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An Exploration of the relationship between careers advisors and tattooed clients.

Mel Noir

New Implications in the 21st Century? An Exploration of the relationship between careers advisors and tattooed clients.


The popularity of tattooing is on the rise, particularly among people aged between the ages of 16-25, who are about to enter the labour market. While many attitudes towards those with tattoos have changed to a more favourable one, there is still evidence of discrimination towards who have them, especially in the work place, where tattoos are sometimes seen as ‘unprofessional’. This discrimination can cause problems when giving impartial careers guidance, while still making tattooed clients aware of what an employer may expect from them. This dissertation aims to explore the relationship between the careers advisor and tattooed client, and any potential problems or issues they may face. The research presented was collected through two questionnaires, which were given to practitioners working in careers advice services, and selected individuals who have visible tattoos. After collecting data from both groups of people, it was found that both practitioners and those with tattoos can agree that those who have tattoos are at risk of being discriminated against by employers (with over 50% of participants on both sides agreeing in each questionnaire), and that those with tattoos feel strongly that this discrimination is comparable to discrimination based on race, gender, age or disability (41.2% of those asked stated this in the questionnaire). Careers advisors stated that they work towards an equal opportunities

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policy, which includes in it those with tattoos, as everyone who uses the services are treated with impartiality. Half of those with tattoos who were asked had experienced this discrimination themselves, and explained that they are expected to cover up their tattoos at work. This research does have its limitations, which include the small number of those who participated, which may not give a clear reading of how many advisors and tattooed individuals feel. This research also mainly relies on quantitative data, which does not take into consideration any unique circumstances or situations someone with tattoos may face in the work place. As more of the millennial generation move into the labour market, this piece of research could give an understanding into careers guidance of clients with tattoos, and how the new popularity of tattoos can have an effect on this guidance as more employers introduce new rules and regulations around this.

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Literature Review












List of Figures

Figure 1.

“Those with tattoos are at risk of discrimination.” p. 24

Figure 2.

“I feel I need to take into account any problems I may encounter with work before getting a new tattoo.” p.25

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Figure 3.

“Have you ever experienced discrimination of any kind when looking for work, from careers advisors, potential employers or otherwise?” p.26

Figure 4.

“If you answered yes, what happened?” p.26

Figure 5.

“Does your place of work have an equal opportunities policy?” p.28

Figure 6.

“Does this policy apply specifically to clients of different gender, race disabilities, etc., or does it apply to everyone wishing to use the service?” p.29

Figure 7.

“Do you feel that equal opportunities policies apply to everyone, or more specific groups who are seen as at more risk of discrimination?” p.31

Figure 8.

“Employers often discriminate against those with tattoos.” p. 32

Figure 9.

“Do employers make advisors aware of any policies regarding things like tattoos or dress codes?”

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p.34 Figure 10.

Answered by tattooed individuals: “Those with tattoos are at risk of Discrimination.” p.35

Figure 11.

Answered by Practitioners: “Those with Tattoos are at Risk of Discrimination.” p.36

Figure 12.

Answered by tattooed individuals: “Any potential Discrimination towards those with tattoos in career situations is a problem.” p.37

Figure 13.

Answered by Practitioners: “Any potential Discrimination towards those with tattoos in career situations is a problem.” p. 38

Figure 14.

Answered by tattooed individuals: “I feel that discrimination towards those with tattoos is comparable to discrimination of age, race, gender or disability.” p.39

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Figure 15.

Answered by practitioners: “I feel that discrimination towards those with tattoos is comparable to discrimination of age, race, gender or disability.” p.40

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Since the start of the 21st Century, the art and practice of tattooing has gained worldwide unprecedented popularity. Where increasing numbers of people are being tattooed, attitudes towards this are slowly starting to change (Hardy, 2011). However, much of the stigmata around tattooing is still present, which causes prejudice and discrimination towards some of those who choose to have tattoos, particularly in the workplace (Burgess & Clark, 2010). This dissertation aims to gain an insight into this possible discrimination in relation to careers guidance, where discrimination of any kind should be noted and avoided. Where counselling aims to eradicate discrimination of any kind, much of the policies and guidelines around discrimination are in adherence to the law, which prohibits discrimination that is based on subjects such as race, gender or disability, where specific groups of people are seen as more at risk of being discriminated against (DCSF, 2007). As tattoos are becoming more of a possible concern for employers, those who have tattoos may also be slightly more at risk of being discriminated against as the millennial generation start to enter the market (Prylillis, 2010). This dissertation explores this possible discrimination, and what this means to counsellors who are currently working in careers guidance services. It also aims to look at whether this is an issue which counsellors should be aware of when giving guidance to a person who has visible tattoos.

Literature Review

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Within advice and guidance, the ethical values of eradicating prejudice and discrimination has always been at the heart of practice (Banks and Gallagher, 2009). Through laws and policies, such as the Race Discrimination Act (1976) or the Quality Standards for Young People’s Information, Advice and Guidance (DCSF, 2007), efforts to provide inclusive and impartial guidance are plentiful. However, it is always possible that prejudice may exist within advice and guidance settings, and that the policies in place may not be enough. One area which research indicates may be an issue surrounds those with visible tattoos and careers guidance. This piece of research follows an article which was published in 2010 about a woman called Hayley O’Neil, who is what some may describe as heavily tattooed. O’Neil was reported to have been reduced to tears in a local Jobcentre after an employee asked her, “Who would hire you looking like that?” (Telegraph, 2010). While a statement from a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions is included in the article which denies any inappropriate remarks being made, the article can be viewed as one sided. The majority of the article is written from the perspective of O’Neil, so the validity of the situation is questionable to a critical reader. However, the article does raise questions over whether this is something which happens often to those with visible tattoos, and whether those in advice and guidance setting should consider. Tattooing is a practice which has been carried out for centuries, and the oldest evidence human beings have of this dates back to 3,300 BC (Guest, 2010). For centuries, tattoos were used by those in indigenous tribes mostly, to show their allegiance to a tribe, influence the

