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Adam Stones

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Tattoos and Careers - Will They Ever Get Along?

Posted: 10/10/2013 12:25

I don't do drugs, I've never been in prison (or been a sailor), and I hold down a good job. And I'm pretty sure I'm not having a mid life crisis. So what makes a 30-something professional like me want to get a tattoo and still be career-focused? My dad would really like to know.

The fact is though, tattoos are no longer the territory of the twisted or incarcerated - they are everyday and everywhere, from pop stars to CEOs, people are getting inked and, as like begats like, one fifth of UK adults are now thought to have them.

I got a tattoo this summer - I could have got roses on my backside like Cheryl Cole or a dolphin on my ankle like Samantha Cameron (why didn't I?). Better still, I could have followed the latest celebrity trend and got a poetical musing on my ribs. But I chose to get a picture of a bicycle on the inside of my right bicep.

For me, it was not only a beautiful little image but also something very personal - I love the simple form of the bicycle, I love its environmental statement, and I just love riding them; one of my proudest achievements is cycling across the USA. But the deciding factor in why I got this image etched forever was metaphorical - I was ill at the start of this year (and am thankfully all better now) - and having had a hefty tumour removed from my abdomen, I vowed to always get back on my bike, whatever was thrown at me.

And soon after I had it done I started noticing them more - I'd spot a small star on a friend's leg or a shamrock on a client's wrist - and every one of them would have their own story to tell. Out for dinner one night with four friends, it transpired that only one of the group was without one - and these weren't rock stars; these were a surveyor, a publisher, an architect, a businesswoman.

Tattoos are increasingly popular amongst women, with a number of female celebrities leading the charge. The International Tattoo Convention in London last week reported record numbers of women getting inked. Tattoo studios across the country are seeing waiting times climb and you can even buy tattoo moisturiser in Boots.

We seem to have come a long way since scratching our heads over David Beckham getting Brooklyn across his lower back, and so has he - he has them everywhere. For him and other sporting or music celebs these tattoos actually help their career - they affirm and build their brand. But what about the little guy, the guy who just wants a job?

There is a growing acceptance that tattoos are not necessarily a marker of social or educational status. I was recently at a wedding and noted the lawyer next to me had a portrait of George Orwell on his arm, which is apt as Orwell himself was tattooed, on his knuckles. In fact, the list of intellectuals or public figures with tattoos stretches back - Roosevelt had a crest on his chest, Churchill had an anchor on his arm and King George V had a dragon on his arm. A dragon!

A dragon on your arm probably would still impede some job prospects today, especially in the service sector. Research from the University of St Andrews last month showed many employers fear body art results in a perceived negative service experience.

It depends on your job type. Whilst having a tattoo could land you that job in a bar in east London, if you're applying for the Metropolitan police you can't have any visible unprofessional tattoos. And rules in the NHS tend to vary but are generally around not having any visible 'offensive' tattoos. That all sounds fairly understandable. Disney parks are a little more Draconian - they may have lifted the 55-year ban on beards but visible tats are a strict no no.

In our modern, diverse and inclusive workplaces, it should really be about the professional skills and not the personal appearance. But it is the impression the tattoo gives, or rather the perception it gives others about your attitudes to discipline that can be damaging. A dragon tattoo might not convince a prospective employer that you are really hungry for a job as, let's say, an accountant - won't you just be thinking about dragons and not spreadsheets? Well, of course not and many more people are realising this.

The lines between work and life are increasingly blurred, with the balance tipped in work's favour - we are accessible 24/7 and often expected to check emails at weekends. But what about reclaiming some ground for 'life' and being able to bring some of that dragon-love to the desk.

The rising obsession of tattoos amongst celebrities is leading to a wider normalising of them amongst the public. And as the younger more-heavily-inked generation gets older, they will be the ones hiring and firing. Tattoos may become as commonplace as pierced ears or offices without ties.

Until then, if you must have a tattoo and you still want that job in accounts why not get a tattoo of a pie chart on your wrist, or perhaps a venn diagram on your shoulder - show them what you're really made of.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Anastasia

    Anastasia, it's time to book an appointment at the laser removal clinic.

  • Cheryl Cole

    We get it Cheryl - you're an English rose. But do they have to be that <em>big</em>?

  • Chris Brown

    In a move that was ugly on several levels, real-man-impersonator and least-deserving-celebrity-of-all-time Chris Brown got a picture of a woman's battered face tattooed onto his neck months after battering a woman's face with his bare fists.

  • Eminem

    Slim Shady's insistence on putting daughter Hailie Mathers in his songs was bad enough. This tattoo of her is embarrassing parenting taken a step too far.

  • Eva Longoria

    There's nothing wrong with Eva's (now removed) 'Nine' tattoo per say, except that it represents the folly of getting inked in tribute to your partner - in this case basketball player Tony Parker, jersey number 9 - when they end up cheating on you.

  • Harry Styles

    Harry's tatts all look like they've been scribbled on the back of a biology exercise book in Biro by a fidgety teenager. Quite apt, really.

  • Hayden Panettiere

    Like a job application or a witty riposte, the first run of getting words tattooed onto yourself is to make sure it is spelled properly. Heroes star Hayden stumbled at this first hurdle with her Italian phrase which was meant to say 'live without regrets'. She has since admitted regretting the tattoo.

  • Justin Bieber

    Nothing wrong with an owl, we suppose... represents knowledge and wisdom... good at hunting... it's just that this one likes a bit, well, crap.

  • Justin Bieber 2

    ...and while we're at it, Justin, getting the name of your own album tattooed on your arm is a bit naff - not least of all because you're bound to get older and want to move away from your pop origins into making 'proper music'. Just sayin'.

  • Katie Price

    We know Pricey is fond of a wedding, but this is just ridiculous...

  • Liam Payne

    It's one direction alright - down your forearm towards your hand. Why, we have no idea.

  • Louis Tomlinson

    What is it with 1D and their doodles?!

  • Mark Wahlberg

    Irony or no irony, a tattoo of your own name is NEVER cool.

  • Megan Fox

    The problem with getting a line from King Lear tattooed on your back is that everyone, forever, is going to ask about it, and you're going to have to say 'It's a quote from Shakespeare'. Which is a line that's impossible to say without sounding like a pretentious t**t.

  • Mike Tyson

    It's on your face Mike. Enough said.

  • Pamela Anderson

    Would you get a tattoo reminding everyone of your most embarrassing failure? Of course not. So why Pamela Anderson has one that screams: 'I starred Barbed Wire one of the biggest commercially and critical flops of all time', we have no idea.

  • Steve-O

    The Jackass star got his own face tattooed on his back, which is a lot of pain to go through for a joke.

  • Zayn Malik

    "I got a mic on my arm cos, y'know, I'm all about music". O-kay...

 

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