20 years ago, it was unusual to see a student at U.C. Berkeley with a tattoo. Back then, there was only 1 tattoo parlor in the city of Berkeley. Today, there are 8 tattoo parlors in Berkeley. Lots of Cal students now have tattoos. Tattooing has become far more socially acceptable than it used to be. One quarter of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 50 have a tattoo. But wait! Before you get a Chinese dragon tattooed on your wrist or your name in Hebrew tattooed on the back of your neck, have you considered how a tattoo might affect your ability to get a job or a promotion?
A recent national survey of parents of teenagers and college students found that 68% of parents didn’t want their kids to get tattoos. The Number 1 reason parents gave was their concern that having a tattoo might hurt their kid’s chances of getting a job. Those parents have good reason to worry about that. Careerbuilder.com, a job search web site, asked HR (human resource) managers what they considered the #1 physical attribute that would most likely limit a candidate’s chances of getting a job or getting promoted. 37% said body piercings and 31% said tattoos. A similar survey conducted by philly.com put tattoos at #1. According to The Patient’s Guide, when people having tattoos removed by laser surgery were asked why they were having their tattoos removed, 50% of respondents cited ’employment’ as the principle reason. A lot of employers have dress codes and refuse to hire people with visible tattoos or piercings. Yes, that is legal. People with tattoos are not a protected class under labor or discrimination laws. If you are going to get a tattoo, my advice is to have it put someplace where it can’t be seen when you are wearing work clothes. Your friends may tell you that employers no longer care about tattoos, but that isn’t true. Some employers don’t care about tattoos, but some do.