Oh, tattoos. That ancient process of injecting oneself with foreign pigments for the sake of symbolism, religion, or beauty.
Or, if you’re a millennial, as a representation of your identity.
While tattoos go back eons their recent mainstream popularity is a relatively new phenomenon, and due to the gap in ages within insurance, it can be an issue when it comes to “professionalism”. According to a Harris Research Poll, 47% of Millennials have at least one tattoo, compared to only 13% of Baby Boomers. Clearly, it’s no longer just sailors and criminals…
A slight disclaimer: I have 8 tattoos, and actually just started on a sleeve in the last week, so I’m certainly biased. However, I’m also a dedicated insurance professional that doesn’t want something professionally meaningless like tattoos to get in the way of me doing what I love.
Moving on. To older generations, tattoos are the symbol of the miscreants, or ex-navy. Only 13% of Baby Boomers have tattoos, so it’s completely understandable that they would feel less than favorably toward them. There’s a huge lack of exposure and understanding as to why Millennials choose to permanently alter their bodies.
So why do they? Some articles argue that it’s a permanence that they won’t get elsewhere – Millennials grew up in a time of disruption between the financial crisis, college debt, restructuring of family timelines, etc., so instead of having a baby or buying a house (both pretty permanent decisions), they’re getting a tattoo. Others argue that it’s a way to identify themselves in a more permanent way – their bodies may change, they might move or lose a job, but they’ll always have a marker to remind them of what was or is a part of themselves.
Whatever the case, tattoos are a big thing, and in an industry that’s struggling to find talent, we can’t allow tattoos to be a barrier to hiring the right people. If you’re going to reject 47% of the eligible population due to a choice they made privately, choices that have absolutely no effect on their ability to get the work done, that’s going to seriously cut down on your candidates.
Instead, try to use tattoos to your advantage. They could be an indication that you’re interviewing someone that is creative and appreciates art, or a person that finds meaning where others might not. Tattoos are pricey, painful, and permanent, so they are rarely gotten impetuously. There’s usually a longer process that requires a lot of thought.
That’s not to say that those bad tattoos aren’t out there. If anything, tattoos can help you weed out the candidates that aren’t going to think far enough ahead to be a part of your company. That guy that got an expletive tattooed on his fingers? Probably not the best option.
Insurance companies are also likely to run into issues because most of their employees are usually not dealing with their customers in person. It’s similar to the professional dress that used to be required in offices: logically there is no reason for it when no one is going to be seeing you, so why require it? Same with tattoos. As long as it’s nothing explicit or offensive, why does it matter if my coworkers see my tattoos?
Even in sales positions, if you’re trying to get millennials in and millennial customers, a tattooed individual shouldn’t be a problem. If anything, tattoos are fantastic conversation starters, so it could help them network. Other millennials with tattoos will identify with them as people, as opposed to the stuffy insurance agent image that is often portrayed.
Use tattoos to your advantage, as opposed to weeding out everyone with them. Being more accepting of tattoos opens up a further professional space for Millennials that they may not get in other industries.
Note from Tony: I’m one of the 47% of Millennials who carries at least one tattooed. Mine aren’t visible in normal wear and when it comes out in conversation that I have some ink people are usually surprised to find out. I tend to joke that I have a giant dragon covering my entire back, but the reality is I’m too much of a coward for pain for something that elaborate. I have the letters of Theta Delta Chi, my college fraternity, on my left ankle (Go Thumpers!) and the Japansese kanji of Kyokushin Karate which I practiced my entire childhood on my chest, exactly where it goes on the uniform. I love both of them and they’re both organizations that shaped me as a person and gave me the tools to succeed in the world. Maybe I’ll get CPCU or the Insurance Nerds logo next! Or Superman logo, oooohhh now that’s tempting.