It’s All In The Presentation

By Ron Ciancutti

So, I’ve lived long enough that this is news: “Current survey results show visible tattoos at work could have a negative effect on your career.”

Beat … Beat … Wait for it …

OK. Uh, no kidding?

No kidding. Furthermore:

“A recent study from the Pew Research Center found nearly 40 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo, and body piercings are also a growing means of self-expression among people in this age group. In a perfect world we would all be judged solely on the merit of our work. But if the 2,675 people we surveyed are any indication, there is a lot more going on when it comes to performance evaluations, raises, promotions, and making character assumptions about people based on their appearance.”


I put this in the arena where people who drive around with “cop-derogatory” bumper stickers have the nerve to look surprised when they get pulled over more often.

Do’s And Don’ts
Folks, let me give you some sage advice from a wise philosopher of my day:

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind.
You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger.
And you don’t mess around with Slim.

The point is that anything you want badly enough involves putting your best foot forward. If you want to ask for a date, appear before talent scouts, or appeal a traffic ticket, try to look your best so those whose approval you need will be impressed with your overall positive presentation. You’re telling the world, “This is me.”

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. There are plenty of recent examples of this lack of forethought.

Do you think a prospective employer is likely to pull up your name on a few random search engines? What might he see there?

· “Young man, are you really the beer-bong champion of Northeast Ohio? I saw you winning the title just a month ago on a website. Your parents must be very proud.”

· “Yes, Miss Adams, thanks for calling. We’re reviewing your resume right now and looking up some of your references online. My goodness, you sure won a lot of necklaces in New Orleans last spring. Exactly how did you accomplish that?”

Your Best Foot Forward
So, should we really limit this discussion to tattoos and piercings? I think not. The fact is you have to start taking the high road, baby. If the debate is “necktie or no necktie,” opt for the tie—you can always take it off. If the question is to overdress or take a chance on underdressing again, take the high road and overdress. If you’re not sure, put yourself in the moment and imagine the host saying, “Wow, Gene, you really didn’t need to fuss so much, but you look terrific.” Or, “Wow, Marie, you really can’t come in here looking like that. You might want to run home and change.”

One day I had an early interview scheduled for eight o’clock. I was unfamiliar with the place, so I left a little early. As it was, I found it quickly, but it was a massive office building, and I didn’t know where I was supposed to report. As I sat on the front steps of the building, an executive came bustling up the stairs. “Place doesn’t open for another 20 minutes,” she said. I stood and said, “Yes, ma’am, but I have an eight o’clock appointment in room 323, and I have no idea where that is.” She smiled as she turned her key in the door, “Oh, well, 323 is immediately to the left of the elevator when you get to the third floor.” I thanked her, smiled, and held the door while she organized her things. You guessed it. Twenty-five minutes later I was sitting in room 323, looking across the desk at her. I got the job. I don’t know if it was my performance on the steps. I don’t know if it was the wingtip shoes, freshly pressed shirt, bright blue tie, or brightly brushed teeth, but I do know this—everything I had any control over was presented well and in my favor, which substantially increased my odds of getting the job. Did all those things make the difference? I’ll put it this way—it didn’t hurt.

Make An Impression
Now look back to the bold sentence in the first full paragraph of this essay: “In a perfect world we would all be judged solely on the merit of our work.” Really? I can’t think of a more difficult way to be hired. At the beginning, before an employer knows anything about your work ethic, you have an opportunity to be impressive, to make that person notice you before even knowing you. It’s a matter of evaluating in that first minute, and I guarantee that the words “Jedi Knight” tattooed on your neck do not excite any potential employer, despite your hope that he may, indeed, be hiring a young Jedi who will use “the Force” during a future labor strike.

C’mon, guys, this isn’t science despite the Pew Research citing it is. It’s just basic common sense. Take a toddler sitting at a table with two pieces of cake left. One is small and plain, and the other is big and heaped with multi-colored frosting. It’s no stretch of the imagination to expect the kid to take the larger, more colorful, more sweet-tooth-addicted piece.

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A. from Baldwin Wallace University. He has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at