How Having Tattoos Affect Your Job Opportunities, According To Research

Photo: RDNE Stock project via Canva
Woman with tattoos, pink hair and smile on her face

I remember speaking to my tattoo artist about my first hand tattoo.

“Are you 100% sure about this? What about work?” he asked, concerned my new art would affect my career.

“I work in a really tiny office, and I’m totally sure that I want this.” I assured him.

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A month after my tattoo healed, I was out of work, completely unrelated to my tattoo. How was I going to find a new job that was cool with a pumpkin on their new employee’s hand?

I was lucky enough to find a pretty “modern” boss who didn’t care about my tattoos, as long as they weren’t sexual or racist in nature. None of mine are.

It seems that my experience is more of the “norm” now. 

According to a 2016 study by Dr. Andrew Timming of the School of Management at St. Andrews in Scotland, managers are now embracing the tattoo culture. Let’s be honest, tattoos are way more common now than they were back when Grandma worked as a typist for some rich dude in Manhattan. 

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In the study, Dr. Timming showed two sets of faces to 192 people with a managerial background in various industries: A clean, natural face, and a tattooed one (using Photoshop to add art to the skin)

According to a St. Andrews news release, here’s how the study went down. "The managers were asked to imagine they were recruiting a bartender and to rate the faces on a scale of 1 to 7. They gave a face a higher score, 5.07 on average, when it was tattooed than when it was not, 4.38. The approval rating was higher for women with a tattoo: 5.14, compared with 4.51 for women without a tattoo. 

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Dr. Timming says that the managers believed that having a bartender with a tattoo would attract younger customers who thought body art was "trendy." When I see a tattooed bartender, I know he can make a mean cocktail.

Tattoos may actually help positively convey a business's brand, and tattoos are seen in a more positive light thanks to pop culture, Dr. Timming also said.

Obviously, if you have a job where you work with high-end clients, your manager may not be so open. But if you’re in the service industry or working in fashion, having body art can help you connect with a younger crowd and a generation of consumers who don’t discriminate against tattoos, and who have many of their own.

One organization in the study even uses tattoos as an incentive! If you earn X amount of dollars, they’ll contribute to your next tattoo project. Are they hiring? Because my pumpkin tattoo can use a bit of a touch-up. 

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Liza Walter is a freelance writer who has appeared in HuffPost, BRIDES, Bust Magazine, Ravishly, and more.