Tattoos at Work – The Good, the Bad and the Dragon Eating a Banker

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Brandishing a tattoo could be a good thing for your career. Ha! You say. Maybe if you get one on the bottom of your foot and never take your socks off. I ask you, has it hurt the career of Johnny Depp? Or Lady Gaga? I think not.

I bet a bunch of CEOs have tattoos too. CEO tattoos are usually strategically placed in places that we will never see. FBI agents are more likely to have tattoos, theirs are in the same places as the CEOs.

My friend who is an FBI Agent contends that each and everyone of us should have a tattoo. It would make your body easy to identify “just in case”, he says. I contend that a tattoo on one’s shoulder with a return address is not very hip. Maybe a scroll that looks like snakes that says: “If Found, Please Return to xxxxx” could work. FBI advice aside, i doubt there will be a run on tattoo emporiums for these tattoos.

But what about tattoos in the job interview?

A LinkedIn Follower wrote in:

“I have a bunch of tattoos, including on my neck. When I go to an interview should I wear a turtleneck?”

Whoa, this is a simple question but it requires a complicated answer.

The GOOD – A tattoo could make you more memorable. I once overheard recruiters talking about the very qualified candidate who “had a star tattooed on her arm”. The tattoo was how they remembered her in a positive way. In a day when all candidates are dressed well and answer questions with ease and professionalism, maybe a tattoo can help you stand out. Before you run out and get one, get a second opinion about what and where.

The BAD – A tattoo could make you memorable in the “not so good” category too.

More GOOD – Maybe you need to convince employers that you are young and hip. A tattoo might do that for certain jobs at certain times. (Although I suspect if you think a tattoo will make you young and hip, you are likely neither.) But others tell me that a tattoo makes no matter in most early stage companies or for graphic artists and creative positions. It could add to the hipness.

The BAD – In some people’s minds a tattoo is a reminder of bikers and scenes from prison movies. Know what’s what in your chosen career.

For you, Mr. Tattoo On the Neck, go ahead and wear the turtleneck if it’s winter time or you live in the North Pole. Or, if the tattoo is totally offensive. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it. You are who you are.

The tattoo may help you stand out from the crowd like the woman with the star. And, depending on the industry or position, it may give off the aura that the employer is looking for. According to the website Statistic Brain, 45 million Americans have tattoos. You are not alone.

Having said that, everything you say, wear and do in a job interview can and will be used for you, and against you. And a tattoo is something you wear. For a long, long time.

So tattoos can be a good artistic way to express yourself but placement and content need to be carefully planned. Just be alert to how that image of a dragon eating a guy in a suit might look to a banker.

I am all for tattoos. I may even have one.

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