Tapping a New Talent Stream: Are You Ready For Tattooed Employees?

The job posting states “Seeking hard-working, innovative professional with ‘out of the box ideas’ and a flair for marketing.”

Good news; I am the perfect fit.

After having worked a minimum of 11 hours a day for at least a decade, revolutionary professionalism flowing like the rapids of an untamed river, ideas so far out of the box that it’d be a disservice to have ever been near a box much less in it, and a flair for marketing that’s more akin to an inferno of aptitude burning through the business world, I know how impeccable a choice I am for the position.

Better yet, my resume backs up my claims and a phone interview is scheduled. One problem, however: the potential employer is about to embark on a journey of discovery through social media that will expose my dirty little secret.

A growing number of tattooed workers

I am a heavily tattooed and modified professional.

A flawless Facebook profile filled with positive quotes and messages, an Instagram filled with travels & smiles, and even a well-placed headshot on LinkedIn couldn’t save me now, or could it?

This seems to be the conundrum the current professional job market is beginning to face. More and more very qualified professionals are applying for jobs with permanent alterations to their bodies, thus, throwing out of balance the comforts of familiarity and unshakable certainty of corporate culture.

Most established businesses do not have a strict “No Tattoos” policy, and deal with the situation on a case-by-case basis. That said case-by-case was never intended to start to become a common, or even regular, occurrence. Fact is, social stigmas exist for a reason, however, the world is seeing a major shift as body art continually becomes more and more the rule than the exception.

According to the Pew Research Center, 36 percent of U.S. adults 18-25 years of age and 40 percent of U.S. adults 26-40 are tattooed. What does this mean?

Growing acceptance in many industries

It means that there is a mass of potential clients and customers of many businesses in many industries that are accepting of tattoos in one form or another. This also means we are finally able to address this issue at the root, the customer.

Author Joshua Coburn
Author Joshua Coburn

Sure, hiring tattooed individuals was acceptable in years past, provided all tattoos remained covered. Why was this? Because the general sentiment tended to be that society was not accepting of a tattooed individual serving them and/or representing a brand which they, the customer, loved.

Who is that society? That society is your evolving customer base which is now a part of the growing percentage of adults that are beginning to accept tattoos in all facets of life.

If your customer base is between the ages of 18-40, odds are good that your business has a major opportunity to make a drastic leap into the forward thinking future that many technology and gaming companies already have.

Remember that employee description from the first sentence of this article  — “Seeking hard-working, innovative professional with ‘out of the box ideas’ and a flair for marketing.”? Your company has a chance to truly stand behind what this statement says regardless of any physical characteristics of the applicant.

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It’s been said that if you are not moving forward in business, you are being left behind. Why not toss in the potential of an additional 40 percent of tattooed talent vying for a prestigious position within what could be perceived as a very forward thinking brand? Simply allowing your company to explore this additional 40 percent could give you the edge many other companies are passing up.

Will tattooed workers alienate customers?

I know, I know; you are going to tell me that this would certainly alienate much of your over 50 customer base. You are correct — you will lose customers through making these types of hiring choices, though it should be evaluated as to whether losing a small percentage of your current base to gain a larger percentage of a new base is or is not worth the risk.

Regardless of the risk today, risk averse companies playing the waiting game will eventually be forced to make the change as the Baby Boomers naturally rotate out of the customer base and Gen. X  and Gen. Y/Millennials rotate in.

There are obvious industries where tattoos or body modification should organically penetrate rather than be hired on for the sake of edge or innovation. Industries that are primarily focused on the elderly, or customers who currently do, and will very likely always, hold the negative societal views of tattooing should be avoided for sake of both the business and the customer experience for all obvious reasons.

Again, the transition will occur naturally over time as customers generationally evolve.

They still need to be a good fit for the job

Lastly, if your customers are willing to accept a tattooed representative within your brand’s general atmosphere, it is highly likely that your employees will as well. Not to mention that cultural diversity is something that most of us have grown accustomed to at some point through schooling, further education, or previous employment.

Workplace adjustment is part of any new hire’s progression into a business and if their personality backs up their resume the integration into a new team of fellow professionals should be seamless.

Always be sure that your new hire is perfect for the job, though they may not fit the traditional mold for a position within your company.

Innovative, “out of the box” and with flair is often what is requested, so please remember you may get exactly what you wish for  — and the benefits may surprise you as much as their appearance. 

A former body modification artist and small business owner, Joshua Coburn has transitioned to Corporate America as a promotional marketer. Coburn is also a youth speaker, author, and life coach who can be found speaking to junior highs and high schools, youth and church groups, and colleges on subjects ranging from body modification and tattoo culture to career planning, self-confidence, peer pressure, and self-actualization. He is the author of Inspiration on Demand and Through the EYES of an Abstract Mind.. Contact him at joshcoburn1981@gmail.com.

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