CAREER DEVELOPMENT / AUG. 08, 2014
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Will Your Tattoo Sink Your Career?

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Tattoos have seldom been as popular as they are today.  Latest figures suggest that around 20% of adults currently have a tattoo, with that figure rising to 40% of those 30 and under.  What’s equally interesting is that it is more likely that a woman will have a tattoo than a man.

What does this popularity mean for the owners career prospects?  Is their liking for body art likely to sink their hopes of landing their dream job or promotion?

A recent study by the University of St Andrews in Scotland set out to find out.  They asked participants in the study to assess potential job candidates based upon little more than a photo of them.  The photos were identical except for one thing - some of the candidates had their photos altered to include a neck tattoo.

Candidates with a tattoo were deemed less able then those without

The findings should make anyone with a tattoo nervous.  It emerged that tattooed candidates were consistently ranked lower than their ink free rivals, despite every other aspect of their application being identical.

This was especially found to be the case when the job in question was a service position where the applicant would be expected to deal with the public on a regular basis.

The research also provided some insights into the kind of tattoos that were more or less acceptable.  For instance, it emerged that feminine designs, such as flowers or butterflies, were regarded as relatively acceptable.

There were also some professions more accepting of body art than others.  For instance, in prisons, a guard with tattoos might find it easier to bond with inmates than their ink free colleagues.  It also emerged that firms with a more youth orientated customer base can also be more friendly towards tattoos.

The general perception however was overwhelmingly negative, and this is perhaps not surprising. There have been studies linking tattoos with deviant and anti-social behaviour.  What’s more, tattooed individuals are more likely to carry guns, use illicit drugs and get into trouble with the law.  This is especially so when the tattoos are large or plentiful in number.

All of which is contributing to a backlash against tattoos amongst employers.  The army for instance has recently limited the size and number of tattoos a solider can have, whilst banning neck tattoos completely (as well as those on the head and hands).  The aim is to promote a more professional armed force.

From a personal perspective, I have to agree.  A lot of tattoo work is little more than graffiti on the body, and as such does little to reflect either the creativity or the professionalism of the wearer.  This is especially the case if displayed on a part of the body that is difficult to cover up.  With their growing popularity, they don’t even have the cachet of standing an individual out as relatively unique.

All in all, there seems little to commend them.  Are you a tattoo owner that disagrees?  Have you had experiences of refusal for jobs based upon your body art? Please let us know in the comment section below…

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