You can tattoo yourself out of a job

Every generation freaks out its parents!


Back in the Roaring Twenties most older folks couldn’t understand their children’s fascination with a new style of music known as jazz – “the devil’s music,” as it was widely called. Those children grew up to be just as shocked when an even more raucous beat came about labeled rock-‘n-roll. Then came the 1960s when older generations got totally disoriented by a cultural revolution that celebrated illicit drugs, long hair and casual sex.

Those of us who grew up in that era now know how our parents felt. We scratch our heads in wonder at the younger generations’ fascination with tattoos and body piercings. It seems to be a law of nature that every generation must find a way to freak out its parents!

I don’t come close to understanding what compels so many “Gen Xers” and “Gen Nexsters” to stick sharp pieces of metal into sensitive body parts. But as we used to say back in my heyday, go ahead and “do your thing” as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.

Be aware, however, that most employers belong to older generations that don’t find body art very appealing. As a result, visible piercings and tattoos will narrow your employment opportunities considerably.

This is not an issue with most construction contractors. Construction workers have always had a macho image that used to be associated with tattoos. Quite a few got body parts inked at a time when tattoo parlors were not nearly as commonplace as today (an estimated 21,000 in the U.S.). I’ve never heard of any construction trade worker refused employment because of tattoos, although they may be forced to remove body jewelry on the job for safety reasons.

It’s a different story with the service trades. If you aspire toward the residential service sector of trade work, you will find many employment doors closed if you have tattoos on your face, neck, hands or lower arms. Many residential service companies allow their technicians to have tattoos only to the extent they can be covered up by long sleeves, which the technicians are compelled to wear even on sweltering days. Piercings are also taboo; however, visible jewelry can be removed before a job interview and while on the job. Not so with pictures and sayings imbedded in the flesh.

This is not personal; it’s all about business. Most service firm owners are former tradesmen themselves and not especially prejudiced against body art. Many have tattoos and maybe even piercings of their own. But they will follow Rule #1 of any service business: Please the customer — or at least don’t scare them.

Most home owners are of older generations to whom tattoos convey a disreputable image. This is especially true of older females, almost none of whom have peers sporting tattoos. More often than not, it is a woman at home when a service technician calls. It’s simply not good business when the first thing she sees upon opening the door is someone that looks to her like he just got out of prison.

There have been legal challenges on behalf of tattooed workers but the rulings have almost always allowed employers to forbid visible tattoos and not be charged with discrimination. Nobody expects this to change anytime soon.

Facial hair is another factor that may limit job opportunities for service technicians. Policies vary company by company. Some service firms allow mustaches but not beards. Others may allow both, provided they are of modest length and well groomed. Many owners prohibit all facial hair, period. Then the decision is entirely in the hands of the service technician. Which do you value more, your personal appearance or the job at hand? Razors are affordable to everyone.