Tattoos: Kiss your career goodbye

Carly Besser Opinion Editor

I recently lost a friend who was important to me. It was unexpected, abrupt and it left me at a loss for words. I had no idea how to express my grief in a way that she would have liked until I reflected on who she was.

Kelly loved tattoos. She was covered in them, and we had discussions about getting tattoos for each other multiple times.

Getting a tattoo seemed to be the only appropriate way to commemorate Kelly, but I felt uneasy just thinking about it. I wasn’t deterred by the pain or how much it would cost. Those things didn’t matter. I was the most concerned about how it would negatively affect my future career.

A survey conducted by CareerBuilder in 2011 showed that 31 percent of employers ranked “having a visible tattoo” as a reason for denying an employee a promotion.

As much as my mom doesn’t think that I thought about the repercussions, the surveys and articles about corporate attitudes on tattoos were things that I considered.

Though I was divided on the issue, I ended up getting a tattoo to memorialize Kelly’s death in a place that I could easily hide. While I’m happy I went through with getting tattooed, it made me think about the negative stigma of tattooed and pierced people in the workplace. I am now in that notorious club.

Tattoos and piercings aren’t as frowned upon in more creative career fields like art and graphic design, but corporate attitudes on body art is an increasing topic of discussion and debate.

It is a shame that someone would be turned down for a job, despite his or her talent in that field, because he or she has ink.

According to, corporations with established policies on visible tattoos are uncommon, but the decision to turn away a tattooed applicant is still a practice. Established tattoo policies vary from corporation to corporation. The most common reason stated for banning tattoos in the workplace is that if they are visible or offensive in nature, they can distract coworkers and negatively impact professionalism.

While I will argue that tattoo acceptance should be more common in the workplace, I will not argue in the name of every tattoo. I don’t feel that someone with a swastika on their forehead (sorry, Charlie) should be promoted to a CEO position, or even hired in a place that requires professional employees.

With that being said, however, people with tattoos of that nature don’t typically look for professional jobs in the first place. Some people who tattoo an expletive on their knuckles will probably not be eager to look for a nine-to-five job in a cubicle filing paperwork.

I’m a strong advocate of the idea that a tattoo can be a socially acceptable form of self-expression, and some would be considered beautiful works of art. It’s strange to think that earrings are perfectly acceptable in the workplace but other body modifications are strictly forbidden.

Just like people, all tattoos are different. To condemn them all as unprofessional and grounds for corporate rejection is something that needs to change.


Column by Carly Besser, Opinion Editor