Reader question: Get the nose ring?

I got a more unusual reader question recently. This woman (late 30s, married, 3 kids) was pondering getting a nose ring, “a tiny stud, not a bovine ring.” She noted that “My husband objects strongly for several reasons, one of which is that I will be seen as unprofessional and not serious. Does it matter these days? Especially since mine will be so subtle? Do you see many professional women with nose piercings? Is it still pretty taboo?”

We discussed this reader’s life situation. She was working a temporary job currently with the hope of getting something permanent in the field soon. I thought that if she wanted some extra bling, it might be prudent to get extra ear piercings or some such now, and then if she landed a permanent job, she could get her tasteful nose stud at some point after becoming established there. While I doubt most places would fire someone over a tiny nose stud, there are a million reasons why you might not get hired, and this would be something on the margin that she had control over.

She saw that point, but also noted that she didn’t like the idea of not doing things she wanted to while waiting for her job situation to change. So we decided to put the question to my readers: Tattoos, alternative body piercings, spiky neck chokers, blue nail polish, etc. If you are otherwise a Lands’ End cardigan wearing, unthreatening suburban mom, can these be a nice way to give yourself a bit of an edge? Or are they too taboo to adopt for professional or nice SAHM sorts?

In other news: I always welcome reader questions! Feel free to send over any you think would make for a good discussion.

19 thoughts on “Reader question: Get the nose ring?

  1. I would give her the same advice you did — but then again, I don’t have any tattoos unlike most people (it seems) of my generation!

  2. I think it depends strongly on 1) which field exactly and 2) location. In a creative field or one known to be super-casual (like tech), I think a little creative personal decorating might either be an asset or completely unnoticed. If you are freelancing or working from home or otherwise not client-facing, it also wouldn’t matter so much. And I think a tattoo/piercing/hair color that would get you strange looks in e.g. deep conservative south may be completely a non-issue in the northwest or a really big city. So, basically—look at the type of job you want and see how the people there are dressed/decorated and take the cue from that.

  3. It really depends on her location, like Ana said. I work in the design industry in SF Bay Area and never had a second thought on getting a blue streak in my hair. A small nose stud would be perfectly acceptable especially due to large Indian community where these are more common. But when I lived in Texas it seemed anything I did with my hair or clothes invited negative comment. So I moved.
    I also support the notion of not waiting for the next stage in career/life to do something you want. If she feels this shouldn’t be an issue, she probably wouldn’t enjoy working for an employer who took issue with it. And it does come out if necessary, it is not like a face tattoo or ear extenders.
    I’d be more worried about mechanics of having something in my nose. Perhaps getting a fake nose ring first to see how it looks/feels would be the right first step. I know several people who did that and decided against going through with the piercing.

  4. This is coming from personal experience as a man… I was working as a web developer for a company and had established some good relationships with several top clients, one of which was an ad agency. I was later let go (company closed doors) and I started freelancing and picked up the ad agency. Things went well, but they decided it was time to bring everything “in house”, including web development.
    At this point, everything sounds normal, but I had grown out my hair and it was nearly shoulder length. The ad agency said that they wanted me for the internal position they were creating, but kept dragging their feet on offering me the position. They had many excuses on why things weren’t moving along, but I had a (private) conversation with the would-be manager and he asked if I would be willing to cut my hair. I was, and did, and within a week, they had the position and I was hired. There’s no doubt in my mind that the ONLY thing that was causing the “delay” was the length of my hair. (To Ana’s point, I had a pierced ear and was wearing a stud or small hoop well before — and after — I was hired. It wasn’t too uncommon to find men with pierced ears, but was unusual to see them with long hair.)
    So at least from my experience, certain things most definitely CAN prevent you from getting hired. Facial piercings (nose, eyebrow, lip, etc.) and [visible] tattoos would be on that list, regardless of how “tasteful” they might be. If you’re not currently and/or not planning on getting a paid job, especially internal to a company, then appearance is a personal choice. But when working as a paid employee, your appearance is part of the company’s, and may impact their willingness to add you to it. (In fact, it MAY even extend to your spouse’s ability to get hired when companies look at the couple when making hiring decisions. Typically, this is only done at the higher/highest levels, but is something else to consider if your spouse is looking at advancement to that level.)

    1. @Eric – thanks for this. That’s wonderful that your manager was willing to have an honest conversation about it. Better than wondering, though I imagine a lot of people shy from having such conversations these days, for all sorts of reasons (legal to general awkwardness).