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gods they worshipped or to help them succeed in during battle (The Vanishing Tattoo, 2002). Throughout the Western world, tattooing kept fairly underground, then significantly rose in popularity through the invention of the electric tattoo machine, which was invented by Samuel O’Reily after adapting an invention which originally belonged to Thomas Edison (Kennedy, 2011). This popularity was enjoyed greatly by sailors and those working in the circus mainly (Parry, 1933), however there were also many people in the upper classes who also enjoyed tattoos and had their own. Throughout the 20th century, tattooing became more popular, as new pigment colours and needle formations from artist Norman Collins (known as Sailor Jerry) made the range of possibilities wider, inviting more people to be able to adorn their bodies with whatever colours and designs they wanted (Hellenbrand, 2002). Throughout most of the 20th century, the art of tattooing was still relatively underground, though as more schools (or styles) of tattooing arose from tattoo studios, interest in the art form rose (Guest, 2010). The art’s popularity rose significantly over the last decade, as tattoo shows graced televisions, such as DMAX’s Miami Ink, and Tattoo Highway, which features respected tattoo artists such as Corey Miller, Thomas Morgan and Hannah Aitchison, who give tattooing a more friendly face and let viewers at home see for themselves what really happens in a tattoo studio (Miller, 2011). While some artists do not like these shows, many have admitted that they have played a significant role in the reputation of tattooing in the 21st century (Julene, 2010). Prejudice and discrimination has played a role in the life of a tattooed individual for many years. Written works as early as 1896 have described those with tattoos as savage and deviant, while a piece of work by Albert Parry (1933) is filled with accounts of sailors and delinquents with tattoos. Albert Parry was a writer and researcher who was one of the first Mel Noir –


to analyse the reasons why people in Western cultures get tattoos, and spoke to many artists about their techniques and what they believed their roles in society were. Parry’s opinions can help portray many westerners’ opinions of those with tattoos at the time, helping to gain insight into what may cause discrimination in the 21 st Century. Parry uses words such as “primitive” and “sexual” to describe those with tattoos, but also wishes to stress the fact that not everyone with a tattoo is a criminal or sexual deviant, stating that “only a small portion of the tattooed today are criminals or even semi-criminals” (p.1). Writers who feel the need to stress that the tattooed individual does not reflect their stereotype are still around today, stressing that, “tattoos aren’t for sailors and criminals anymore” (Lodder, 2010). These statements made about tattooing are usually wellintentioned, however they can also, according to Lodder, preserve some of the stigmata around tattooing. Similarly, tattoo artist Lal Hardy describes in his book (The Mammoth Book of Tattoo Art, 2011) the changing attitudes towards those with tattoos. Where tattoos used to be, as he describes, “thought to be the preserve of the under, working and criminal classes,” (p.7) and also mentions one “overzealous” (p.7) MP who wished to virtually outlaw tattooing, he speaks in volumes about how attitudes are now changing. One of the main reasons Hardy believes attitudes are changing is the emergence of reality TV shows such as Miami Ink, which have given tattoo art popularity in the mainstream media. Hardy’s book also states that when he started tattooing (almost three decades ago), the practice was treated by many with “suspicion, contempt, and in some cases, hostility” (p.7-8), stating that in the 21 st Century, tattooing has now, since the art has become more tolerable in society, become something which is “acceptable, fashionable and acceptable” (p.8). This first hand account Mel Noir –


of the changing attitudes towards tattooing is extremely valuable in regards to researching the subject, and is extremely informative. However, despite the outlooks on tattooing changing with time, the early written accounts on tattooing, and the attitudes of many people at the time they were written, still has an impact on those with tattoos in the 21st Century. In Burgess and Clark’s article, ‘Do the “Savage Origins” of Tattoos cast a prejudicial Shadow on Contemporary tattooed individuals?’ (2010), it was found that most of those who did not have tattoos or considered getting any of their own held stronger opinions on those who did, linking them to the traditional delinquent tattooed stereotype. Noticeably, those who had tattoos or were currently considering being tattooed displayed no tattoo based prejudice towards others who did. This piece of research is not only recent and valid, but it gives an insight into who may be showing prejudice towards those with visible tattoos. This research is not presenting the idea that all those without tattoos hold prejudice, but instead shows that perhaps most of those who are prejudiced towards the art may not understand it, or hold the same suspicion that Lal Hardy describes in his book (2011). A similar study by Dwane Dean (2010) looked into tattoos in workplace settings. In this piece of research, it was found that the people who were surveyed found tattoos inappropriate on those with ‘white collar jobs’ (officers, nurses, etc.). Contrastingly, they did not hold the same opinion on those with ‘blue collar jobs’ (bartenders, barbers, etc.), saying that they found those workers with tattoos appropriate. There were, however, limitations to the research, such as the fact that opinions may differ in other countries, or that the content of the tattoos were not taken into account. This piece of research was

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carried out in Maryland, in America, where the participants were chosen by age. Had the participants also been chosen according to their race or culture, their perceptions may have been different. This does still suggest, however, that in careers advice and guidance, that it is likely that there are some jobs which advisors may see as more appropriate to suggest to a tattooed person, without explicitly meaning to be prejudiced towards them, or that some employers can discriminate against someone with a tattoo due to what that they personally see as acceptable.

The reason why equality is important to advice and guidance goes back to professional ethics. In Banks and Gallagher’s work (2009), the ideas of respect play a big part in ethical professional work. Both writers agree that respect towards a client acknowledges their value as a person, which is constructive instead of dismissive and destructive. This book also talks about discrimination, referring to it mainly as ‘justice’. ‘Justice’ themes in the book state that without impartiality, practice cannot be fair and ethical. This particular book focuses on health and social care, however the ideas presented in the book can be applied to counselling settings, also. Another similar piece of work is from Manthei, who has written extensively around advice, guidance and counselling. Manthei’s work (1997) also talks about the importance of impartiality, explicitly in advice and guidance settings. The ideas of being impartial are also key to the ethics described in this book, which also extends these ideas to the counsellor’s own bias and prejudice. Manthei writes that the counsellor must not offer any criticism of bias towards the client (p.208). This research is essential when looking at the relationship between counselling and prejudice.

