Research Says: Tattoos Can Give You a Professional Boost

Back of woman with a tattoo on her arm looking at pictures on her computer

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 23, 2024 at 7:20AM UTC

I was 21, a new, jobless college grad and recently dumped by a toxic boyfriend when I first contemplated getting a tattoo. I was depressed, and it would be something to be excited about again, I thought. The problem? I couldn’t think of anything I’d want to be on my body forever.

Flash forward 12 years to last winter. I had been thinking about a tattoo again for a good year, and on the drive back from Rhode Island after Thanksgiving with my family, I turned to my brother and said, “I’m going to do it.”

I knew exactly what I wanted: my rescue dog, Hercules’ name in Roman font.

Laura's Hercules tattoo.
Laura's Hercules tattoo.
I love my tattoo. Every time I see it, I think about Herc and smile. So, even when I’m away from him (which is rare), I’m reminded of my love for my beautiful, snugly boy.

I have considered the professional angle. Tattoos are not uncommon these days. According to Statista, as of September 2021, only 57% of Millennials said they had no tattoos, and 29% said they had multiple. Meanwhile, nearly a third (32%) of Gen Xers have at least one tattoo. 

As someone working in a creative industry — and a freelancer, no less — I’m not too worried about the professional implications of my tattoo. But not everyone has this luxury. That led me to wonder: does the tattoo stigma in the work world still persist?

Good news for inked entrepreneurs

A new study published in the Journal of Business Venturing Insights has some great news for entrepreneurs: the study’s authors, Paula A.Kincaid, Jeremy C.Short and Marcus T. Wolfe, found that visual displays of tattoos are positively associated with crowdfunding performance, with both artistic and non-artistic campaigns actually benefitting from tattoos.

In the first study of its kind, the researchers analyzed 1,500 crowdfunding campaigns from Kickstarter and saw a positive relationship between visible tattoos and crowdfunding performance. The conclusion: “We move the conversation regarding the impact of body art beyond non-entrepreneurial contexts by providing evidence that tattoo visibility does not hinder an entrepreneur's efforts to raise funds for their venture.”

What do tattoos mean for other professionals?

The U.S. has no employment law prohibiting discrimination based on visible tattoos — so theoretically and legally, your tattoo could affect hiring and firing decisions.

That said, research in recent years shows no evidence of employment discrimination against people with visible tattoos in the U.S. In fact, according to one study, “Tattooed individuals are also just as likely, and in some instances even more likely, to gain employment.”

“When it comes right down to it, you’ll choose the most qualified person, body art or not,” Alison Beard writes in the Harvard Business Review. “Even the U.S. Marines now allow recruits to have visible tattoos anywhere but the face, because when tattoos were banned, the organization found it was losing out on good candidates."

Of course, opinions vary considerably across generations, industries, company cultures and demographics. An employer is entitled to establish a dress code for their organization, and tattoos may be part of that. 

So, if you’re considering a tattoo or wonder whether you should cover yours for your next interview, it’s a good idea to investigate the norms within your industry and the types of companies within it. But think about your own ability to express yourself, too — if a certain employer frowns at tattoos, and you love yours, perhaps it’s not the right organization for you.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for someone with tattoos at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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