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Does having a Tattoo mean You Can't Work in the "Corporate" World?

Updated on January 1, 2012

On my first tattoo

I never intended to blog or write about my first tattoo. In fact, it is the last thing I would do as I would never want to brag or seem "cool" about it cause it isn't really that much of a big deal. My tattoo isn't even a visible one if I'm wearing a shirt. It just so happened that yesterday was our family reunion and there were some concerns brought up about it. Also, the fact that it is itching like hell right now makes me feel as if it is trying to compel me to defend tattoos and body art. As a blogger who gets up to 40,000 views a month (and growing), I do have some sort of responsibility to correct people's misconceptions and, in my opinion, backward ideology.

There were the typical myths such as not being able to donate blood or the safety and sanitation of equipment and of course these are legitimate concerns. I do appreciate it that my family is concerned about my health and well-being. Although many of these myths have been busted or corrected already, there was one that really struck me the most and that was the one about not being able to work in "the corporate world". It had the same sentiment as my friend suggesting that he can never be a pilot "in case" he wants to be in the future because of rules and policies that are against having tattoos.

I'm not really sure if it's even something I want to do [working in the "corporate world"] but, as I learned from Ron Paul, my favorite libertarian, I do not want to be an absolutist and completely reject the idea or possibility of it as I am not a perfect human nor do I possess precognition skills and so the future is uncertain and anything can happen.

My artist starting to work on my chosen design
My artist starting to work on my chosen design

Bad HR Management?

Isn't it the most logical human resource concept that skills, talents, and whatever else it is that the individual can contribute to the corporation must be prioritized over physical appearance? It only makes sense doesn't it?

Of course, again as a libertarian, I recognize the right of businesses to protect their own image and choose their employees based on any criteria as they wish. It is just in my opinion, which I feel to be the more logical position, that this kind of thinking, of discriminating against those with body art (especially visible ones) is actually detrimental to a company/corporation.

An article on CNN Money (see here says that more and more companies are changing this kind of view and are becoming more accepting of tattoos and other forms of body art because not doing so would mean not attracting a lot of young talent.

Google, one of the biggest and most successful IT "corporations" in the world (obviously) is very accepting of tattoos and body arts. Of course we all know how forward-thinking their workplace environment is and it just proves that having tattoos is not an issue at all and, again, has nothing to do with skills or what individuals have to offer. Here's what they have to say about their work culture:

"At Google, being yourself is a job requirement. When we encourage Googlers to express themselves, we really mean it. In fact, we count on it. Intellectual curiosity and diverse perspectives drive our policies, our work environment, our perks and our profits. It's the amazing diversity of Googlers that allows us to do extraordinary things." (

The world is changing and society is evolving. If you think the forward-thinking business model of Google, and many other successful "corporations" is a failure then go ahead and continue to tell your HR people to discriminate on people with tattoos.

I can cite tons of more references and resources supporting my position but I'm sure that would be unnecessary (but would be available upon request especially to those relatives who were concerned about my health/career).

My artist working on the outline of the design I chose
My artist working on the outline of the design I chose

Does it depend on what kind of industry?

Of course, as I tried to convey to my relatives, there are industries (especially those that my aspiring skills cater to) that are very accepting of body art. The world of "creatives": writing or journalism, design and multimedia, advertising and marketing, media production and post-production; I have seen companies in these industries that are very accepting of tattoos.

Again, I understand why companies may want to discriminate on people with tattoos. For instance, maybe in sales, maybe clients are more accepting of salespeople who are "decent" (another concept I am against that having tattoos is indecent). Throughout the course of history, we have associated tattoos with counterculture: bikers, gangs, criminals, and the majority of consumers are still indoctrinated with this kind of backward ideology. And so I do understand the sentiment of hiring people with no tattoos. What we must understand though, as I have mentioned, is that the world is changing and there is nothing we can do to stop that.

Again, we go back to the HR policy problem I was referring to a while ago. What if it just so happened that there is this super best salesperson in the world who has the skill to close any deal but has a lot of visible tattoos. Should the HR of the "corporation" prioritize physical appearance over skills and sacrifice the great deal of contributions of the individual to the company just because of having tattoos?

My Tattoo

Unfinished outline of my tattoo
Unfinished outline of my tattoo

I don't really have a photo of the finished product as of now because it is still scabbing and peeling and, as I have said, itching like hell. Getting my first tattoo didn't really hurt at all. In fact, the itching is much worse for me. I really hate the concept of having an itch that I can't scratch. It's very frustrating.

My tattoo is actually a nautical compass with an eye in the middle. I'd like to think that it symbolizes that I am still looking for my path in life; that I am still in the process of self-discovery and finding my way; that I must change the direction of my life. At first, I wanted the eye in the middle to be a normal drawing of an eye but then my artists showed me his drawing of Mother Theresa and realized he makes really good portraits and so later on I decided to just make him put a portrait version of an eye. It is also tilted a bit to the right (if you are facing my tat) to make it similar to the earth being titled 23.5 degrees.

Health, Sanitation, P&P Tattoo, and the Beauty of Market Competition

I got my tattoo from P&P Tattoo, a very well known tattoo company here in the Philippines, when I was in Boracay. Their portfolio include works for celebrities like Francis M, Karl Roy, Maxene Magalona, and many others (sorry I forgot the photos posted outside their spot in d'mall Boracay; I will update this post as soon as I am reminded).

Aside from celebrities, it shows in their Facebook page how many satisfied consumers they have. Once again incorporating libertarian capitalist ideas: to protect this patronage of consumers they have, their profit incentive and their name and credibility, they are compeled to provide the best service, use top-notch and sanitized equipment, and make sure that they prioritize the health of their consumers.

The same goes for their competition. There's this artist, his name is Arvin and I've met him a couple of times, who is very highly recommended by my friends You see how even by word of mouth, quality and patronage is marketed. If any of the competing brands or tattoo companies or artists provide bad prices or services, they will be outsold by competition and even by word of mouth, they could lose patronage. It is inherent in a competitive market for suppliers and service providers to make sure that they protect the safety and give satisfaction to their consumers.

So really, there's not much to worry about when it comes to health and sanitation. If ever there are isolated issues, then that would be a problem of the management of the company and they will eventually lose patronage. But since many people still go to P&P Tattoo, it goes to show that they are able to satisfy their consumers. I know I am very satisfied with mine. I love how my design was made. It is exactly how I wanted it to be. Props to my artist, Pao from P&P Tattoo Boracay.

Avoiding misconceptions and challenging the status quo

The world is changing now. We can't keep on adhering to social conventions even when it is already going against logic or reason. We must fight to keep our world and society in this track of becoming more liberalized and free.

There was a time when no one ever thought there could be a woman president. There was a time when black people weren't allowed to become airline pilots. But you see these things change. Do you know why? Because discrimination is ridiculous. Because it is more sensible for HR to prioritize skills instead of appearance.Because Having a tattoo has no bearing on one's skills, values, or ethics.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and judgement but if we do not rethink these ideologies that I have mentioned then we are merely prolonging the restriction on progress and change. It is against the interest of a free, prosperous, and open society.

Gone are the days when only goons and gangs have tattoos. It is most definitely a form of art and a symbolic personal experience. Dear relatives, I appreciate your concern for my health, well-being, and career. I just hope that I have somehow changed your mind about some ideologies, social conventions and misconceptions.


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