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Within advice and guidance, these ideas can also be considered a part of transcultural counselling. Transcultural counselling is simply counselling between a counsellor and a client of differing cultures, where these cultures could be defined as “the shared history, practices, beliefs and values of a racial, regional or religious group of people� (D'Ardenne & Mahtani, 1999). When helping a client who is involved in a differing practice to their own (in this case, tattooing), it is up to the counsellor to enable an environment in which these different cultures and opinions are respected. The counsellor may face different challenges, such as understanding the impact of their assumptions and possible prejudice (Lago and Thompson, 1996). If the counsellor has any personal prejudice towards those with tattoos, these ideas must be set aside for the sake of the session, to provide complete impartial service. One study around transcultural counselling by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE, 1999) focused on the careers service and young Muslim women, in a similar tone to this dissertation. This research found that many practitioners were not fully aware of many Islamic beliefs. This can have an effect on careers counselling, which meant that, though no counsellor had no racial prejudice towards Muslim women using the service, the information and advice given was not useful to all. It could be argued that counsellors should also be taking into account the unique circumstances of a client who is tattooed, and whether they may face discrimination, in order to give effective advice and guidance.

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As the popularity of tattooing grows and attitudes change, one article in Workforce magazine suggests that establishing guidelines for tattooing in the workplace will become ever more important. The article, titled “Body of Work” (Prylillis, 2010) explores the relationship between those with tattoos and employers, interviewing tattooed professionals and citing research into the subject. One interviewed professional talks about how he keeps his tattoos covered up, saying, “I’m going to be on a panel with a lot of chief marketing officers at a fairly buttoned-up event, and I’m already thinking about what I’m going to wear that will cover up my tattoos” (p.21). Other interviewees also explain how they feel the need to cover up their tattoos throughout the article. Prylillis also explains that by 2014, an estimated 36% of the United States population will be tattooed, saying that the issue of tattoos in the workplace will be challenging “as the millennium generation floods into the workplace (p.22)”. This particular article also mentions a careers counsellor working at the University of Texas, who was asked about the content of the information and advice she gives to students, and stated, “It is not my job to tell a student what to do, just to advise them on what to expect.” This gives a small insight into the relationship between those in the careers services and individuals with tattoos, where an advisor may not personally discriminate, but is aware that it is still possible an employer will.


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Despite there being many findings written about tattoos and the impact of bias and prejudice in the guidance process, a valuable commentary on this requires research into the case at hand. One of the fairest ways of doing this is to make sure that both the tattooed individuals and those working in careers guidance are both heard equally. For this research, two questionnaires were given to both groups. Giving both parties a chance to separately give their answers helps make the results more fair, as both sides can be heard without any influence from the other group of participants. It also means that the answers given from each group can be analysed separately as well as in conjunction with each other. These questionnaires were filled out online, and the results were analysed through qualitative and quantitative data methods. The results from each questionnaire were then compared with one other, to gain an insight into the potential relationship between advisor and tattooed client. Questionnaires have many different advantages. For example, they are fairly quick and cheap, which is something extremely valuable to this dissertation, as time can be limited for collecting research. Time is also important to those answering the questionnaires, as people can be less likely to fill in a questionnaire if it is going to take them a long time, so making the questionnaire fairly short and straightforward was something that had to be taken into consideration. When looking at the qualitative data, the percentages of each answer were formulated, then analysed accordingly in discussion. Where qualitative data was used, grounded theory methods were applied to analyse the comments that had been given. Grounded theory is a scientific research method which analyses the data given, then looks for recurring concepts

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within. These concepts can then be put into categories, giving meaning to theory (Rhine, 2009). When analysing this particular data, grounded theory methods were used quite simply, as some answers given were essentially one- worded or straightforward, and no deeper meaning could be taken from them. These questionnaires were carried out through a website called Survey Monkey (2011). Survey Monkey is a website which is tailored specifically towards creating questionnaires for academic and professional research. Through this website, any information submitted can be completely anonymous, and a link can be sent to anyone who would like to take part. Due to this, anyone taking part can feel less pressured to take part if he or she would not like to, and if they do, there is no need for an immediate response (Gillham, 2000). All information is collected through the website, and only the answers given can be seen, as information like IP addresses (giving the location of the participant) and email addresses are omitted from the results, for ethical reasons around anonymity. The omission of email and IP addresses was configured in the settings section of the website by the researcher, to allow true anonymity. One of the main things that any researcher must take into account when carrying out any type of research is ethics. The ethical principles being taken into account must respect and value each participant’s rights, dignity and welfare (Barker at al, 1998). Each participant must have freedom of choice as to whether they take part, and they should have the choice to withdraw their submission of data if they choose to at any time during the research. It is also of extreme importance to give clear and honest information regarding the aims of the research, in order for each participant to give their informed consent, in order to continue

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to submit any data (Barker et al, 1998). Furthermore, participants must be able to give information anonymously if they wish to do so, and all information, whether anonymous or not, must be treated with respect in relation to confidentiality issues (Darlington and Scott, 2002). For the sake of this research, all information submitted is intended to be anonymous. Through the Survey Monkey website, the settings of both questionnaires were changed to exclude email and IP addresses. Due to this, information can be completely anonymous, even to the researcher. However, some participants have decided to send additional information via email, which they felt needed to be included in research. This information has proven valuable, however to ensure complete confidentiality, the names of these people have been changed to pseudonyms and any information regarding their place of work has been omitted. When collecting results from practitioners, some participants were asked in person if they would like to participate, while the other participants were emailed by either the researcher or another practitioner who had filled out the questionnaire. The emails sent outlined the nature of the research, and allowed those asked to ask any questions about the information which was to be used, and their privacy, as well as anything else they may wish to discuss. Emailed practitioners were also told that they did not have to participate in the questionnaire should they not wish to, and were also directed to Northumbria University Guidelines for Ethics online document (2010), which was used to inform the participant of any guidelines, if they wished to read it. The practitioners’ questionnaire had as many closed questions as possible, though some open questions were also used. Where closed

