Plastic Surgery can Boost...
How Plastic Surgery Can Boost Your Career
More Americans go under the knife to move up the corporate ladder—and
some say it makes sense
By Liz Wolgemuth Posted May 12, 2008
The media, and its consumers, generally keep conversation about plastic
surgery and careers pegged on a couple of figures: the aging Hollywood
idol and the would-be Hollywood idol. Cosmetic surgery is de rigueur in
the movie and TV business—pretty understandable given how much looks
matter on-screen and in career trajectories.
But there's increasing research that says looks matter in jobs beyond
the silver screen—that beautiful people make more money and have more
opportunities for advancement. So it's no real surprise that plastic
surgery is being deployed as an instrument of career advancement by men
and women in office suites far from the glare of the klieg lights.
"In the corporate world, there's a lot of emphasis on image, and image
goes with self-confidence," says Antonio Armani, a Beverly Hills,
Calif., cosmetic surgeon who specializes in hair transplants. "I think
a lot of people do invest money in improving their looks because they
feel this is one way they can go up the corporate ladder."
The American Plastic Surgery Society reports that, among last year's
most prominent trends, about two thirds of its members reported seeing
men and women who requested cosmetic surgery because they wanted to
remain competitive in the workplace.
In his nine years of practice, Armani says there has been a growing
desire among corporate men—often working in finance—to look younger.
But as a career investment, a youthful hairline doesn't come cheap.
Armani says a typical transplant procedure costs from $15,000 to
$35,000. While his patients are often wealthy, many younger men are
financing the cost. Recently, a marine coming off active duty took out
a $25,000 loan for his surgery, Armani says, because he "wants to look
good" as he heads into law school. "When we look at people, we are
naturally attracted to people who are more attractive," Armani says.
There's research to back up that claim. Gordon Patzer, author of Looks:
Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined and a longtime researcher
on the impact of physical attractiveness, can run through a laundry
list of study results that point to the advantages of being good
looking. Cuter newborns in a nursery are touched, held, and talked to
more than less attractive babies. Elementary school teachers
unknowingly tend to hold higher expectations for better-looking
children. Parents may be less protective of less-attractive children.
Then, when people reach working age, good-looking college graduates are
more likely to get hired. Employees themselves tend to be willing to do
more for better-looking bosses. Attractive supervisors are perceived as
more credible and more persuasive.
So what does this mean for those of us who want to get ahead but don't
look like Brad or Angelina? Well, higher education can improve physical
appearance in others' eyes. And Patzer recommends working out, eating
well, practicing good hygiene, dressing nicely, and—although it may be
cringe-inducing—correcting flaws with plastic surgery.
"It's a good investment for the workplace," he says, noting that
investments that improve your physical appearance and make you appear
younger can ultimately delay the decline of your workplace
effectiveness as you age.
Certain cosmetic procedures can offer the most bang for your buck. Men
have been turning to eyelid surgery, which was the fourth-most-common
surgical cosmetic procedure last year, according to the American
Society of Plastic Surgeons. Also, teeth whitening is a great
investment, because teeth turn gray as we age, Patzer says.
Patzer does not particularly enjoy the results of his research and
often says "beauty can be ugly" because society puts entirely too much
emphasis on physical attractiveness and the widespread bias in favor of
good looks is so discriminatory. But he does not believe there will be
a change in our preference for physically attractive people an time
soon. Attitudes, social norms, and technological advances are going to
make cosmetic surgery increasingly common, Patzer says. He predicts it
will become a tool in career advancement—just like clothes or education.
Larry Weinstein,MD FACS has found many patients who have the
experience, but are passed over because they look old or are not as
attractive as another. www.drlarryweinstein.com
Penelope Trunk, a careers blogger and author of Brazen Careerist,
predicted in a blog entry earlier this year that plastic surgery will
become a tool "for the go-getters and career-minded" and will even be a
routine procedure for college grads.
Executive coach Judy Jernudd helps her corporate clients improve their
body language, appearance, and clothing, often using a video camera to
show a slumped posture or unenthusiastic delivery. "Almost all of us,
if we would admit it, and it may not be conscious, we do make pretty
quick impressions of people," she says, noting that good-looking people
tend to have a universal appeal that attracts everyone. Jernudd
believes there's a lot that people can do to improve their looks.
"I'm not encouraging everyone to go out and get cosmetic surgery,"
Jernudd says. "I think there are people that can go overboard on
cosmetic surgery. But I do think that you can see people—if it's done
correctly—where they can look 10 years younger."
History is, of course, full of very successful individuals who weren't
much to look at: Think Napoleon or Albert Einstein. But these are the
exceptions, and they don't disprove the rule, Patzer says.
There is, of course, one other option. People could all rise up, armed
with the awareness of their discriminatory tendencies, and make a
conscious effort to start treating everyone equally. Even newborns.