When I told my aunt and grandmother I wanted to get a tattoo when I turned 20, they looked at me through wide eyes, practically burning a hole in my skull. “Who is going to hire you if you have a tattoo? What is so important that you want it permanently on your body?” my aunt said.
Growing up around a dad and two older sisters with tattoos, I didn’t think it would surprise my family so much that I wanted one. More importantly, I only knew how to answer just one of my aunt’s questions. What was so significant that I wanted it on my body forever? Easy: My family.
Ever since I was a little girl, my dad called me and my sisters his three flowers. It always stuck, so my sisters and I hope to get matching tattoos of three flowers.
However, the first question my aunt asked left me stumped. Who would hire me after I got a tattoo?
I always see working people with tattoos, so I never thought of it as a big deal. Would employers really look the other way and hire a different writer just because I had three flowers inked onto the side of my torso? Would I really be seen as unprofessional or tacky?
The debate over tattoos has gone on for decades. Recently though, millennials (anyone between ages of 18 and 33) are getting inked more frequently than the previous generation. According to the Pew Research Center, at least one-third of Gen-Y kids have a tattoo.
I spoke to Sean Chance, principal of Pembroke Pines Charter Central campus in Pembroke Pines, Florida, about the matter. He noted tattoos aren’t something he asks about when looking to hire new employees and they don’t actually change his view of the applicants.
“Depending on the type of tattoo, it might give me a little insight into the person they are or where they were at a different period in their life,” Chance said.
He mentioned multiple times that placement of the tattoo was of importance to him. “Most professionals have them in a place that can be covered when needed,” Chance said. He explained that in the educational field, if a tattoo was in a place that couldn’t be covered, it could be a violation of the educators’ code of ethics, especially if the image or text is inappropriate.
Kelly McIntyre, a teacher at Miramar High School in Miramar, Florida, currently boasts nine tattoos. She uses tattoos as a way to achieve the “pin-up/rockabilly girl look” and mark meaningful times in her life, like when her two sons were born.
“What it comes down to is that I’m a storyteller and each tattoo is a story–a vignette, I guess–that makes up the story of me,” McIntyre said.
Regardless of her body art, colleagues and students at Miramar High continue to show her the utmost respect. “My tattoos don’t usually show at work, but by the time they do, that respect has already been built,” said McIntyre.
If a person’s expertise is already recognized, why should a tattoo change another’s opinion entirely?
This only goes to show that while Generation Y is progressing in ways far different than their predecessors. Even the baby boomer generation is becoming more accepting of the times as well.
Tufts University sophomore Matthew Wilson currently has two tattoos, a floral print on one forearm and one that reads “Love Thy Melanin” on the other. The latter is his message to society. “I want to love my blackness and for others to love their blackness more,” Wilson said.
As an aspiring instructor in the education field, he doesn’t think his tattoos will affect his professional career. Though more conservatives see his perspective as naïve, his idea isn’t far-fetched. He did mention he’d feel pretty terrible if a great job opportunity passed by him as a result of his ink. “That would mean we live in a society where my tattoos mean more than my competency,” Wilson said.
With this mindset, he decided he wouldn’t purposely try to cover his tattoos during an interview. And if asked to remove a tattoo to get hired? Forget it. “I would not,” Wilson said. “Plain and simple.”
Collectively, millennials strive to be different and unique. Tattoos offer another way to achieve this goal. Showing diversity and individual personalities, tattoos neither signal rebellion nor do they measure intelligence. Instead it’s the development of the new generation: Generation Y.