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questions were used, the data collected was purely numerical, which meant for better analysis (see previous comments on quantitative data). These closed questions still allowed for some flexibility, through asking whether practitioners, for example, “agree” or “strongly agree” with a statement, instead of simply answering yes or no. These types of results can prove to be more useful when analysing the data collected. Through the use of open questions, the procedures and opinions taking place in careers settings were able to be seen in a clearer manner, as closed questions may have limited the responses in relation to how the setting was run. The questionnaire for those with tattoos was carried out in a similar matter, where individuals were asked to participate. Many people were asked through social network Tattoo.TV, which is a website specifically for tattoo enthusiasts and artists. These people were selected at random, and sent messages through the website’s inbox feature, to make sure that any information sent was completely private. These private messages contained a link to the Survey Monkey questionnaire. Once again, each individual was informed that they could choose not to take part, and were able to ask any questions about ethics and anonymity before taking part. Asking participants to take part in the questionnaire individually allowed the researcher to control the amount of participants doing the questionnaire, so that there is a near equal amount of participants doing each questionnaire. Tattoo.TV is a website that the researcher works for and therefore knows many members, so to ensure complete anonymity, individuals taking part in this questionnaire were asked not to reply to any private messages after taking part, so that it wasn’t obvious which answers were theirs.

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Originally, this research was going to be carried out in one questionnaire for those with tattoos and one focus group to interview practitioners. However, the focus group proved to be impractical with this type of research. Focus groups are substantially more difficult in relation to anonymity, as the practitioner has to be there in person to give a response. This can raise issues with informed consent, as some practitioners may have been less willing to volunteer and give information about their place of work. The well- being and rights of participants is essential to research, and this type of research may make some feel uneasy about when talking about their place of work but they may also feel like they can not leave once there. This makes ethical research difficult in this type of situation, so a questionnaire was chosen to ensure complete confidentiality. The practicality of a focus group can also be problematic. Participants may not have the time to attend a focus group, or simply may not want to. This must be respected. The information is also more difficult to analyse in relation to a questionnaire, as the data found in a focus group is predominantly qualitative where questionnaires mainly have results of quantitative data. Qualitative data is collected data in nonnumeric form. This can be collected from interview transcripts and focus groups during this type of research, and is usually based on an interpretative philosophy. This sort of data can be difficult to analyse, and can easily be mis-interpreted, which can not only make results invalid, but can go against any ethics that the researcher must follow (Taylor and Gibbs, 2010).

In contrast, quantitative data results are purely numerical, which can give solid, clear answers to any questions the participants asked (Cherry, 2011). Due to this, the results

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collected do not need to be analysed in any interpretative way, so that the true nature of any answers submitted are a truer representation of the participant’s views and opinions, as numerical answers can not be mis-interpreted. For the sake of this research, using questionnaires collecting mainly quantitative data was deemed the most appropriate method, for its practicality in regards to ethics and data collection. To show a fair representation on each side, the research was carried out through the same method, allowing room for both quantitative and qualitative data on each side. While questionnaires have many advantages, there are also some disadvantages to using this method. For example, the motivation of participants may be lacking, as it takes from their time with no real gain. It is also difficult to know the seriousness of the answers given, as they are anonymous and are not given in person (Gillham, 2000). One problem encountered during this particular piece of research was the selection of participants, and how outcomes were affected due to this. When selecting participants for the questionnaire aimed at tattooed individuals, the researcher mistakenly asked two individuals who were tattoo artists, which may have swayed the outcome of some questions to another direction, as tattoo artists usually do not have to worry about having tattoos in their workplace. If this research was to be carried out again, it would be beneficial to make sure that those asked worked in varied settings, in order to get a better view of different career choices for these people. This research, however, does have some limitations. One of these limitations is the small amount of participants in the questionnaires. This small number means that the results found are not as true a representation of both groups as they could be, however the

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research instead gives more of a small insight into what these groups of people feel is important. There were also some complaints from practitioners, who did not like the format of the questionnaire, and wanted to give more qualitative answers. This simply was not possible, as analysing so much subjective data within a small timeframe would have been extremely difficult, and also may not have given many general results.

Furthermore, some participants in the practitioner survey that skipped some of the questions asked, which caused problems when analysing the results. One way which this could have been resolved would have been to make sure none of the questions could be skipped, though leaving an option for practitioners who preferred not to answer within the questionnaire. This problem is minor, though if this research was to be taken again, this change would be made. To keep the results fair, the research collected has been analysed through the percentages of those who have given answers, instead of the actual number of participants. This also keeps things fair overall, as 15 practitioners and 17 tattooed persons participated, which would make numbers unfair without this type of analysis.


Tattooed Persons Questionnaire

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Since some questions featured in both questionnaires, the first results to be analysed are those specific to the tattooed participants first. Questions asked to both parties will be included separately. Those with tattoos were asked whether they agreed that any discrimination towards tattoos is relevant towards careers and finding work [Fig. 1]. This question was asked to see whether participants thought that discrimination was an issue with all tattooed people, instead of their personal situations regarding tattoos and work. 70.6% of the participants agreed, with 23.5% of those people strongly agreeing. Fig. 1:

The tattooed participants were also asked whether they feel the need to take into account any problems they may have at work before getting a new tattoo [Fig. 2]. This question

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aimed to gain insight into whether any potential discrimination has any effect on the thoughts and actions of those thinking about undergoing more work on their tattoos. 76.4% of those people agree that they do have to take this into consideration before starting any new work on their bodies, while 23.6% did not. It should be taken into consideration that two participants asked were tattoo artists, who would not have to worry about whether they have tattoos (see methodology).


