Tattoos & Interviews

Dear, Anita,

I want to get a tattoo, but people (mostly my mother!) have been telling me it’s not a good idea because it will limit my career. I have a degree in accounting, and after putting in some time at my current entry-level position, I do plan to look for a better job in the near future. Everyone has tattoos these days; surely employers are used to this by now. Do you think a tattoo will hurt my future?

Dear, Thinking of Inking,

Adult male adjusting necktie.While 20 years ago tattoos were generally perceived as a statement of rebellion, body art is now becoming more mainstream. A recent Pew Research Study shows that 40% of adults age 26-40 have at least one tattoo. However, only 14% of all Americans of all ages have a tattoo, so there’s a good chance one of those 86% who don’t will be your interviewer!

In a Salary.com survey, more than one-third of the respondents believe employees with tattoos and piercings reflect poorly with employers, and 42% responded that visible tattoos are always inappropriate at work. Interestingly, the study found the more educated you are, the less likely you are to have (or condone) tattoos.  There are also regional biases, with the west-south-central area of the U.S. (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana) being the least tolerant of inked individuals. Hiring managers, while they themselves may not be biased, have to consider a tattooed employee’s interaction with customers, which could prevent you from getting a job.

Before you tattify, give careful consideration to the body art’s location. A tat on your lower back (known as a “tramp stamp” by the younger set) may never be seen in the course of a normal workday – unless you take a job as a lifeguard. Tattoo “sleeves,” however, are harder to cover day-to-day. If you are applying to a less-traditional company with a hip reputation, visible tattoos may not be as taboo.

To borrow a slogan from Internet marketing, “content is king.” Avoid a tattoo that portrays anything death-related (like skulls) as well as drug-related, racist, or sexually suggestive motifs. A butterfly may be more innocuous than a spider web tattooed on your neck. Check out this video from Global Image Group on preparing for a job interview with tattoos and piercings:

If you do pursue that tattoo, and later find it is limiting your career, tattoo removal is an option. But laser de-inking can be expensive. And while I surely can’t speak from experience, I hear that tattoo removal is more painful than the original process.

If I were you, I would be more concerned about boosting your skills and résumé, rather than your “street cred.”

Readers: What are your thoughts on tattoos in the workplace?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Career Change to STEM

Dear, Anita,

I understand women and men had been created similarly, but one particular question I could never uncover the solution to is why you can find a lot more males functioning as doctors, engineers, and scientists? The ratio of male: females is about ninety-nine to one. Why is this, and how can I as a woman change careers to get into one of these fields?

Woman DoctorDear, Marie Curie Wanna-Be,

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 34.3% of U.S. physicians are female, so women are gaining ground in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields. As to the why, we could discuss this for hours. There is an interesting nondiscriminatory take on the issue in this recent MSN News article: http://news.msn.com/science-technology/why-are-women-underrepresented-in-science-and-math-careers.

The days of working for one company in one career until you get a gold watch at retirement are long gone. But how many times do people change careers in their lifetime? The BLS estimates the average person holds 11.3 jobs from age 18-46. Of course, a change of jobs doesn’t necessarily mean a total change in your career choice.

But let’s talk nuts and bolts.  Making a drastic career change can be challenging, and double that if you’ve got kids to feed and bills to pay. So be as certain as you can be that this new career is something you will be passionate about, because you’ll need that enthusiasm to get you through the tough times.

Woman ScientistFirst, for a career in the fields you mentioned – medical, engineering, or scientific – you’ll need additional education. You didn’t mention your age (and it would be rude of me to ask!), but many of these fields take advanced degrees. I hope you have your bachelor’s behind you, or the process will take many more years. (Check out my past blog, Advanced Degrees While Employed, for tips on balancing work, life, and school.) You’ll need to narrow down your career choices to hone in on the focus for your educational efforts… and dollars.

Speaking of that, are you prepared to invest in your career change?  If you have previous student loans, are you willing to go into more debt? As an alternative to a full-blown master’s degree, you may look into certificate programs in the STEM fields (medical assistant, drafting, Microsoft certification, etc.), which may be completed more quickly and for a lower cost.

