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Will the fact that I have tattoos and piercings limit my career?

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Answer

Good question. The answer is “probably not,” but the key word is “probably.” Tattoos and piercings are now quite common, but some occupations are still conservative. Also, where you work is part of the answer:

  • In unionized workplaces, employers must give a good business reason for any rules about tattoos and piercings.
  • In non-unionized workplaces, employers can make any dress and appearance codes they like, unless there are human rights issues.

As tattoos become more acceptable, chances are that even in conservative workplaces, you’ll be fine. That said, a full sleeve, facial tattoos or exotic piercings may still cost you opportunities.

In casual work settings, like warehouses, start-ups and creative agencies, tattoos and piercings are often commonplace. But if your job is public-facing (reception, sales), or if your piercings might pose a health or safety hazard in your role, you may want to give it some thought.

Interviews

When going for job interviews, it’s still best to cover your ink and remove your piercings. This helps employers focus on your skills without any visual distractions.

If your tattoos or piercings are located where people will see them once you start work, mention them at the interview and ask if they’re likely to be a problem. Employers who dislike body art may overlook this issue once you’ve impressed them with your skills, while those who don’t mind your ink may still want you to cover up at work.

Regardless, starting the conversation at the interview will show you’re honest and care about the company’s culture and values—and every employer will respect that.

The Changing Times

A 2014 Workopolis poll turned up some interesting statistics that may help answer this question. Out of 327 employers surveyed

  • Just 14% said they would be less likely to hire someone with a tattoo.
  • 23% said it would not affect their decision.
  • The rest said it would depend on the number and location of tattoos or on the job itself.

This means you can expect most employers to take a flexible approach. Your performance in the interview and on the job may be enough to inspire a positive view.

Whether or not a tattoo is a career-limiting move can depend on a lot of different things, including your industry and who’s interviewing you. Since you can’t control these variables, focus your energies on being as professional and well prepared as possible.

The positive impression you make could help dispel any concerns. And if it doesn’t, then maybe the work environment isn’t a good fit for you and your personal values. Better to find out now than after you’ve taken the job.

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