When asked whether these participants had experienced discrimination from employers, potential employers or when looking for work, despite feeling the need to think about their

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tattoos for their employment [Fig. 3], 52.9% of those asked had not experienced any kind of discrimination. Fig. 3:

Finally, participants who had experienced discrimination were asked to describe their experiences. Despite only seven participants saying they had experienced discrimination, eight answered this question, as one who answered “no” to the previous question also provided input. Fig. 4: If you answered yes, what happened? Current Employer has stated that all employees with tattoos should cover them where possible. Didn't get the job. If you choose to get tattooed in a place that's visible (whether that be through the position or the clothes that you wear) then you have to accept culpability and respect that people will always discriminate against tattoos because they don't understand the culture we're

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involved in. Xenophobia is an affliction that plagues all walks of society and we won't ever be immune to this. One of the most memorable moments of discrimination I had was when an old teacher saw a fresh tattoo I'd had and commented "Well I wouldn't give you a job with that." My reply was "I wouldn't want to work for you anyway." Simple! not discrimination as such , but when i worked in retail they always had to be covered, and i was told that as a supervisor i should be setting an example one day when they were on show. First impressions! no tattoos on show gets a more favourable interaction in certain settings. As I have got older im more conscous of my tattoos especially when im wearing "Budgie Smugglers" I've been asked to cover up my tattoos on several occations in a professional workingenvironment. I know I answered no, but for relevant info, I have not experienced too much discrimination in a work context as I actively keep my tattoos hidden and wear clothes that cover them completely for the sole reason that I am not judged for having them in that context! I work in a school and can be severely reprimanded if my tattoos are on show, so to my own discomfort I must wear long sleeved items items of clothing that button right to the throat, so that my tattoos are hidden.

A lot of those who answered said that they have been told to cover up their tattoos at work, and could be disciplined if they are on show at any time. Many of these statements also point to the idea of professionalism in one way or another, either using the word “professional” itself, or with phrases such as “setting an example”, which could be seen as being the same. This could suggest that discrimination may come from the idea of what a professional looks like, and how a company should be presenting itself through employees, rather that discrimination which could stem from an employer’s own feelings. Two participants also used the words “judged” and “conscious”, as though they fully expect to be discriminated against and therefore try to cover up their tattoos at all times during work, which one participant said this was “to [their] own discomfort.”

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Practitioner Questionnaire Firstly, practitioners were all asked whether their workplace has an equal opportunities policy [Fig. 5]. This question was asked to gain an insight into the policies which could have an effect on potential discrimination, and whether they were in place at each setting. 100% of participants answered yes, showing that there is at least one policy which effects giving guidance to a client who may be seen as being at risk of any kind of discrimination. Fig. 5:

Practitioners were then asked whether this policy applied specifically to those who are more at risk, or if it applies to everyone wishing to use the service. Almost everyone who answered gave words such as “everyone,” “all” or “over-arching,” [Fig. 6] showing that Mel Noir –


these policies are for everyone who wishes to use the services, instead of these policies only applying to some people. However, one person answered, “yes,” which makes analysis difficult, as it is not clear what they are saying “yes” to. For that reason, this practitioner’s answer will be omitted from the results. One practitioner also said that their place of work also goes further than this, to challenge any discrimination from employers. Fig. 6: Does this policy apply specifically to clients of different gender, race, disabilities, etc, or does it apply to everyone wishing to use the service? There is a generic policy covering everyone, and some additional specific policies relating to race, gender and disability. Everyone There is an over-arching policy which also supports specific policies related to gender, race and disability. alll comers Not only does it apply to clients but we have a distinct role in challenging an individual or employer where we come across incidents of discrimination for axample where an employer says that they want to employ a strong lad or a nice girl. Everyone All clients Everyone using the service. Both Everyone Yes Anyone wishing to use the service Everyone Everyone

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It is a general policy that reflects the commitment to provide a service to all young people irrespective of the barriers / potential issues.

Following this question, practitioners were asked whether they felt that equal opportunities should apply to everyone, or those who are most at risk. This type of question brings forward practitioners’ own personal feelings towards equal opportunities. 80% of those who answered agreed that these policies should apply to everyone, using the words “everyone” and “all” [Fig. 7]. One participant went further to say that some client’s needs are not able to engage fully with services, “because their needs are not perceived as being great enough,” claiming this is, “counter to true equal opportunities.” This comment may suggest that some policies may not be entirely effective. Some other answers within this question suggest that although the counsellor does feel that equal opportunities policies should apply to everyone, that specific groups of those who are more at risk, and those who are protected by law, should be highlighted to practitioners. Another practitioner states that although they think that equal opportunities policies should apply to everyone wishing to use the service, that “there often needs to be specific action for specific groups”, showing that the content and nature of the guidance given to those with tattoos may have to be different to that given to someone who does not. Fig. 7: Do you feel that equal opportunities policies should apply to everyone, or more specific groups who are seen as at more risk of discrimination? Apply to everyone as it is difficult to include all groups that may consider themselves at risk of discrimination, but highlight specific legal obligations and implications of discriminating. everyone I think everyone should be covered by an equal opportunity policy but specific groups who are at more risk of discrimination should be identified within the over-arching policy. yes

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I think this is a wider issue that what is written in a policy, it is about behaviour and having a strong 'moral compass' in terms of the right or wrong way to behave. Yes it should apply to everyone Yes Should apply to all people. If it applies to all this would include specfic groups. However there often needs to be specfic action for specfic groups Should apply to all To everyone. Prejudice is prejudice whether it be skin colour or having green hair. Everyone or it is'nt equal Everyone By very definition, I think that EquOpps should apply to everyone. Indeed with the cutbacks and the refocusing of services upon the more needy there is a real risk now that some groups are not able to engage with services because their needs are not perceieved as being great enough. This is understandable but counter to true equal opportunities.

