The Advance-Titan

Tattoo, piercing stigma must be put to rest

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If you’re someone who has openly expressed a desire to get a tattoo or piercing in front of an adult who works in a corporate setting, I’m sure you’re no stranger to hearing, “Get it somewhere that can be covered easily,” or “Think about down the road when you’re going to job interviews,” or the candid look of passive-aggressive disapproval, often paired with a slight sigh.

But why is that? Why is there such a negative connotation around having tattoos and piercings that automatically deem you “unprofessional” or “unfit” for a business workplace? Whose idea was it that ink on your arm or a hole in your nose makes you unable to perform just as well as people without?

I think this stigma is something we should leave in the past as we make strides to become a more accepting nation, considering that pretty soon this millennial generation that’s deciding to express themselves through a sleeve of ink will be the new CEOs.

According to the article “Job Seekers Still Have To Hide Tattoos” on NPR, 20 percent of adults and around 40 percent of those between ages 18 and 29 have a tattoo.

Are we supposed to label 40 percent of the next generation that’s either entering or have recently entered the workforce disreputable?

Scott Nichols worked as a talent acquisition specialist at one of the biggest Fortune 500 companies in Wisconsin for nine years.

When people apply for higher-up job positions and choose to openly show their tattoos or piercings, it may shed the wrong light on their level of professionalism, according to Nichols.

Nichols said this isn’t how he feels about the subject particularly, but I don’t agree with this perception of tattoos and piercings. I feel that however you choose to express yourself should be for you and not others. It shouldn’t have an effect on how others perceive you, especially when not knowing much else about you.

“Candidates interviewing for certain senior-level positions, the expectation is to display the utmost professionalism,” Nichols said. “For some, a candidate with tattoos or piercings may be perceived as not having the utmost professionalism.”

He didn’t directly state that this company refuses to hire people who have visible tattoos and piercings.

However, we all know the elephant in the room to be true. If you take two people who have the same credentials, and one has a nontraditional piercing in their ear, the other person will make it further in the interview process.

Nichols said even though the company he worked for has an overall traditional mindset towards tattoos and piercings, it is making concrete steps towards breaking out of its conventional shell.

“While this company is known for being a conservative company, they have made positive strides hiring diverse talent across the globe,” Nichols said. “Despite this progress, it remains true that nonconformity is not always welcomed for senior-level positions in companies that are conservative.”

Although headway has been made on eliminating this disposition, there is still a ways to go. The corporate world has some catching up to do in terms of accepting body modifications.

UW Oshkosh sophomore Shelby Howe said when she interviewed for a position at Festival Foods recently, the manager she spoke to said she could not wear her nose ring on the job.

“After the interview process, the man interviewing told me, ‘I notice you have a nose ring in; you’ll have to take that out. We’re pretty conservative here,’” Howe said.

I can’t see why for a job as a cashier you would need to worry about piercings being a “food safety” issue, which is the most common reason people encounter when asking why we would need to remove them.

The manager who interviewed Howe said she would have to take her nose ring out because the store is “conservative.” He didn’t justify his comment with any other reasoning because there is no other reason than the fact that they see body modifications as cynical.

All in all, there are so many people that are stuck in terms of correlating unprofessionalism with piercings and tattoos. It is a change that will come with the evolving generation and corporate world.

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Tattoo, piercing stigma must be put to rest