More than 36% of Gen Y’s have tattoos! Although, I must give some credit to Gen Xers who were the first to make tattoos trendy and less taboo. However, many of you are still finding it challenging to find employment which will allow visible tattoos and piercings. Whether you’re looking for a job at the mall or on Wall Street, self expression continues to be more of a deterrent than an asset.
Is it discrimination? Absolutely, but is it the type of discrimination we rise up against or face when we select to express our individuality. After all, self expression is about being different, standing out, and telling our story to others without words.
Individuality is highly valued in North American culture, yet, it is less valued when it comes to the all mighty dollar, where conformity is coveted. Businesses are committed to earning their money from the populous, who has certain expectations of the people who sell them their coffee, food, real estate, or stock options, etc; clean cut, well groomed, professionally dressed, and free of any visible signs of their individual beliefs and interests. The employers’ job is to hire someone who will be a good fit within their institution, someone who will fit in with the rest.
If you read the last post, you know how competitive the job market is today for your generation. Employers use a variety of criteria to “discriminate” one candidate from the next, and unfortunately, visible signs of self-expression leave a negative impression with some employers (of all ages and generations).
Honestly, every generation has had to make the difficult decision to maintain their individual identity or conform to the masses. The dominant or mainstream culture has a professional prototype which requires us to jump through certain hoops to meet those standards to gain employment. Gen Ys, you are the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce…here comes the but…BUT you are not yet the decision makers. Those who still hold negative connotations of tattoos and piercings still do most of the hiring so here are your options:
1. Search for alternative jobs which allow you to express yourself freely. There are plenty of organizations, both large and small who are profitable and support self expression. So seeking out those organizations is definitely an option.
2. Be willing to take out piercings and cover tattoos (conform).
3. Wait until you have created more of professional portfolio before getting a tattoo, piercing which is visible. Once you have the credentials and track record, people are more likely to overcome any bias they may hold.
A colleague of mine has visible tattoos and piercings, is openly gay and Christian, and doesn’t have the same hair color for more than a couple of weeks. She also has the professional credentials and track record that cannot be denied.
I think you can be successful while freely expressing yourself. Yet every generation will find new ways to push the envelope of self-expression, creating bias in the previous generation, which one day, will be you. Consider your options!