This article was written by Susan Simpson with The Oklahoman. It appeared in the Sunday, Sept 26th edition. First impressions count.
Midwest City police detective Carissa Southern is reminded of an act of teenage rebellion each time she gets dressed.
She has to make sure her clothing or a bandage covers a 6-by-6 inch tattoo of an eagle above her right breast. Like many employers, the police department does not allow visible tattoos.
So Southern, who paid $150 about 17 years ago for the colorful tattoo, now is paying thousands of dollars to have the ink removed through painful laser treatments.
“Looking back, it really was a rebellious act,” Southern said of the tattoo that doesn’t fit her lawenforcing lifestyle. “I don’t think the public would expect a police officer to show up with a tattoo.”
Tashonda Dixon, coowner of Body Trends medical spas in Oklahoma City, said more people are seeking tattoo removal to further their careers. They’re finding that a visible tattoo can be a barrier to getting a job, she said.
“I think you can get the wrong idea about somebody if they have a tattoo,” Dixon said.
Most tattoos can be removed safely and without scarring, said Dixon, who has been educating potential customers at a booth at the Oklahoma State Fair. The laser treatments, which gradually disintegrate ink from the body, usually take multiple visits over many weeks. The treatments cost about $40 per square inch per visit.
Southern was undergoing her fifth treatment at Body Trends last week. “I’m at a point in my career that it’s advantageous to get it removed,” she said.
In a competitive job market, visible tattoos can be a strike against job seekers, said James Farris, a job search consultant and president of James Farris Associates. “The job market is tight enough that people are starting to think about first impressions,” Farris said.
Employers can require that workers cover tattoos, much like they can enforce a dress code to ensure workers reflect their company’s image.
Ryan Croft, an Oklahoma City freelance writer, said he was required to cover his forearm tattoos when he worked at Starbucks. "Employers, coworkers, friends and strangers have openly judged me for the subject matter of my tattoos as well as just for having them,” he said.
But other tattoo-bearers say they chose to place their body art on places they could easy cover. Matt Johns, an admissions counselor at Oklahoma Christian University, has three tattoos. “I got them in places that I knew I could cover up for work purposes,” he said.
Bill Crye, a former parole officer, said he didn’t realize his many tattoos would be a problem until he started looking for a new job. “Little did I realize how hard it would be to get a job if I did not keep my work covered,” he said. “My bachelor’s degree in education meant nothing. My MBA meant just as little. All I was to a potential employer was a guy with 14 years experience in corrections and scary tattoos.