No Ink for Inc.

Alexandria Smith, Copy Manager

Tats might present a professional stumbling block.

Although the U.S. corporate market has changed in many ways – shifting from internal labor to outsourcing, extending more extreme dress code policies – tattoos and piercings in the workplace seem to remain a divided issue. Forty percent of 26-40 year olds and 36% of 18-25 year olds have tattoos, and 22% of 26-40 year olds and 30% of 18-25 year olds have at least one body piercing, according to the Pew Research Center via Forbes Magazine.

There is no consensus among employers on how to address body modifications, according to Forbes. Most corporations and small businesses generally do not have formal policies against tattoos and piercings but this does not mean potential employees should not be careful about the placement of their body art, said Assistant Director of the Insalaco Center for Career Development Carolyn Yencharis Corcoran.

“Just like everything else with a job search, when you’re searching for a job, I want to say you want to go in with kind of a clean slate. So whatever environment you’re going into, you want to think about ‘What is the uniform for that environment?’ We always recommend in the Career Center, whenever we speak to students about appearance, we always recommend if you have any tattoos that are visible, cover them up, wear long sleeves. Or if you have a piercing on your face or an unusual piercing in your ear, take that out, and interview with the organizations. Let your experience be the thing that shines through. You don’t want to be judged by one tattoo.”

Freshman nursing major Kelsey Swoyer, sophomore English major Celsi Illiano, and senior communications major Matt Wiegopolski also believe tattoos and piercings can play a role in the kinds of jobs that can be available to people who flaunt their art.

“Tattoos and piercings can definitely affect your job placement,” said Illiano, who has a total of fifteen piercings including her rook, scaffold, tongue, lip and navel, as well as four tattoos. “If you’re looking to go into a more professional field, you have to be very selective with your placement of your tattoos. All of mine you can’t show unless I’m making it known – like if I’m wearing more provocative clothing, I should say, you can see my tattoos. And with my piercings, they’re all things that you can take out and you can’t see them. They’re more easily hidden. But if you’re going into more open industries like writing, or store management of clothing, or tattooing, or personal retail like items that you make yourself, you can be more expressionistic with your body.”

Wiegopolski, who has six tattoos including and a Freddy Kreuger portrait in progress on his ribs, has had many thoughts about the kinds of professions he believes would be accepting of body modifications.

“Obviously the white collar jobs are going to be more strict than blue collar. If you’re a maintenance man, I don’t think they’re going to say anything if you have tattoos but more professional-wise, like a teacher, you’re now in the public eye, or like high up in a business corporation. I don’t see, if you’re typing up articles for a newspaper, why you can’t have tattoos on your hands.”

Wiegopolski also remains mindful of his future and how certain placement decisions can limit his career choices. He said he needs to find a steady job before he would feel comfortable enough to expose his art or add another tattoo to his body. In the future he wants to cover himself in ink: he mentioned having “sleeves” on his arms.

“I’m able to cover the tattoos I have now so it’s not like people are looking at me differently,” he said. “I don’t get that honestly – someone looking at you differently because you have tattoos.”

Swoyer, who has tattoos on her wrist, lip and back as well as dermal hip piercings, distinguishes the kinds of professionals that make her uncomfortable when they sport ink and piercings.

“If my mechanic has tattoos all over, I don’t really care. As long as you fix my car I don’t care. But if someone who’s taking my blood or putting something into my body and looks kind of sketchy, I don’t really want them to be doing that,” said Swoyer.

Corcoran said notions about tolerant professions can be inaccurate.

“It really depends on where you are, what type of organization you’re in, and what you’re doing. And, I think this comes back to that whole, obviously the culture in the organization,” said Corcoran. ”I mean, you may go into an advertising firm where you have all of these creative folks – graphic designers and writers – and maybe they don’t want you to show your tattoos and piercings because maybe they deal with high level corporate clients from Japan and Japan’s a very conservative country. So, I wouldn’t even say depending on the environment whether it’s creative or writing based compared to healthcare, it doesn’t matter. You really need to gauge the culture within the organization and what their attitude is about that.”

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