We’ve all heard stories about accountants turned bakers, and lawyers trying their hand at stand-up comedy. However, the easiest career changes are those in which you can transfer some of your current skills into your new path.  But don’t let that discourage you. For more inspiration, check out this NASA video:

Reader: Have you ever changed careers? What is the best piece of advice you can offer?

Do you have a question for Anita Clew? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Top 10 Attitudes Employers Should Look For

Dear, Anita,

I’m currently looking for a key staff member. I have several résumés that are pretty equal as far as skill sets are concerned. How do I decide among a handful of qualified candidates?

Dear, Analysis Paralysis,

More and more employers are realizing that you should “hire for attitude, then train for skill.” The maxim is credited to Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines. When Kelleher became chairman in 1978, he placed humor at the top of his hiring criteria, and more than 30 years later, you can see that prized attitude in this Southwest steward:

According to my friends at the Power Training Institute, here are the 10 attitudes employers should look for in a star performer:

1. Find a learner who consistently wants to improve and grow.

2. Hire a listener who will talk only after they’ve listened first.

3. Employ a solver who does not just see problems, but finds solutions.

4. Discover an appreciator who will thank and encourage others.

5. Find a communicator who will speak effectively, not just someone who likes to talk.

6. Appoint a thinker who always searches for better, more efficient ways to do things.

7. Hire a planner who can set and meet deadlines.

Team Player

8. Select a motivator who has enthusiasm that will influence others.

9. Employ a team player who can work well with others.

10. Find an acceptor who takes responsibility for their own results.

Nordstrom’s is another company that hires for character. “We can hire nice people and teach them to sell,” Bruce Nordstrom says, “but we can’t hire salespeople and teach them to be nice.” While you should not throw out the skill requirements when hiring for every position (brain surgery comes to mind), you can hire better employees when you take their mental outlook into account.

Managers: Would you rather have a more skilled employee or one with a can-do attitude?

Need some job advice? Anita Clew is happy to help. Click here to Ask Anita.

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How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards, Part 2

Last week, I offered a half-dozen alternatives to finding positions on the online job boards. To review those ideas, click here. For more tips on how to find unadvertised jobs, read on…

business visionJob Fairs. Also known as a career expo, this is an event where employers and recruiters can meet job seekers. Be sure to bring copies of your résumé, and jot down notes on the business cards you collect so you can follow up. Set up a Google Alert so you won’t miss the next job fair scheduled in your region.

Internships & Volunteer Opportunities. Don’t think internships are just for recent graduates. If you are able to get an internship or volunteer to work for free (a radical concept, I know!) at your dream company, you’ll have your foot in the door when that paid position opens up. Even if your volunteer activities don’t lead to a position, you may meet some people who can help you further your career.

Take a Temp Job. If you just can’t work for free, join a temporary employment agency, such as The Select Family of Staffing Companies. You’ll be able to make some bill-paying money with assignments that last from a few days to a few months, in addition to keeping your skills from getting rusty. You may even be offered a permanent position. In this US News article, “10 Reasons to Take a Temporary Job,” point #1 notes that temporary work isn’t so temporary.

Word of Mouth. If you’ve been searching for a job for any length of time, you’re probably sick of the term “networking.”  Don’t let discouragement keep you from chamber of commerce mixers, service club meetings, and even ponying up the greens fees for a round of golf. For tips on networking, read my post Networking Know-How.

Hit the Bricks. Whether you want to find a job in a downtown boutique or in the financial district of your city, dress for the part, pop some freshly printed résumés in your satchel, and go hunting on foot.  While higher-level jobs don’t often advertise with a “Help Wanted” sign in the window, chatting up the receptionist in an office suite building may lead to some inside information. If you ask to speak to a company’s hiring manager, you may be able to get 10 minutes of his or her time, even without an appointment.

You never know. Your next job may be hiding in plain sight.

Readers: Have you ever landed an “unadvertised” job? We’d love to hear your story.

Do you have a question for Anita Clew? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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