How Will Your Tattoos Affect Your Career?



Story bAshley Probst

The second that Max Generali steps inside a tattoo parlor, he’s struck by the piercing sounds of silence and a slight buzzing. “It’s literally the sound of permanence resonating in the air because that sound is associated with one thing and that’s a tattoo gun,” Generali said. “You hear it and you know that everything that’s happening in that area is permanent.”

Generali, a sophomore business entrepreneurship major, is one of many young people in who adorn their body with tattoos. Approximately 38 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo, according to a 2010 study by Pew Research Center. The same study found that 72 percent of people who have tattoos make sure the artwork can stay hidden, if necessary.

People get tattoos for various reasons: to represent a piece of their identity, commemorate a loved one or fond memory and even just to make a fashion statement. But is it worth possibly risking your future career?

John Mainberger, a tattoo artist at Chapter X Tattoo on Chapman Avenue, said that he would discourage someone from getting a tattoo that might affect them negatively in the future.

“If a 19 or 20 year-old kid came in and wanted a tattoo on his neck or his hands and he has no tattoos, we won’t do it,” Mainberger said. “It’s just in our conscience, we don’t want to put something on somebody that we’ll regret and in return might affect their life.”

Mainberger believes that many companies are run by owners who aren’t tattoo-friendly. “People that are self-contracted in a business, obviously they can have tattoos, like barbers, hairstylists and masseuses,” Mainberger said. “But when you’re working for corporations, it’s not really the case.”

Mainberger has realized that perception plays a huge role in the acceptance of tattoos. “You don’t always get the opportunity to explain yourself and let people see who you are,” Mainberger said. “Sometimes businesses can’t take that chance because if (the customer) doesn’t feel comfortable, they won’t come back.”

Steph Mock, a senior athletic training major, said that she wasn’t hired as a lifeguard at Disneyland because she had one visible tattoo on her wrist, but she still works for the company as a cook.

“I have to wear a watch at all times because I’m not allowed to show any of my tattoos,” Mock said. “I have to wear an undershirt because my shirt is white and you can see like all of my tattoos because they’re all pretty bright and the one on my back is really big.”

Mock said that she didn’t fully think through the placement of her first tattoo and has placed the rest of her tattoos on her torso, where she can hide them.

“I want to be able to hide them because…it’s a lot of old-school people hiring you and when they see a tattoo they automatically think you’re a delinquent,” Mock said.

But Mock also believes that tattoos are slowly becoming more acceptable as our society continues to progress. “I don’t think it’s going to be acceptable to have a full-on sleeve in the next 50 years, but having a couple tattoos here and there will start to not be a big deal, as long as you can hide them,” Mock said. “Just don’t get any on your face.”

Max Mandel, a sophomore news and documentary major, has also been asked to cover his two wrist tattoos with sweatbands, but he said most employers haven’t had a problem with them because they’re small and slightly difficult to see.

If a potential employer asked him to cover his tattoos, Mandel said the job wouldn’t be worth it to him. “My tattoos are a manifestation of myself that I express to other people in a way which is nonverbal,” Mandel said. “If an employer wanted to shut that part of me down, I feel like they don’t deserve me.”

Mandel said that he had no idea what his future career plans were going to be when he first started getting tattoos. “I just transferred into Dodge and now that I’m in the film industry…I can get all the tattoos I want ever,” Mandel said.

The placement of Mandel’s tattoos were deliberate and have a special meaning to him. “My hands are the tools which I use to create things in the world,” Mandel said. “I thought that if I was going to put a tattoo on my body, if I was going to have something influence a part of me, I wanted it to be the part that creates things.”

Victoria Schmidt, a senior peace studies major, wanted to get a tattoo on her lower arm, but her tattoo artist convinced her to place it somewhere less visible. “My tattoo artist, who’s actually a really good friend and has done about 80 percent of my tattoos, was like, ‘You’re in college, you’re a smart girl and you’re going to get a good job. Don’t do that,’” Schmidt said.

Schmidt placed the tattoo on her back instead, so that she could hide it along with her eleven other tattoos. “If I put on a bracelet, a long sleeve shirt, closed-top shoes and pants, you can’t see any of my tattoos.”

With the exception of Starbucks, Schmidt said she typically finds down-to-earth places to work and has never had anyone else ask her to cover her tattoos.

“Tattoos aren’t as taboo as they used to be,” Schmidt said. “It’s kind of crazy that they’re just now starting to realize that people who have tattoos aren’t losers.”

Generali said his goal is to never have to speak to a boss because he wants to work for himself, but he still tends to keep his tattoos hidden.

“I will tattoo anywhere as long as it’s easily accessible because if it’s just in plain sight, like on my hands or fingers, that might cause a problem in terms of hiring because I’m not 100 percent sure that I’m going to be my own boss,” Generali said.

When he goes into a job interview, Generali said that a potential employer would never know he has tattoos unless he shows them off. He did take this risk once and exposed the tattoo on the inside of his arm. “I have worn a short-sleeve button down to an interview and they didn’t even mention my tattoo,” Generali said.

Generali wants a lot of tattoos and plans to get another one within the next six months to a year.

“Once I figure things out with my job a little bit more, or find another space to put a tattoo, something I really want, (I’ll get another one),” Generali said.

Before getting a tattoo, Mainberger advises that people do their research, figure out what they want and go in to the appointment open-minded to change.

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