When asked whether employers often discriminate against those with tattoos, 50% of those who answered agreed, with 7.1% of those people strongly agreeing [Fig. 8]. This question is quite similar to one asked to tattooed participants about whether they have been discriminated against [FIG]. However, the two questions have been kept separate, as one asks practitioners whether they feel discrimination happens, where the question towards those with tattoos asks for an answer more factual. In addition, the content of the responses ask those with tattoos whether they feel they have been discriminated against, where the practitioners asked could possibly be judging their opinions on any discrimination they have observed from their clients. Nonetheless, when taking into account the nature of the advisors’ work, their feelings and opinions are still valid as they are likely to be informed by discrimination they may have observed. Mel Noir –


Fig. 8:

One participant skipped this question. One practitioner also emailed in an additional comment that they found the question “a difficult one to answer as the discrimination may not be overt and an employer may come up with many alternative reasons not to recruit an individual which may mask their true feelings.” This possibility should, admittedly, be taken into account when thinking about employers and discrimination of any kind, although it is hard to judge the true nature of any employer’s reasons behind their actions. Another participant commented that although “tattoos would not cause discrimination in receiving careers guidance”, it “could influence the content of the guidance (e.g. facial tattoos could be a bar to get into [the] police force and any adviser would have to raise it as a potential barrier)”. This raises an important question when thinking about tattoos, which is whether the placement or perhaps even subject of the tattoo is important, or whether tattoos should be looked at as either “visible” or “not visible”. A client who has a tattoo on their face may be judged in a completely Mel Noir –


different way to a client who has a tattoo on their arm, and this should be taken notice of, particularly when deciding whether a client is at more risk of being discriminated against. Finally, practitioners were asked whether employers make advisors aware of policies regarding tattoos or dress codes [Fig. 9]. 60% of those asked said that employers will make them aware, although one participant who commented further on this via email said that, “...very few (including ourselves) have formal written dress codes more just a sense of what is and is not appropriate for work. This can often be a long way from the young persons understanding and perception which may not become well developed until they have been in employment for some time.�

Fig. 9:

Questions asked to both parties

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Some questions were asked to both parties taking part in the questionnaire, in order to see if there were any key issues where both parties could agree in their responses. Having some questions answered by both parties helped gain an insight into what is important to the practitioner and the tattooed client. Both parties were asked whether they feel that those with tattoos are at risk of discrimination. Both questionnaires produced similar results, as 81.6% of practitioners [Fig. 11] and 94.1% of those with tattoos agreed [Fig. 10]. One practitioner also commented that the answer to this question depends on the type of work the client is looking for, saying, “some may [discriminate] (office work) and some may not (garage/ mechanic). Depends on the nature of the job essentially.�

Fig. 10: Answered by tattooed individuals:

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Fig. 11: Answered by practitioners:

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Both parties were then asked whether they feel that any potential discrimination against those with tattoos can be problematic in careers guidance. 50% of practitioners who answered agreed with this question [Fig. 13]. When those with tattoos were asked, the number of those who agreed was much higher, at 92.4% [Fig. 12]. This result shows that possible discrimination is an issue which is more important to participants with tattoos than those who work in settings. Fig. 12: Answered by tattooed individuals:

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Fig. 13: Answered by Practitioners:

Finally, both parties were asked whether they feel they could compare discrimination of those with tattoos to discrimination of those of differing race, gender or disability. From the practitioners’ questionnaire, 50% of those who answered disagreed [Fig. 15]. Contrastingly, 41.2% of the tattooed participants strongly agreed, with 64.7% agreeing overall [Fig. 14]. The answers from both parties were varied in comparison to any other questions. One practitioner who participated also commented on this via email, saying they “can't agree that discrimination against those with tattoos is comparable to those in receipt of other types of discrimination simply because there is no current legal basis for me as an advisor working with a young person to challenge it.”

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Fig. 14: Answered by tattooed individuals:

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Fig. 15: Answered by practitioners:


Many of the answers given by both parties can be compared to give an insight into the opinions of both tattooed individuals and practitioners. One clear example of this is through a question asked on both questionnaires: whether those asked felt that people with tattoos are at risk of being discriminated against. The majority of participants on both questionnaires felt that those with tattoos are at risk, with 81.6% of practitioners and 94.1% of those with tattoos agreeing. From this, we can see that it is possible that a person with tattoos and a counsellor will be able to agree that discrimination is possible, and perhaps

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even talk about these barriers in a positive way during a guidance setting. The additional commentary given by one practitioner almost mirrors Dwane Dean’s research (2010), as the issues of the type of job the client is looking for could play a major role in the likelihood of them being discriminated against. However, with such high numbers of participants agreeing that those with tattoos are at risk of being discriminated against, it is possible that an advisor would raise the issue regardless of the type of job that a client is looking for, to help them expect what an employer may be looking for. When looking at the results on each side, it seems that those with tattoos have considerably stronger feelings in regards to careers and discrimination. This can be seen when comparing the answers of both parties (in particular, when asked on the severity of discrimination of those with tattoos (figs. 14 and 15). Those with tattoos who were asked mainly see discrimination as something which is a serious issue, just as serious as discrimination against a person’s race, gender or disability. The practitioners who were asked did still see those with tattoos as people who are at risk of discrimination, though they did not agree that it is comparable to those who are discriminated against due to race, for example. It could be argued that those who have tattoos feel a lot stronger about any potential discrimination, because this is something which will have an effect on them personally. They could also have experienced judgement or discrimination outside of the workplace by many different people, which could make the severity of the issue feel a lot worse. Because the practitioners asked do not experience this type of discrimination, but may face discrimination or prejudice outside of their work place for another reason (such as their gender or race), they may have difficulty empathising with a client who claims that this type of discrimination is the same, and is just as severe. This conflict in opinions could cause Mel Noir –


