by Ashleigh Eisbrener
In the past, job seekers turned to career coaches, resume doctors and networking groups to gain a competitive edge, but in today’s cut-throat job market and youth-obsessed culture, the unemployed are endorsing a new type of self-improvement—cosmetic surgery and injections. Those going under the knife and needle believe looks are just as important as the resume they’ve worked hard carefully crafting for the last 30 years, and apparently they’re not alone.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reports that in 2010, 13 million cosmetic procedures were performed, up five percent from 2009, and less-invasive methods, including Botox and fillers, were up 12 percent. We’d all like to think that we earned our jobs on our abilities alone and that in this tough economy it’s our skills and experience that will land us a new job, but maybe pretty people really do have it easier.
Newsweek conducted an online survey of over 200 corporate hiring managers as well as a telephone survey of nearly 970 members of the public, confirming that looks do matter. The survey found that over half of the managers believed unattractive job candidates have a harder time getting hired, and, when rating attributes, looks came in third, behind experience and confidence but before education. Eighty-four percent also believe some may hesitate before hiring a qualified job seeker who looks much older than his/her coworkers. As adults brace to work past conventional retirement age for the first time ever, they’re turning toward invasive and non-invasive procedures as a way to stay competitive.
“The difficult economic times have brought a slightly different group of patients seeking cosmetic surgery,” says Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Houtan Chaboki, MD, 36. Job seekers say it’s just another tool—albeit an extreme one. But with baby boomers working into their 60s and even 70s, they don’t want to hinder themselves with a worn-out look. “The youthful appearance may convey energy, quick thinking and vigor, while an older appearance may convey slower, less adaptable and fatigued,” Dr. Chaboki says.
The leading procedures he’s currently performing are nose jobs, face lifts, eyelid surgery and Botox®, and his patients have returned with many success stories. “Some plastic surgery patients tell me that coworkers report to them that they look healthier or lost some weight after facial plastic surgery, even when their weight has not changed,” Dr. Chaboki says. As for themselves, they describe feeling more energetic and adaptable to change—younger. But others still question if job success is really all about looks.
“Seldom is the root cause a physical issue, but something that has been conditioned within us during our lives,” says Mary Erlain, 51, president of Peak Marketing and Sales, Inc. and executive vice president of Leadership Management Institute™/Riverside. “Sometimes it is not the younger workers that are the enemy; it is our own self-talk that gets in the way of our success.” She believes negative thoughts, like “I can’t do that” and “It’s impossible,” are really what lead job hunters to failure, and by enhancing your self-esteem and positivity you can experience greater success.
Christie Mawer, 46, bestselling author, speaker and founder and CEO of The Bad Kitty, spent the first part of her life trying to live up to the expectations of others. After personal growth and soul searching, she found confidence has everything to do with self-love and self-care and little to do with looks. She feels women naturally spend the majority of their time caring for others and don’t put enough time aside for themselves. “Taking time is more than just having a bubble bath or going for a pedicure once a week,” she says. “It’s about knowing what’s important to you and living by those standards rather than someone else’s.” She understands it’s easy to brush off a rejection as the result of your age or appearance but feels there are often many other underlying factors.
Mary attributes some cases of refusal to the generation gap and technology, agreeing that in some circumstances younger people may have a better shot at the job. In the business of leadership development, she’s found that younger workers often have the technological skills and initiative to transform along with technology that older women may not have. “If your company is moving into spaces where you lack skills and development, then take the initiative to learn those skills on your own dime,” she says. Sometimes it’s up to women to develop this knowledge themselves to remain competitive in their jobs and stay relevant.
Improving looks, of course, doesn’t hurt and can help with self-confidence if a person is self-conscious about what they think are their shortcomings. For many of these people, plastic surgery offers a way to gain back the self-esteem they lost by changing how they view themselves. Being healthy and feeling good about yourself is the first start to getting a job. “With the ability to pick that North Star and plan our paths to get there in our lives both in business and personally, our potential for success becomes limitless,” Mary says.
Read Part 2 of this Feature