Imagine living in a time when body modifications were still taboo. Try to conjure a mental slideshow of the various looks of disapproval your body would endure if you had a tattoo sleeve in, say, the eighties. It’s difficult to imagine living in a time when you wouldn’t see a tattoo sticking out from behind your grocery store clerk’s ear or when you wouldn’t catch a glimpse of your nurse’s ankle tattoo or even a law student sporting multiple piercings. It’s hard to argue that the stigma around body modifications has completely vanished, considering the adult world in which many of those who choose to modify still reside. So what are the Millennials to do when the desire to design on our bodies rivals the disapproval of the older generations in the workforce?
There is equally a pressure to modify as there is the pressure to get employed post-graduation. It seems like once one friend gets tattooed or pierced, all your friends follow their lead. Although body modification is a deliberate choice, there is no denying the influence of it as a trend. In fact, more and more people are getting modified. A 2010 Pew Research Center study gave a “portrait” of the Millennials: over fifty percent of us have two to five tattoos, while twenty-three percent of us have visible piercings (other than an earlobe) and a whopping seventy percent have piercings that can be hidden under clothing. Look around on a college campus and these stats seem to only be rising.
Where there are piercings and tattoos, there is also a great deal of stigma. Most parents will meet a new modification with “How are you going to get a job with that?” or “Who is going to take you seriously?” Unfortunately, the entirety of the baby boomer generation simply don’t understand right now. However, not all employers will think that way. It is important to remember that the market is changing; many of the older workers will retire and the job market will need the thirty-six percent of eighteen to twenty-five year olds (who will eventually be adults) and who are also modified. Besides, you have to ask yourself, if someone doesn’t want to hire you because of your appearance, do you really want to work for this person/company anyway? Let your résumé and your personality speak for you. It is with a lot of good faith to say that these things will win a hesitant employer over.
Do consider the location and the size of your modifications. If you’re an ambivalent person, you probably don’t want to set out to get a tattoo sleeve and change your mind halfway through the process. Be thoughtful and contemplate what will fit your lifestyle and perhaps even your future occupation. Remember that a tattoo or piercing does not define your image; these modifications are made to enhance, not make you who you are. Don’t get a modification just because you think it’s the cool thing to do at the moment. Learn about the ways to take care of one and really plan on investing time into taking good care of it. You’ll never hear someone say “I told you so” more than when your modification gets infected. A modification is a commitment; although piercings can be removed and skin will heal back over, nothing fixes itself immediately. Tattoos are an even bigger commitment, but consider what you’d enjoy and what means the most to you.
This generation is endlessly creative and we like to show this talent from our inside to our outside. We can express ourselves both physically and verbally, so we should not be afraid to let our colors show even to our possible employers. It is not about appeasing our elders any more: it is about setting our own rules, tastefully and creatively. There is nothing more harrowing to hear someone being hesitant about making a decision own their own. Be brave and be ambitious, you never know what conversations your body modifications will spark. To be yourself in a world that is always asking you to conform is an amazing thing to add to the old résumé.