Monday, October 5, 2015

"Personal Expression" and Priorities

While present-day corporate dress code policies are all over the map, from "liberal" to "rigid," Forbes business magazine suggests that,"…most HR managers conceded that all things being equal, they will hire the more clean-cut employee."  In fact, piercings are the top physical attribute that may limit an employee's career potential - 37%, followed by bad breath - 34%, and visible tattoos - 31%. (from a 2011 CareerBuilder poll of 3,000 managers)

With the millennial generation making up about 40% of the unemployed, and with a tight job market, young students may want to reconsider their priorities regarding personal expression.  What's more important?  A large gauge septum ring or getting a job that pays more than making fries at McD's?

In a recent Harris poll, 27% of the respondents without tattoos said that folks with tattoos are "less intelligent," (ouch) and 50% said they're more rebellious.

There a lot of grumbling and gnashing of teeth on the internet these days about the importance and liberation of "personal expression," and just like with any other human endeavor/interest, there are those who understand that less is more and those for whom nothing but excess will suffice.  Like, if one is cool, man…10 is rad.

For the record, I was your average rebellious teenager when I graduated high school in 1967, the year Jimi Hendrix released his debut album,"Are You Experienced."  In the song,"If 6 was 9," he sang one of his iconic lyrics,"…let your freak flag fly."  Up to this point in time, the whole concept of teen popularity and acceptance centered around conformity.  To wit, if you were to be considered cool, you shopped at the same clothing stores as the "cool" kids.  But Hendrix was really the musical/cultural vanguard for freaky individuality.  Now, "cool" kids all attempted to be as different from one another as possible.

Make no mistake, conformity was still a powerful factor for expression, appearance and fashion, but a whole new market exploded for those wanting to appear unique.  That market has flourished and grown to this day, ushering in an increase in tattoo and piercing "parlors," and the whole hipster movement has become the epitome of understated egoism.  Just about everyone has seen jokes and cartoons depicting a bearded young man in a plaid wool shirt, tight jeans with the cuffs turned up and work boots, who laments that his favorite band has just gone mainstream.

But back to the 60's.  When I was performing onstage, I was doing my best to fly every freak flag I had, but when I went to present myself to a club owner or a talent agent, I put on clean dress pants, a freshly-ironed shirt and I didn't talk…like…you know…a teenager.  At that time, there were hundreds of bands out there looking for work; hundreds of lightweight, would-be rock stars that only knew three chords and how to turn the amplifier knob up to 11.  There was a market for those low-talent lightweights, to be sure, but consistently, I got more work and better-paying work because I put forth an image of an artist who was not just serious about his art, but smart enough to act like a professional businessperson.  Think of it as being a repairman or mechanic.  If you've only got a hammer and pliers in your toolbox, you're not going to be able to do much work…or get people to take you seriously as a pro.

Ask yourself this:  do you want your interviewer to remember how smart and capable you are - or do you want him/her to remember your tongue?

As Diane Gottsman - president and executive recruiter of Ally Resource Group - put it,"If it's a distraction, it's an issue.  It's just like wearing two different colored shoes."

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