barriers between a counsellor and a client, especially if the client feels that they have been discriminated against in a serious way, and the counsellor does not agree. Where an advisor does is not able to empathise with a client’s situation, problems within guidance can easily occur. It could be argued that the answers given from the practitioners are different because of the policies and practices that are in place. Since there is no overall policy or law on tattooing (or aesthetic body modification of any kind –p.38), while there are policies on more severe discrimination (such as race), it could be possible that a practitioner does not see it as discrimination which is as serious for this reason. This is evident in the emailed comment from one practitioner over the fact they have no legal obligation to take tattoos into account (p.38). However, 80% of practitioners agreed that Equal Opportunities policies should include everyone, so those practitioners did still have the same opinion that discrimination of those with tattoos should not be enabled in guidance settings, regardless of severity. Similar results can be seen when comparing the results of both parties’ answers to whether they see any potential discrimination as a problem. 92.4% of those with tattoos said that they see any potential discrimination as something which could be problematic, where only 50% of practitioners who answered agreed with this. This could hint towards the possibility that a practitioner and a tattooed client may have different opinions on whether discrimination should be taken into account in a session. This could cause disagreements within a guidance setting between an advisor and a tattooed client, if there is an issue raised that a client sees as a problem, but a counsellor could not. It could be argued, however, that those with tattoos who feel they could face (or are currently facing) discrimination may

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not speak to a counsellor about this; therefore some counsellors may not be aware of any problems.

The practitioners and tattooed participants answers regarding employer discrimination is also interesting. Where 50% of practitioners say that employers discriminate against those with tattoos, 41.2% of those with tattoos who were asked experienced discrimination of any kind. It could be argued that less than half of those asked had experienced discrimination because 76.4% said that they took their career into consideration before getting a new tattoo, which could enable them to be able to work, and find work, without having to experience any real problems surrounding their tattoos. Still, the number of those who have experienced this discrimination first hand is fairly close to the number of practitioners who think that employers discriminate.

Those who have experienced discrimination in the workplace (or when finding work) due to their tattoos seemed to repeat two main themes in their replies. These were of hiding their tattoos, and in looking professional. Since such a high number of participants take their career into account before getting new tattoos, they are more likely to be able to hide them. In a careers guidance setting, 60% of practitioner participants said that employers make them aware of any policies regarding such things as tattoos, which can also help a tattooed client make the best decisions with their advisor, as an advisor will be able to make a client aware straight away what the employer’s expectations may be. Since there are many participants who take this into account before getting new work, and perhaps know Mel Noir –


from their experiences employer’s potential ideas on what looks “professional” (fig. 2), a counsellor may perhaps find working with someone who needs to cover up any tattoos relatively straightforward, as those with tattoos may be expecting issues to be raised if they are heavily tattooed. This shared understanding of what an employer may be expecting can prove to be valuable within a guidance setting.

From those with tattoos who were asked, 70.6% of participants see discrimination towards those with tattoos as something which is relevant to careers and finding work. However, where those with tattoos see this as important, only 60% of practitioners said that employers made them aware of any policies regarding dress codes or tattoos. This could cause problems within advice and guidance, for a tattooed client who sees tattoos as relevant, and therefore a relevant issue to bring up within a session with an advisor. If the advisor is not made aware of any dress codes, the information they then give to a client could be incorrect, which could have repercussions on the actions they take with this information. To be able to give effective advice, services should be able to give advisors this information, as it is something which clients with tattoos clearly see as important. Where employers have given information regarding tattoos, it should be noted that while many tattooed participants experience discrimination within the work place, that the advisor should be sensitive and respectful towards a tattooed client when giving this information, making sure that the client does not assume the advisor is “singling them out” in any way, due to their tattoos.

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Within the answers given by tattooed participants, one contributor raised one important point, that many see discrimination as something which should be accepted by someone with a tattoo, saying they should “accept culpability”, as anyone with tattoos chooses to have them. This is a view which is perfectly fair, that had not been raised until the research was analysed. Since people choose to have tattoos, should it be okay to discriminate against them? Some would say yes, as those people choose to go against the grain of society, so they should expect some people to treat them differently, as discrimination is everywhere. Others may argue that there is no real reason to discriminate against someone who has tattoos, as they are nothing put pigment under someone’s skin and can not change their personality or views. Both opinions can be seen as perfectly valid.

When looking at discrimination within careers guidance, the results of this dissertation show strong evidence that discrimination within the service isn’t likely, as all practitioners work with equal opportunities policies [Fig. 5] and many see those with tattoos as people who are at risk of being discriminated against [Fig. 8], suggesting that they would try to avoid discrimination against these people within their settings. Clearly, there are cases where discrimination does happen, such as the case in the previously mentioned Telegraph article (2010) seen in the literature review. However, these isolated cases of discrimination appear to be rare. On the other hand, these results also show that those with tattoos do expect to be discriminated against, which counsellors should be aware of. Many of the practitioners who were asked did not see this discrimination as a problem, which suggests that they may not realise that tattooed clients may be expecting a counsellor to raise questions regarding

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their tattoos, particularly if their tattoos are highly visible. When working with a client who is heavily tattooed, the content of information given within guidance may mean the advisor has to raise any issues surrounding their tattoos, therefore it should be noted that this needs to be done in a sensitive manner, so that an advisor could not be seen as discriminating against a client with tattoos.


