November 1, 2013
By Dr. Jeffrey Parrish
This column has wandered into dangerous waters in the past, and I’m sure I have offended an occasional reader with my ramblings on sensitive topics. Well, I’m heading back into the deep end of the pool this month. To my millennial readers especially, take no personal offense. I’m here merely for discussion and thought provocation.
I recently attended a wedding of a close friend’s daughter. Her contemporaries were everywhere; that’s what weddings are for: celebration with friends (and the parents’ friends just to keep them happy). There were many young professionals including several newly minted lawyers with whom I had the opportunity to briefly converse. I kept trying to imagine these young lawyers, especially the women, (Parrish, you’re such a sexist; you need to be censored. Hardymon?) in court handing a piece of evidence to a geezer judge and having a large tattoo on her forearm jump into his field of vision even if she had on long sleeves. Believe me, there were plenty of other tats in evidence on lots of bodies, but, given generally acceptable wedding attire, there was lots more female skin exposed than male.
Tats are obviously becoming more accepted in general society, but they still are visually a shock to many in my generation and even others younger. As a certified geezer, I don’t get the entire phenomenon, but I’m going to be in “the home” soon so my opinions will not matter much longer. But I did read with interest a recent study by a British sociologist, Dr. Andrew Timming, who reports his research into a broad range of HR personnel’s decision-making processes revealed a general dislike of VISIBLE tattoos on potential employees, saying the wearers appeared “dirty” and “thuggish” (the HR folks’ words even if they were otherwise okay with tats). Unless you were applying for a position as a prison guard, you likely were less likely to be hired because of the fear of what your dermatological art says to potential customers based on their stereotypical reaction to tattooed people as “thugs and druggies.”
Too many geezer, geezerette and straight-laced customers represent a potential problem for their businesses! While no one in the dental hiring business was surveyed by Dr. Timming, I wonder what experiences with regard to body art our younger dentists may have encountered in interviewing for their various first practice opportunities. Was it even mentioned? While I haven’t hired anyone in 15 years, I could imagine the reaction of my staff if a young assistant interviewed with a neck spider web or tear under her right eye!! And even if it’s not visible under scrubs, no dental staff interacts strictly dressed in scrubs; the tats are “coming out” eventually, and the judgments will follow.
I also saw a discussion of a survey by Jobvite, “a social job recruiting platform company” — whatever that is! Anyway, 42 percent of job recruiters “reconsidered a job applicant in both positive and negative ways, based on what they saw on the candidate’s social networks.” 94 percent of hiring folks are reviewing Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and other social media to see if you are talking about guns, have no pix without a beer in your hand, discuss your drug use (Anyone seen Molly?), can’t spell or use reasonable English grammar, or are sexting on Instagram. Again, I have no idea if dentists or dental corporations (oh wait, they’re illegal!) are checking social media, but I’ll bet many are. As has been said a million times, anything you have put on the net is potentially there forever. We’ve all done lots of stupid things in our lives, but, thankfully, mine were never recorded digitally and put on the net so that you can look it up. I’m really quite boring when Googled or Binged.
I am not for a moment saying one cannot be a professional and have a tattoo, I am merely suggesting you seriously consider who your patient base might include; a blonde, spiky Mohawk is not going to cut it in downtown Bellevue…or probably Omak. Unless you are planning on practicing on Seattle’s Capital Hill forever, if you must get inked, please put it on the bottom of your foot (ow, that would hurt) or somewhere where only your VERY significant other is going to see it. Not all your patients are going to be Whole Foods checkers or those previously mentioned prison guards. There will be lots of old grannies and sheltered homeschoolers (have I offended everyone now?) who have a certain vision of what their dentist should look like. Even a very conservative flower, or butterfly, or some Chinese letter makes a statement, and it will not be appreciated by everyone. If it’s highly visible, get to your dermatologist and get it lasered (better than a friend in college in 1966 who had his “removed” by multiple sessions of “dermabrasion”, i.e., intentional sanding of his upper arm over many months—hurt like hell!).
And guard your social media like a hawk. Organized dentistry has tried to get all the beer and wine glasses out of our media photos so as to present a more “professional image” to the general public who might see them. (By the way, no one is putting this journal in their waiting room, I hope. This is for us internally, not the general public.) Quit with all the “sorority poses”, Ladies. Keep your tongue in your mouth on your selfies; we all know what a horrible germ cesspool that is. Stop the fake gang signs, Guys. No one will really think you have gone “on the wagon” if you no longer advertise your favorite “brewskie” in your pix. And if I see any of you imitating Miley Cyrus or grabbing yourself like some rapper, I’ll dermabrade that tattoo personally. We’re professionals, people.