When I got my first tattoo, I wasn’t thinking about my future career in marketing. I was thinking about how cool it would be to have a snake running from the nape of my neck down to my lower back.
Fifteen years and 20+ tattoos later, I’m still not concerned about what my employers think about my art. Yes, I have sleeves and a chest piece and knuckle tattoos, but they never stopped me from going after my dream job full force, nor did they keep HR managers from hiring me.
Pew Research Center recently found that nearly 40 percent of folks between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo. That’s nearly HALF of young people out there in the job front. So why is body art still seen as “taboo?”
The truth is, tattooing goes back to the ancient world. The oldest tattooed human remains ever documented were dated sometime around 3,250 BC. Despite their rich history, tattoos were, and still are, seen as something only felons and prostitutes acquire.
My first “big girl” job out of college was for an editorial role at the Philadelphia Inquirer. During this time, I had several visible pieces of ink, including tattoos on my arms and a large mural of the Philadelphia skyline spanning the length of my clavicle. The interview had been in the fall so I was thankful I could wear a turtleneck to hide my ink. I continued to wear a turtleneck, or some type of high-necked top, until the scorching days of summer rolled around because I feared what my employers would think of my tattoos.
“To employers, I say, the age-old adage still rings true – never judge a book by its cover.”
The turning point came when the temperature hit above 90 degrees one day in mid-July. I, reaching for my usual turtleneck and jeans combo, thought, “Fuck it,” and instead opted for a cute yet professional sundress.
And then came the stares and the murmurs.
The same girl that had worked at the company for six months, excelling at every task given, was suddenly seen as a pariah. I ignored them and continued on with my daily duties. And I promised myself that I would show these people – the same coworkers that had treated me with respect and praise merely 24 hours before – that I was still an outstanding employee.
That was almost 10 years ago.
Since then, my tattoo collection has grown, as has my self-esteem. My portfolio now includes work for national publications and agencies. My writing has appeared in USA Today, Philadelphia Magazine, and Inc.com. And I have never been fired or denied a job because of my tattoos.
To employers, I say, the age-old adage still rings true – never judge a book by its cover.
Yes, I am a woman with tattoos, but I am also a damn good writer and a hard worker. And if you don’t hire me because I’m a little colorful? Well, that’s your loss.