While out to dinner with a friend, I was shocked to learn she disapproved of my getting a tattoo on my forearm, where everyone could see it.
“It’s forever, and employers will count that against you,” she said.
For me, this has been a decision two years in the making. I’ve thought very hard about the words I’ve wanted and why, the font I’ll be happy with, the strategies I’ll employ for getting over my fear of needles and the pain, and especially, its placement.
I’ve decided that my tattoo — a mantra, of sorts — needs to be somewhere that I can see all the time, while writing, typing, creating, etc.
It’s going to serve as a reminder for me of where I’ve been and where I can go, and also, of the man who taught it to me.
So this really wasn’t up for debate.
What shocked me the most, however, was hearing such strong opposition and judgment against visible self-expression from a millennial younger than I.
Because according to Pew Research Center, 38 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds have at least one tattoo, with at least half of those millennials having between two and five.
And as the largest generation in the workforce today, millennials are bringing about a lot of changes, from eliminating the 9 to 5 to making a case for unlimited paid time off.
So, is there still a stigma when it comes to tattoos, piercings or bright and multicolored hair in the office?
I suppose that’s up for discussion.
But I, for one, believe that the ideas of what looks “professional” has drastically changed for the better — and the companies that continue to enforce strict dress code policies just look outdated, out-of-touch and inflexible compared to their competitors.
In fact, I’m much more at ease speaking with a man with a pierced eyebrow wearing dark jeans and a button up vest than a man pulling at his stifling necktie. I’m also much more at ease having lunch with woman with purple highlights and sunglasses than a severe looking woman in a pantsuit.
And people do business with people they like. Companies may think their clients will disapprove of such blatant expressions of personal identity, but professionalism isn’t just about what you look like — it’s about how you present yourself.
And wouldn’t you want to work with someone with the confidence, decisiveness and outgoingness that’s required to exhibit such exterior qualities?
Companies would do well to remember that when choosing whether or not to limit one’s ability to freely express oneself.
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