How do you define professionalism? Does the exhibition of this behavior entail both physical and behavioral characteristics? Growing up, the idealized corporate world was always delineated with fairly basic-looking people in gray-ish, drab outfits, with slicked-back hair, monotone voices and the display of little to no personal expression.
Growing up, I always pictured myself getting tattoos when I got older. It was a dream of mine to turn my life experiences and values into permanent pieces of art that I could parade to others and constantly have visible access to. My family and friends however, felt different.
I was told to get tattoos in places that weren’t visible, in case a potential employer didn’t approve of my look. This theory still doesn’t sit right with me. How could my intelligence be questioned solely because of something on my skin? After the pursuit of a higher education, it perturbed me that I could potentially not be taken seriously or be seen as less than because of something as minuscule as a tattoo.
Senior attorney-advisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Justine Lisser, states that employers have the ability to ban visible tattoos as a part of their dress code.
Millennials and Gen Z especially have been encouraged more than ever to embark on journeys of self-exploration and expression. Your college years are a time of transformation that prepares you for adulthood and independence. During this time, it is not uncommon for someone to make a permanent decision, such as getting a tattoo or other visible body modification.
Thirty-eight percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 have reported getting a tattoo with the intention of getting more in the future. Forty percent of American households additionally include somebody with a tattoo. Looking at these statistics it seems as though the new generation is fairly unconcerned with the instilled physical traditions of the professional world.
The argument stating that tattoos are unprofessional and diminish the intelligence of an individual is outdated, biased and intrusive. Tattoos are personal, and their meaning, placement or the reason for getting them is nobody’s business but that of the tattoo reciever. The self-expression displayed by one is not the business of another.
Being a senior in college who has six visible tattoos, I fear for my future and the impression my bodily choices may make on my prospective employers. My tattoos mean everything to me. They symbolize my strengths, weaknesses and other important aspects of my life that I am proud of and willing to put on display.
The ink on my skin does not deem me as wild or unhinged. It does not mean that I cannot hold intellectual conversations or display a manner of professionalism. I am not promiscuous, nor am I any less than somebody with no body modifications. I have a story, and it just so happens that I used my skin to help tell it.