December 16, 2008
Body art and the recession: Are job seekers covering up more?
During the past couple of years, articles about whether to hide or proudly display one's tattoos and body piercings in the workplace have become a popular addition to many media outlets covering work/life balance issues.
But yesterday, when I noticed that the Pew Research Center stat of the day stated that 36 percent of Gen Y has a tattoo and 40 percent of Gen X does, I had to wonder: Are people going to greater lengths to hide their body art in this tough job market?
Before the bottom fell out this year and employers started handing out pink slips like Altoids, the conventional wisdom was this: Work in a traditional business sector like banking, finance, or accounting, and you'd best cover up. (In other words, when in Rome...) But work for a dotcom or a smaller, more creative firm, and you'll often get more leeway with regard to body art.
Of course, there are anomalies in every business sector. It's been well documented that a certain Seattle-based coffee chain has a "no body art" policy for its workers. It's also no secret that a certain software giant based in our region doesn't have a problem with off-the-beaten-path hair colors, clothing, and body art.
Once upon a pre-recession time, if a person was committed to working for an employer that didn't require them to hide their body art, they'd seek out more accepting companies by asking folks they knew about their company's culture, spying on employees in the parking lot during summer (when tattoos are more conspicuous), and consulting a web resource like ModifiedMind, which lists the body-art policies of dozens of employers.
But with so many more people looking for work these days, are job hunters who get inked doing so in places that are easier to cover up (even in summer)? And are hopeful employees who already have body art taking greater pains to cover up, in the event that the hiring manager on the other side of the interview desk isn't tattoo or piercing friendly? I'm curious. And if you've got a story to share, either from the employee or employer side, I'd love to hear it.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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