Self-expression or Self-sabotage?

by Casey Molina–

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Blacksburg, Va., April 8 – Piercing Queen: Jena Sturm, a senior at Virginia Tech displays four of her 17 ear piercings and a tattoo of a dove behind her ear.  Photo: Casey Molina

The common stereotype of students going off to college and getting multiple piercings and tattoos is one that, albeit truthful, lacks the whimsicality often portrayed by society. A survey conducted of 52 Virginia Tech students revealed that a combined 80% of students have, at some point in time, refrained from getting visible tattoos and/or piercings and dyeing their hair an unnatural color for fear of how they would be received by a potential employer.  

These statistics demonstrate that not only are students thinking hard about expressing themselves in certain ways, but they’re actively fearful of forgoing jobs because of it.  However, according to an article published on the Good News Network website, 40% of young adults have tattoos and, the article states that these growing numbers have been helping to improve negative stigmas of hiring people who choose to express themselves in this way.  

Jena Sturm, a senior at Virginia Tech, agrees that the negative stigma surrounding tattoos and piercings is on a decline, stating that, “I think the norm is changing to where it’s more acceptable in a lot of ways…it’s just changing over time and I think a lot of people are recognizing that.”

Research has proved the aforementioned statements. However, Sturm also mentions that she believes the type of job industry has a lot to do with levels of tattoo and piercing acceptance saying, “If you look at it, some doctors have full sleeves.  So I think it just really depends on where you’re working and what their values are.”

A paper published in the “Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Journal” outlined research that further supports this viewpoint, referencing a study that demonstrates within management and human resources job markets 80% of personnel “would be less likely to hire someone with visible tattoos and/or piercings.”

So what’s the truth?  Researchers and website publications alike are still trying to figure it out.  The Huffington Post released an article as a follow-up to a story published by Forbes, stating that tattoos are, ‘no longer a kiss of death in the workplace’.  Huffington Post 

Self Expression

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essentially found these statements untruthful when it conducted modern research taking another look at the issue.  It found that “highly visible tattoos can still have a negative impact, especially in customer-facing jobs.”  Of the students used in the Virginia Tech survey, the majority felt as though their self-expression in the workplace is limited as far as getting tattoos, piercings, and dying one’s hair. Additional remarks about how they feel as though they may be judged for how they express themselves and have even been asked to remove piercings by employers were made in the comments section of the survey.

Allison Turner, a recent Virginia Tech graduate, recently started her current job in a corporate office at Advance Auto.  She has 8 tattoos, almost all of which are visible, stretched ears, and a nose and helix piercing. She says that her appearance has never kept her from being considered for a job.  However, she does have reservations about future tattoos she would like to get. “I really want finger tattoos but I’m so afraid to get them because hand tattoos are considered ‘job stoppers’ in the tattoo community.”