I'm Leah, and in a lucky twist of fate, I've landed my three dream jobs:
book editor, writer, and mother. Since having my son in December 2008, my
work-life has been in constant flux - full-time? part-time? freelance?
working at home or in the office? It depends on the day and which way the
wind is blowing - and figuring out how to keep it all going is a constant
challenge. Heck, I'm still getting used to the idea of being someone's
Check out my profile on Work It, Mom! and my personal blog, A Girl and a Boy.
My mom has always wanted to dye her hair purple. It’s her favorite color (her glasses have purple rims, the front door of our house was purple for many years), and she has the kind of personality that can pull it off, no question. But she’s also a nursing supervisor at a large suburban hospital in one of the most conservative states in the country. She tells doctors and nurses where to go and what to do. She asks the bereaved if they’d like to donate the organs of their recently or nearly deceased loved ones. She is an expert and an authority figure and needs to be perceived as both when she’s on the clock, which means…purple hair just isn’t going to cut it.
When my husband was looking for work a year and a half ago, one of his mentors told him he’d have to lose his nose ring, at least for job interviews. He’s had the nose ring–a simple, non-obtrusive silver hoop–for about fifteen years, long enough that he stopped noticing it ages ago. But I noticed it the first time I met him, and our son remarks on it constantly, so it’s definitely not invisible. I think he might have taken it out for one or two interviews, but he didn’t take it out when he interviewed for the company he’s now been with for a year and a half, so apparently it wasn’t a deal-breaker. Although he, like my mom, has to be an expert and an authority figure at work too, we’re in the liberal-as-it-gets San Francisco Bay Area, and his job, although sensitive, isn’t quite on the same level as saving lives in a medical facility. So the nose ring stayed.
Meanwhile, I work for the most relaxed company ever when it comes to personal appearance–we once had an intern who was exploring her nascent Wiccanness via a wizard wardrobe, pointy hat and all–and yet here I am with no tattoos, not a single piercing, and only a few fleeting dalliances with Sun-in and color contacts (that were, incidentally, the same color as my eyes but just deeper by a shade or two because that’s how adventurous I am).
I was thinking about all this because of an article I read titled “Visible Tattoos and Other Corporate No-Nos,” in which research shows that piercings and tattoos are two of the top three factors that might turn off a potential employer. (The other factor is bad breath.) Research also suggest, however, that the workplace culture might have to change as more and more people enter the job market having grown up when tattoos and piercings were much more acceptable and common than they’ve ever been in generations past (professional pirate cultures excepted).
I kind of feel like I’m wasting the opportunity to be more creative with my appearance considering I have so much freedom at my company. So why don’t I dye my hair fuchsia and get a neck tattoo? Well, because I don’t want to, which is the best possible reason to not, I suppose, and yet…
I wish my mom could dye her hair purple and still be respected as the professional she is. And I hope my husband keeps his nose ring as long as it makes him happy (provided he doesn’t start looking like a sad old rockstar clinging to his youth via face jewelry).
What do you think about visible tattoos, unusual piercings, wacky hairdos, outrageous wardrobes and the like making an appearance on the job? Does your job limit how you present yourself style-wise? Would you ever work (or have you ever worked) for a company that restricted employees’ self-expression when it comes to physical appearance?
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