Real Personal Branding: Tattoos

4 min read · 7 years ago


shutterstock_40053991The good news is tattoos aren’t reserved for sailors, warriors, or rock stars anymore. For these reasons and many others, 1 in 3 people under forty has at least one tattoo. (They are actually an ancient art form dating back to the Egyptians who used them to control the supernatural.)

In the future younger executives will replace older ones and the young ones will sport tattoos so it will become increasingly less of an issue in dress code and social reaction. But today, a general rule of thumb is: If your boss’s boss is showing his, you can too; if not, cover it.

A professor said to me, “A tattoo is akin to wearing the same hairstyle for rest of your life.” That being said, if you have your reasons for getting one—to feel sexy, be rebellious, for sentiment, or because you belong to the Church of Body Modification, then put thought into the following:

-Try a temporary tattoo on as a test for awhile.

-Select the spot on your body very carefully; make sure people can’t see them unless you want them to. Avoid locations that can’t be concealed by normal dress; stay away from your neck, fingers, or hands. One CEO put it flatly, “Don’t bring generously tattooed arms to the office.”

-Think about where you see yourself in ten years and ask yourself if the tattoo fits in the picture. Consider that it will likely limit you in some jobs if visible. You may not as quickly get on the corporate fast track or be nominated for Supreme Court judge. Also, consider who you’ll be with. A friend had his girlfriend’s name ‘Pat’ tattooed on his forearm. When he ended up married to Teresa he changed ‘Pat’ to ‘Bad’ because that was the best he and his artist could come up with!

-Ask yourself, “Is this a piece of art I’d like on my walls; if not, do I want it on my body?”

-Picture it on your mom and dad because one day you might be one and your kids will look at you like you see your own parents.

-Quadruple check the stencil the tattoo artist will use on you. Check for typos – ‘Angel’ can easily come out ‘angle’. Sanskrit characters you think say ‘stronger, higher, faster’ might really be saying ‘I have three boobs.’

-Think about the fact that the tattoo removal business is a growth industry – and I’m told it’s twenty-times more painful removing then getting. One man had his children go with him to witness the painful tattoo removal process in hopes to deter. A new establishment in my town to remove tattoos was interestingly named, “What Were You Inking?”

-Buy some tattoo concealing cream for emergencies.

If you are around people who sport them, there is requisite tattoo etiquette. Just smile and with respect say, “I like your tattoo” or “Tell me about your tattoo.” Don’t touch it (that’s sort of like patting a pregnant woman’s stomach). And don’t say:

-you’re going to regret that in five years

-that’s ugly

-why would you do that to your body?

-what do your parents think?

-is that a tramp stamp?

-are you on drugs or are you just stupid?

-I know someone who can remove that for you

I do like one millennial friend’s comment to me, “Scars are tattoos with better stories.”