Are Tattoos at Work OK? Advice for the Inked

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While tattoos are becoming more mainstream, they can still put a damper on your career. Here are some fun facts about tattoos, along with some advice that will help you get ahead and stay there.

It wasn’t long ago that while sailors, bikers, and punk rockers sported tattoos, it was rare to find one on a lawyer, doctor, or banker. But that was then.

Today, tattoos are popular among all kinds of people. The Food and Drug Administration estimates over 45 million Americans have a tattoo. A 2010 Pew Research Center report says they’re equally common for women and men, with nearly 40 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and about a third of 30- to 45-year-olds sporting at least one.

The report also says most of the inked community (over 70 percent) keeps tattoos hidden at work or during interviews. Perhaps with good reason. In our recent story How Not to Get a Promotion, we cited a CareerBuilder survey suggesting that obvious ink hurt promotion prospects – only piercings and bad breath were worse.

In the video below, Money Talks News reporter Jim Robinson talks with a body art shop about its clients and explains why employers may be softening up. Check it out, and then read on for more job advice.

As Jim mentioned, there’s no research suggesting companies are looking to hire tattooed employees, but they do have to adapt to the evolving culture to keep talent. Most of the time, though, workers are the ones who do the adapting, and some things won’t change anytime soon. So here’s a quick rundown on how to keep it professional at the office:

  1. Cover your tattoos. Whatever you might think, the law doesn’t protect your ink. Here’s what the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says about discrimination: “It is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” Nothing about tattoos. In 2006, a county in Southern California banned tattoos among its employees, along with jeans and piercings. So if you aren’t sure it’s OK to sport tattoos at your company, play it safe and cover them.
  2. Keep a professional image. The CareerBuilder survey mentioned above suggests avoiding clothes that are too casual; too much perfume, cologne, or makeup; a messy personal workspace; chewing fingernail; and even being too suntanned. Of course, not all offices are concerned with the superficial. But if yours is, either maintain your appearance, find a different workplace, or work for yourself.
  3. Don’t abuse technology. Sending email to the wrong recipients, texting during business meetings, griping about the boss on Facebook, and other online blunders can hurt your career. Sure, your smartphone is incredibly cool, convenient, and indispensable – but get a grip and pocket the phone. On the other hand, some tech tips can help you land a job and save your leisure time.
  4. Work on your resume. While employers are increasingly using sites liked LinkedIn to check credentials, the traditional resume is still important. So highlight your connections instead of leaving them “available upon request,” and don’t fib about your skills or history. Make sure you know what to do in an interview too.
  5. Deserve a raise before you ask. You need more money. Who doesn’t? But barging into the boss’s office without a game plan may end badly. Check out 3 Steps to Get the Raise You Deserve to learn about timing your request, backing up your claims, and negotiating with your supervisor to get what you want.

What’s happening in your workplace? Let us know by commenting on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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