Anybody have anecdotes about forearm tattoos in a professional setting?
March 12, 2004 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Anybody have anecdotes about visible, as in on the forearm, tattoos in a professional setting? [more inside]

Namely, it’s my last semester at college and I’m trying to get an idea of how diligently I should keep mine covered up in the real world. I’m looking for academic lab tech jobs, so it’s not like I’d be in a customer service position, but I know that people often really don’t like tattoos.
posted by guyincognito to Human Relations (14 answers total)
I work in a government office with a lot of ex-military guys, and I've noticed several forearm tattoos. Personally, I keep mine covered since I'm (a) a chick and (b) not ex-military.

I'd say keep em covered for a few weeks while you feel out the "corporate culture" of the individual job site.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:53 AM on March 12, 2004

What do you have? I have two on my forearm; one is a the disinfo logo (just 'cause I like it) and the other is a cross between a barcode and a rainbow flag. They're colourful and (I think) tasteful, and I only get compliments. I imagine that if your tattoos were large naked barbarian women or some such, there might be objections.
posted by malpractice at 9:56 AM on March 12, 2004

I'd say play it safe and keep 'em covered. You don't want anything discoloring your interview even if it's not supposed to matter.
posted by agregoli at 10:06 AM on March 12, 2004

I have forearm tattoos (and glad to hear there are others covering em up at work) that I keep covered at all times when in professional situations, and it's fairly easy for guys to wear long-sleeve shirts all year without raising eyebrows. It just makes things easier (you dont have to worry about somebody stressing about you having them.)

That said, I've seen coworkers in social situations, so they know I have them, and have told other people, so *everybody* I work with knows I have them, so I don't think it's usually a big deal. People are typically surprised that I have them, though, because I look pretty 'normal' (whatever that means.) When people ask me about them at work I tell them that "I used to be punk rock."
posted by drobot at 10:23 AM on March 12, 2004

I don't have any ink, but I've worked in a lot of academic environments. It's really going to depend on the culture. What kind of labs are you going to be working in? In anthropology or geology the faculty are likely to have more and better tats than you have in very visible places (I remember one guy with a big spider on his neck). In psychology, I don't see a lot of folks with tattoos.

You're best bet is to start off conservatively, but it's not unlikely that you'll be able to stop worrying about it before too long when you're in an academic environment.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:37 AM on March 12, 2004

I have several large, highly political tattoos on my arms, and I have yet to encounter any problems while working in high-tech. Depending on what you have, it might even give you an edge in certain situations.

That said, you should probably keep them covered up in the interview until you can get a feel for the office climate.
posted by cmonkey at 10:38 AM on March 12, 2004

I work in a clinical lab at a research hospital, so we have lots of research only people too. I think we have a dress code thing about covering them, but i don't think any actual people in the lab would care, it's just one of those institution-wide rules, which i'm sure are more strictly enforced with the people that have patient contact.

So, like people above said, i would cover them at interviews, and for the first few weeks, make sure you're not breaking any actual rules, and test out the culture. Once you have someone there that you talk to ask them and see what they think. I would guess most places would be fine with it, especially if you're at a facility where no patients/customers ever come, those guys are total slobs. ;)
posted by rhyax at 11:39 AM on March 12, 2004

Harris Poll, 2003, estimates that fully 36% of those aged 25-29 have one or more tattoos More.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:08 PM on March 12, 2004

I really think it varies from region to region, and cities vs. towns/country. Your profile shows you in Ohio -- will you be staying in the area? Because I think you're going to find people in Ohio, on the whole, being hostile to visible tattoos. In New York City, on the other hand...

The other factor is the age of the people you're working with. Older folks = not as friendly. I think it come down to what people are familiar with or desensitized to.
posted by acridrabbit at 1:21 PM on March 12, 2004

A good friend of mine who I originally met at work (in Chicago) has several large and visible tats on his forearms. We worked developing distance learning modules for clients; our particular "home base" workplace was pretty laid-back, so he never tried to cover them up, but whenever we'd go on-site to visit clients (usually in the 'burbs) he'd err on the side of conservative and make sure they couldn't be seen. Like rhyax notes above, I believe he had the same approach to job interviews as well; they'd be hidden till it was clear whether or not the office culture would be cool with them, he'd start rolling up his sleeves. (Since then, however, he's been able to make a living from his music and writing whilst getting a Ph.D. in cultural studies in London, so I don't think he has to worry about being too buttoned-down anymore.)
posted by scody at 1:24 PM on March 12, 2004

You could try wearing one of these to test the working environment. . .
posted by Feisty at 3:19 PM on March 12, 2004

cover them up in the interview, but make reference to them if they ask you if you have any questions. my tattoos are icebreakers at the end of the hiring process, which has either helped or hurt later on in the job. i've never worked in a lab before, so i am not sure there, but if you are a researcher i would think it would not matter until the suits come in. just wear a long-sleeved shirt that day.
posted by the aloha at 4:42 PM on March 12, 2004

On the bottom of my forearm, I have one visible tattoo. My parents went a year before they noticed it (it's a tristero's horn), and even when I've cashiered, no one has noticed it.

Having said that, since I've started working at a school, I try to make sure all my other tattoos aren't visible because I don't want to put off teachers or bother students.
posted by drezdn at 9:02 PM on March 12, 2004

I have a large black tat on one arm, starting at the shoulder/collar bone, goes my down upper arm, finishes halfway between my elbow and my wrist. I keep it covered up in interview situations; but then I always assume that you should wear a long sleeved shirt with buttons anyway for inteviews. You can always dress down from up, but not the other way round. I also have large metal earrings/hoops, long hair.

I've worked in academic/corporate technology labs, and no-one's minded once it was 'outed.' One lab I worked in, we would get occasional memoes form the managers when higher-ups were due to visit, asking us not to come in looking like we were dressed for ultimate frisbee; but otherwise no-one bothered, unless you were going off-site to represent the lab somewhere else (for which we had logoed polo shirts!).

You're more likely to be disliked if you can't do your job ;)
posted by carter at 9:22 AM on March 13, 2004

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