  5. Agree with all the comments above regarding whether it might affect hiring–depends on geography and professional field. But even so–another question to ask is–do you want to work for a place where it actually would impede them hiring you? (I don’t ask that in a snarky way, but as an actual question. Personally, I might find the quality and kind of work more important than the people I work with, so I might be willing to fit the part so I could get the work.) Finding a good fit for a “permanent” place of employment I think has some analogies to dating. Of course-you want to make a great first impression. But if you hide who you really are, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment down the road when you find it isn’t a good fit. Isn’t it best to set expectations from the get go? (That being said, I don’t think personal style necessarily has to dictate anything about a person.)

  6. My husband works with the homeless. He can’t think of a homeless person without a tattoo. He associates tattoos (and extra piercings, non-natural hair color, etc.) as a sign of someone who is willing to a) take unnecessary risks, b) is not concerned with societal conventions, and c) does not spend their money wisely. That’s his opinion, but I think it’s one that may be held by many hiring managers.

  7. My opinion is not to get the nose ring until you have secured the position of your dreams. As a former human resources professional who has no issues with body piercings, and has worked with many hiring managers, many didn’t appreciate them in the same way. I am currently retired and working a temporary “hobby” job at a discount department store earning minimum wage and for those positions, body art is not a problem.

  8. In health care in my area, it could definitely keep you from getting hired, depending on your level. Clerical, facilities and aide position – probably OK. Nursing, physician, management – almost certainly not. I’ve thought about getting a stud in my nose and won’t because I know it would be seen as unprofessional.

  9. I have had my nose pierced for..gosh…15 years now. (Wow!). I am 37, mother of four, and I work as a licensed professional counselor. During my 15 years of having my nose pierced I have only taken it out for interviews or jobs in the South- when I lived in South Carolina for a couple of years. I eventually put it back in, but only after I showed my employers the quality of my work and abilities. I didn’t want to be written off because of the nose ring.

    Totally anecdotal, of course. But I guess I say that to agree with other comments above. I think location and job field matter. It has for me.

  10. What a fun question! I think another thing I’d consider is how *difficult* it is to find a job in your field as well – are there a lot of them so you can pick and choose which employer “fits” better, or is it the sort of thing where if a job comes up, you need to do everything in your power to land it because they’re few and far between? As an employee of a tech company in Seattle (and a freelancer who works from home anyway), I wouldn’t think twice about something like this, but if jobs were scarce, I’d definitely hold off (or remove the piercing for interviews).

  11. Definitely second the comments about location – I live in Seattle and this would be 100% totally fine for pretty much every occupation I can think of in this city. But then again, “dressing up” in Seattle means wearing your nice Patagonia fleece.

  12. It saddens me so to think that people would judge a prospective employee harshly for having a nose ring. That said, well, a lot of people have a lot of bizarre prejudices. Don’t get the nose ring until you have a job. But wait! What if you lose that job! Nevermind, just don’t get the nose ring.

    1. @oldmdgirl – I think this was one of her arguments against my suggestion. When no job is truly permanent, it becomes less compelling to not do something you want just because of a potential job.

  13. I remember one time we interviewed someone and he was very conservatively dressed, etc. We needed a to get samples of his work and went to his Web page and his photos of himself there had lots of piercings that were not apparent at the interview. We laughed about it and hired him because we didn’t care at all, but clearly it wouldn’t fly everywhere. So, if you do it, don’t just assume you can hide it for job interviews!

  14. I have a small nose stud, but given that I’m self-employed, it’s never been an issue for me!

    I feel like small nose studs are becoming more and more commonplace, and in some areas, they’re no more shocking than pierced ears. A nose hoop or a septum piercing are a different story, but a stud is relatively conservative, especially if it’s on a person who looks mainstream otherwise.

  15. I am a 37 year old professional woman with 3 tattoos (one visible at work on my foot) and a nose piercing. I wear a small stud, not a ring and have had the piercing for 18 years.

    I work in a conservative/traditional corporate environment and make over 150K/year.

    Neither the tattoos or the piercings have ever been mentioned/a factor at work.

    If they were called into question… I would seriously consider whether or not I was a good fit for the culture of the organization.

  16. Like Kristen said, I think nose studs are pretty common now, even very plain nose hoops where I live, so I don’t think that I would wait if it was something that I really wanted to do – especially since you can find really tiny, discreet jewelry pieces. But then again, I’m biased since I make nose jewelry and have always found body modification beautiful. I wouldn’t enjoy working for an employer that took issue with such a minor body modification, so I don’t think that I would find myself applying for a job that it would be an issue at.

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