From the results gathered, one may see that discrimination against of those with tattoos within the work place is possible, and has happened to those who were asked. This creates a problem which should be taken into the consideration of a counsellor who is giving information, advice or guidance to someone who has visible tattoos. Within those who were asked, a high number agreed that those who have visible tattoos are more at risk of being discriminated against, which can create a shared understanding between the advisor and client, enabling both to be able to work together in the guidance given, and act upon it. However, it should be noted that those with tattoos seemed to have stronger feelings

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towards this potential discrimination, and these feelings should be taken into account by a counsellor who discusses tattoos with a client. A client with visible tattoos may feel strongly about how they are asked to cover up their skin, and could possibly feel that they are being judged by many in work place settings, which could cause problems within guidance unless it is acted upon and recognised. Furthermore, those who feel strongly enough about the issue enough to compare it to discrimination of race, for example, may expect to be discriminated against in an advice and guidance setting. A counsellor who sees this as possible with an individual may have to assure the client that advice and guidance settings work around policies and guidelines which stop them from discriminating against anyone, and create a welcoming environment for a client who may feel uneasy using the service for this reason. Those who work in careers services work within a strict equal opportunities policy, and therefore do not discriminate against those who have tattoos, however the type of information and advice given to a tattooed client may be different to that given to someone without tattoos, as the practitioner may have to make a client aware of dress codes and ideas of professionalism. Where there is evidence that attitudes towards tattooing are changing, and that more people are collecting tattoos, there is also evidence that the stigmata surrounding the practice exists. In a work place setting, this causes some with tattoos to expect to be judged, and it raises difficult issues for employers who may feel the need to introduce more regulations around tattoos and body modifications. This need may differ depending on the type of work place, where some see tattoos as more acceptable in certain jobs, which could also raise more issues regarding what is seen as ‘professional’, or why those with tattoos are seen as less professional. These ideas could stem from long standing opinions of tattooing, Mel Noir –


which cast a shadow on contemporary ideas of the personalities of those who have tattoos, which are seen in some of the pieces of research presented in this dissertation. As these ideas of tattooing change, counsellors and advisers should be making sure that they are also aware of what an individual with tattoos may face while at work, so that they can give the best information and advice that they possibly can. If a counsellor is not aware of any discrimination, or expectations employers may have of those with tattoos, the information they give may not be correct, or could hinder an individual’s chances of getting a particular job. Knowledge of dress codes for each individual job advertised in their service would also help an advisor, who may have to speak to a client with tattoos. Overall, this dissertation has its limitations, such as the amount of people asked which could not give a very wide example of those with tattoos and in careers services, however the results gained show a small understanding of the opinions of those who have tattoos, and those who work in careers services. It shows that discrimination can happen in the work place towards tattooed workers, and that counsellors also see those with tattoos as being at risk. While many people take their career into consideration before getting tattoos, there are still many who are discriminated against, and an advisor should be aware of what employers expect from employees with tattoos in order to give correct information and advice. The over- arching theme that the results of this research does bring to light appears to be that, although discrimination against those with tattoos does not usually happen in careers guidance services (particularly due to policies already in place), discrimination in the work place does still happen. This can therefore have a heavy influence on the content of the

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information and advice given, and is something which practitioners should be not only aware of, but also sensitive to.

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References Banks S. & Gallagher, A. (2009). Ethics in Professional Life: Virtues for Health and Social Care. Palgrave Macmillian, UK. Barker, C. Et al (1998). Research Methods in Clinical and Counselling Psychology. Wiley, UK. Burgess, M. & Clark, L. (2010). “Do the “Savage Origins” of Tattoos Cast a Prejudicial Shadow on Contemporary Tattooed Individuals?” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40 (3), 747-764. Cherry, K. (2011). What is Quantitative Data? About website. (Available at: Accessed: 1st April 2011) D'Ardenne, P., & Mahtani, A. (1999). Transcultural Counselling In Action. SAGE. Darlington, Y., and Scott, D. (2002). Qualitative Research in Practice: Stories from the Field. Open University Press, UK. DCSF (2007). Quality Standards for Young People’s Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG). Department for Children, Schools and Families, UK. Dean, D. H. (2010). Consumer Perceptions of Visible Tattoos on Service Personnel. Managing Service Quality, 20 (2), 294-308. Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) (1999). The Careers Service and Young Muslim Women. DfEE, UK.

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Guest, A. (2010). The Tattoo Bible. Jazz Publishing, UK. Gillham, B. (2000). Developing a Questionnaire. Continuum, UK. Great Britain. Race Discrimination Act 1976 (1976). London: HMSO. Hardy, L (2011). The Mammoth Book of Tattoo Art. Constable & Robinson, UK. Hellenbrand, K. (2002) Sailor Jerry. Kate Hellenbrand’s blog: (accessed: April 20 th, 2011) Julene (2010). Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Thoughts on Reality TV and Tattooing. Tattoo Snob Website: (Accessed: April 16th, 2011) Lago, C., & Thompson, J. (1996). Race, Culture and Counselling. Open University Press. Lodder, M. (2010, August 6). Still Not Just for Sailors Anymore... Needles and Sins website: (accessed February 12th, 2011) Kennedy, R. (2011). The Inventions of the Modern Tattoo Machine. Tattoo.TV website: (accessed March 16th, 2011). Manthei, R. J. (1997). Counselling: The Skills of Finding Solutions to Problems. Routledge, UK.

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Miller, J. (2011). It’s Time to Fight Back. Tattoo Snob Website: (Accessed: March 12th, 2011) Northumbria University (2010) Ethics and Governance Handbook. (4th edn.) Pyrillis, R. (2010). ‘Body of Work’. Workforce Magazine, November 2010, pp. 21-25. Rhine, J. (2009). What is Grounded Theory? Grounded theory website: (accessed February 12th, 2011) Survey Monkey (2011) Website: (Accessed March 24 th, 2011) Taylor, C. and Gibbs, G. R. (2010) "What is Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA)?"QDA Web Site. (Available at: Accessed: April 1 st 2011) The Telegraph (2010, September 23). Tattooed Woman ‘Told to Put Bag over Head at the Jobcentre’. The Telegraph, UK. The Vanishing Tattoo (2002). Directed by Jack Silberman [Documentary]. Toronto, Canada: NHNZ/The Vanishing Tattoo Inc. Word Count: 9,044

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New Implications in the 21st Century?  

An Exploration of the relationship between careers advisors and tattooed clients. This was my university dissertation. Now my degree is fini...