I read an article on CNN today about how, despite the proliferation of tattoos and piercings amongst young people, the workplace is still really not changing to accept that. Outside of the usual suspects with notoriously casual dress codes, most major compaines still frown on visible tattoos and piercings. The problem is that the people in charge are still mostly from our parents' generation who may have grown up during the 60s, but long since abandoned the "free your mind" culture they were born into. This is something that I think about on a periodic basis, then usually forget about until something sparks my memory again. I'm fortunate that my multitude of ear piercings (and relaxed dress code) are not a problem for me here at GD, that my mohawk wasn't a problem when I worked at Electrotek, and that, for the most part, my earrings weren't a problem when I worked at Coke.
This one actually deserves a trip down memory lane: My supervisor at Coke did get a complaint about my "appearance and professionalism" from a store one time. He wanted to make a big deal about it, and I said, fine, but I promise you the problem was not my earrings. The problem is that most customers are used to seeing a Coke employee show up in a clearly marked van, wearing a service technician's uniform, and having a stack of business cards to give the store manager. I drive a beater of a car, and though I was wearing nice slacks and an oxford shift that day, I bore no indication that I worked for Coke besides my business cards that say "Engineering Intern" on them instead of my real name. I've repeatedly asked for business cards with my name on it and for a Coca-Cola polo or oxford to wear at customer sites, and you've repeatedly said "it's not in the budget". When I left the customer location, he was extremely satisfied with my work and asked me to stick around an extra hour to train the next shift of workers that was coming in. So if you want to talk about my appearance and professionalism, I want to talk about how the company is unwilling to spend $50 on a long-term student-employee. That was the end of the conversation. The next day I had a Coca-Cola polo shirt on my desk. I never did get business cards though, so I had my own printed up by Vistaprint, and never received another complaint again. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was really the beginning of the end of the co-op program at Coke.
Anyway, after graduating from Tech, I had a long conversation with my dad about taking my piercings out. I said no. I like them. That's who I am. When I close my eyes, that's how I see myself. To borrow from the Matrix, it's ingrained in my residual self-image
. So he asked if I would consider taking them out for job interviews. Again, I said no. I felt like, apart from making me look even stranger, it was dishonest, both to myself and my potential employer. My feeling was that, if I had every intention of wearing piercings to work every day, I owed it to my interviewer to present an accurate depiction of myself. On the flip side, if an employer balked at the concept of hiring me because of my piercings, chances are very good that I wouldn't have fit in with the corporate culture of the organization.
I only bring this up because last night I was laying in bed thinking about the tattoos I want to get that I've been putting off. After seeing Tommy and Steph's new ink recently, it got me excited about my own ideas again. Most of what I want done is pretty benign and would be convered 99% of the time I'm at work, but the matching om/ohm tats I want done on my inner forearms would be quite visible most of the time. I could start wearing long sleeve shirts to work of course, but that's really not my cup of tea, especially in the summer. I'm not overly concerned about being handed a pink slip because I show up one morning with visible tattoos (the worst they would do is ask me to cover them up). I don't really think anyone here would even think any different of me to tell you the truth. My biggest concern is now that I'm in a position of authority/leadership/power/whatever, there's going to be a lot more interaction with higher-ups I don't know (both internally and externally), and the fact that I'm really quite young to be doing this job only makes matters more sticky. I guess I'm concerned about others' perception of me and whether or not I'll be taken seriously. We've always been treated as kind of the bastard step-child of the sonar world. I'm not expecting to be automatically granted the benefit-of-the-doubt that someone like Dave would have commanded, I understand that that level of respect had to be earned through a lot of hard work. But at the same time, I do expect to be given a chance to prove myself without being prematurely judged inferior to my predecessor based on nothing more than my appearance (one I've reminded my stodgier colleagues of on more than one occasion that gives me an immediate rapport with our end user - the US Navy sailor).
I think ultimately I've always been one to challenge the system, but I've also generally known when to say when and what battles are worth fighting. I've always been able to figure out exactly what I could get away with, do that for a while, and then push the boundary just a little bit. This is probably another one of those times. At any rate, this certainly bears some more thought before I make an appointment with Comes A Time or Exposed Temptations.