Students And Grads Speak Up On Tattoos In The Workplace

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The influx of millennials into the workforce and the potential for age gaps between coworkers can result in mixed opinions on what is considered appropriate office wear.

Gen Y is often viewed as having a more casual approach to office appearance. That’s not to say all millennials want to wear their sweatpants to work! It just means that younger hires are perceived to have open minds when it comes to what is acceptable in the office.

To dig a bit deeper, I interviewed Kim Holt, who recently graduated from McMaster University and entered the workforce with tattoos. Here’s what Kim had to say about how tattoos can work both ways for your career.

Q. Did you think about the effect your tattoos might have on your career?

A. I 100% thought about how my tattoos might affect my career before I got them. However, aside from my tattoos, I have always been a creative and eccentric person. I knew from a very young age that when I grew up I was going to be in a field that thrived on creativity and originality.

Q. Has having tattoos ever hindered your career or education?

A. Yes and no – having tattoos has yet to hinder my education. Many universities these days pride themselves on their acceptance of diversity. My tattoos have yet to impact my career…

Q. Have you had to adjust your clothing at times to avoid a potential employer seeing them or felt stereotyped by an employer for having tattoos?

A. Where I currently work, I have never been made to feel like I cannot show my tattoos. However, when I first interviewed for the job I did dress appropriately and professionally.

I think that no matter what kind of job you are interviewing for (whether you are allowed to show your tattoos or not), dressing formal is simply a sign of respect. It shows the potential employer that this is something you thought about, you have come prepared, and you took yourself out of your everyday life and into the world of employment. I have interviewed for many casual and formal attire jobs and I never let the day-to-day attire influence my interview wear.

Q. If you could give one piece of advice to job seekers who are considering getting tattoos, what would it be?

A. Tattoos are a small part of a big picture. We can’t predict the future but if an individual thinks that a tattoo is going to make them happy, then do it. Who is to say what we will regret in the future and what we won’t? The only person who can control your happiness is yourself, and every person has their own way of fulfilling their happiness and self-expression and for me one of those ways just happens to be tattoos.

What did other millenials have to say about tattoos in the workplace?

“The coffee shop I used to work at has a zero policy on tattoos. You have to cover tattoos with long sleeves, a sweater or even a Band-Aid if it’s on your wrist or similar to that.”
J. Charbonneau

“Where I work, both business staff like myself and front line staff (many) have tattoos, many of which are visible and no one has ever been discriminated or asked to cover them to my knowledge. Granted professionals in our industry are generally more liberal and accepting of personal choice, it’s great to have a professional career that doesn’t dictate what you choose to do personally.”
J. Dietrich

“I work in long-term care and many Personal Support Workers have tattoos which are fully visible and I have not heard or seen anything negative . Many of our residents have tattoos also.”
A. Lewis

“I have worked in two restaurant chains in the past and neither have ever said anything or required cover-up regarding mine and my coworkers’ tattoos. Customers on the other hand, sometimes do not hide their disapproval, which I find quite hilarious.”
A. Dungan

“From a non-tattooed perspective, it drives me insane when tattoos are visible in the workplace. I just find it so distracting and unprofessional. That being said, this is more so a clothing choice issue, not the actual tattoo itself.”
N. Magistrale

“Although I am incredibly pro piercings and tattoos, as I have both, I believe the employer has the final say on whether or not you should cover your tattoos. If you are working in a customer service industry, or have a single co-worker that could be offended by your tattoo, I think the employer has every right to ask you to cover it up.”
B. MacDonald

Learn more about creating an inclusive and enabling workplace in TalentEgg’s Diversity Career Guide, part of Diversity Week in partnership with RBC!

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About the author

Meghan Greaves is a Bachelor of Arts - Sociology and Marketing Management student at the University of Guelph. She also earned a Business Administration – Marketing (Co-op) diploma from Conestoga College in 2012. Meghan is currently completing a summer internship with TalentEgg as a Editorial & Marketing intern.