Travel Jobs and Ink – Art Worth the Difficulties?

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“Guy walks into a job interview. He’s wearing a t-shirt, has a couple piercings, tattoos on his arms and his hair is 3 different colors. The manager who was interviewing him liked the resume and decided to pass on some advice to him. He tells the guy, “You’re resume is great but I can’t have someone looking the way you do with my clients. You aren’t even wearing a tie.” The guy’s response was something along the lines of, “This is who I am; this is me.” The manager sat up, visibly annoyed and says, “You’re such a fool; you and your whole generation. Get a real shirt and tie, keep your hair to one color, lose the piercings and hide the tattoos. If you can do that, come see me next week. Once you become the manager from the hard work I think you can do, fire everyone and hire only people with multi-colored hair, piercings, tattoos and get rid of ties if you want.” -M.A.H.

Love that story. My mother, who was a recruiter and manager when I was younger experienced that with one of her clients. From the beginning, I knew my first tattoo was going to be on my shoulder. I did this for two reasons. To hide it from my parents and so no one would see it at work. Long story short, few years later when my parents visited me while I was in the U.S. Marine Corps, they asked me about my tattoo. My response?

“Which one?”

To say tattoos are not becoming mainstream is an oversight. Although most countries do not track tattoo sales and statistics, in the United States almost 14% of Americans have at least one tattoo and over 30% of those people say “they’re addicted to ink”. The issue with employment is all in presentation. You don’t have to get a tattoo, you don’t have to grow a mustache, you don’t have to have piercings, and you don’t have to wear a tie. But you do have to abide by the rules of the company you work for regarding dress code.

The difficult part working travel jobs as a travel therapist or travel tech is that you are working for a different facility every 3 months or so. What’s OK with one skilled nursing facility might not be OK with the hospital your next travel job is with. To complicate matters, this is something that is not usually discussed on interviews, included in job descriptions, etc. But it is noticed when you start working. Especially working in travel jobs.

In speaking to many travel therapists about this, most decide on the conservative approach by making sure nothing is noticeable. Saying this, a few years ago I had to take my daughter to a hospital for sleep studies and I spent the night with my wife. The male nurse working the floor had 2 tattoo sleeves and they were bold and vibrant. Nothing vulgar or dirty, but you could see them from a mile away. I chatted with him a bit that night and found that he was on a travel job.

Here’s the thing though: it’s all about representation. You are representing yourself professionally; the agency you work for and the facility you accepted a travel job with. That’s a heck of a lot of responsibility. Hopefully, if you are conscious of this, you realize its (or it should be) all the same thing.

Things are changing though. I walked into my local grocery store recently; one of the largest grocery store chains in the U.S. The assistant manager has a large forearm tattoo. He didn’t start off as the manager and he’s been there for some years. So as a whole, tattoos are gaining more acceptance in the work place. Additionally, the “Millennials Generation” has a much wider acceptance of tattoos (and piercings, etc) and employers have to take notice since that is an incredibly large workforce. A year or so ago I was speaking to the president of a mid sized healthcare travel agency and he

was explaining to me the steps he had taken over the years to attract millennials for employment.  One of them being a wider acceptance of tattoos. Still, between the workplace and patients, there still can be more fear, especially with the elderly population. Much of the older population still views tattoos as trouble or can feel threatened by a traveler with a tattoo. Listen, when Conor McGregor  got a tattoo, regardless of what his intentions were, do you now think he looks less or more threatening? (Love ya Mr. McGregor!)

Listen, when Conor McGregor got a tattoo, regardless of what his intentions were, do you now think he looks less or more threatening?

(Love ya Mr. McGregor!)

If your thought process is the same as the story up top, perhaps you aren’t ready for a travel career. The one thing that is consistent with every travel job no matter how many years of experience you have is this: You are being judged as a new employee constantly. That can take willpower and thick skin (maybe not inked skin) to be able to handle. This situation begs the question,”What is more important?”

Please don’t misunderstand my message, I’m not saying you can’t have a tattoo or you are going to be ostracized from everyone. All I’m saying is that you may find job opportunities a little more difficult to come by. It’s possible you might not too.

 

Lastly, one more piece to share with you. Your tattoos are an enhancement of you. You are not an enhancement of your tattoos. Give people reasons to know about you before they know about your tattoos. If there is any advice I could give and I have hired many over a long career. I would say this:

Be smart with your tats initially. Get your tattoos in strategic places that are covered up with everyday clothing. Once your skill level grows; hiring officials will look more at your body of work and less at your tattoos. Give them a reason to look beyond your tattoos.

Never forget that an interview is a first impression. I have seen people not get a job because they had facial hair (crazy). Do what you need to do to get the job. Then when you’re the boss, fire everyone and hire everyone else with tattoos.

Back in 2014, I wrote an article for Tattoodo.com, the largest community dedicated to tattoos with 20 million monthly viewers. I spoke about tattoos in the work place. I thought I would apply that message here.

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