actually do the deed and get a tattoo, as I am typically low on funds.

Some tattoos can be as low as $50, whereas others can get up into the hundreds – and some into the thousands. The cost of a tattoo depends on the sizing, the coloring, the amount of time spent on the tattoo, the skill of the artist and more.

As a graduating college senior, my peers and I are constantly visiting career fairs, completing field and internships, and going to job interviews. A common thought that has recently come up in our conversations is: “Are tattoos really going to hurt our chances at a job?”

Personally, I grew up with doctors, teachers and siblings who all had tattoos. Some of my peers even got their tattoos before they were 18 with their parents’ consent, and only a portion of them have altered or covered up their young decisions since then.

However, I can’t help but question: are the choices we’re making now about what to do with our bodies and how to express ourselves harming our chances at a career later on?

The Edinboro University Executive Director of Career Development and Experiential Learning Monica Clem gave some insight on tattoos in the professional world. She explained that there’s been a change in the number of piercings and tattoos seen in the work environment in the last couple of decades.

“Statistics vary, but there are some studies showing that upward of 30 percent of bachelor’s degree holders in the U.S. have a tattoo, and between 40-50 percent of the U.S. population have at least one tattoo. With such a large percentage of the adult population having at least one tattoo, the normalization of body art has extended to many workspaces,” she said.

As for job fairs and internships, students should be focused on remaining professional. But this doesn’t necessarily mean covering up your tattoos or piercings, but rather remaining professional in dress and manner.

Clem elaborated, “The most important things to think about when preparing to talk with an employer are preparing and practicing...presenting yourself as well as possible.” She continued, “A student without tattoos who shows up in sweatpants or wrinkled lounge clothing to an interview or career fair will likely be judged more harshly than a student with a visible tattoo in a professional suit.”

There are some professions that have more strict policies on this matter, such as those in the education and medical fields. Some of those professions where tattoo policies may not be as strict include those in the art fields, or those self-employed or in labor jobs.

Clem mentioned that you should familiarize yourself with policies your employer or potential employer may have in place because some may vary. She pointed out an article on from September 2018.

The article explained that the Indiana University Health System would be retracting their former 50-page dress code and would be swapping it out for one 45 pages shorter. With this change, those employed in one of the 16 hospitals would be allowed to have exposed tattoos. This change also allowed the employees to have exposed piercings and unnatural colored hair.

All in all, if you want the tattoo, that is your choice. If you’re old enough to make that decision, then hopefully you’ve probably thought about the tattoo(s) a lot. You’ve considered the placing, color, shading, size and so on.

A tattoo is a way to express yourself, and that shouldn’t be halted because of worries about employment. If you’re honestly concerned about not getting a job in the future because of it — place it somewhere that it can be easily covered up.

The expression related to tattoos is really cool and it’s really cool to see some of the beautiful artwork that has been created.

You’re only here once, do what makes you happy.

Tags: tattoos, opinions

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