If the news about people investing in cosmetic surgery to benefit their careers makes you cringe, you're not alone. CareerDiva blogger Eve Tahmincioglu writes that if she sees "another story about women getting plastic surgery or getting Botox injections in order to land jobs I am going to puke."
It's media hype, she says. The real career-boosting move is job training.
Yes, go out and take a course or get a degree. Your money will be better spent improving your skills and improving your mind.
I'm not saying you shouldn't reassess your wardrobe, or get a haircut. There's nothing wrong with trying to look your best. But we shouldn't be ashamed of growing old. People can smell this type of shame and that's what doesn't get you a job.
I was intrigued, particularly because I've written about career-driven cosmetic surgery, so I asked Tahmincioglu a couple of questions via E-mail.
Some of the more common stories of career-linked surgery came from older women in real estate, where "customer touch" is pretty high. For those sorts of jobs, how can one keep up an appearance of freshness and relevancy? Is it just job training?
And patients often speak of the confidence that cosmetic surgery gives them. If a person fits that mold—where physical appearance is so important to them—do you think that quality alone suggests they're not leadership material? Do leaders, in general, find their confidence elsewhere?
Tahmincioglu's on vacation, but she responded because "the 'be-youthful-no-matter-what' mantra I've been hearing lately needs to be reality checked." Here's her very thoughtful response (emphasis is mine):
I've blogged about this often at CareerDiva because I'm getting more and more readers asking whether their age may be impacting their job search negatively, and also because I'm seeing so many stories about women who have chosen plastic surgery or Botox to help their careers.
In the case of Realtors, and others who are close to the public on a regular basis, it's about knowing your business. Home buyers and sellers want someone who knows a particular market... the neighborhoods that are hip; tips on how to make your home more attractive to buyers; are homes priced right, etc. That said, first impressions can be everything. And that starts with the photo of a real estate agent on the website and on the home signs they put up. Get a professional photo taken. I don't care how much plastic surgery you get, a bad photo is a bad photo, and it will turn people off. That's in any industry where you use a photo for the service or product you're selling.
And if you're in a high "customer touch" job, especially one where you need to move around a lot, the first thing you should be thinking about is being fit. I often scratch my head when I see men and women who spend so much money on rearranging their faces surgically but get winded when they climb a flight of stairs. People gravitate to individuals who are full of energy and vigor. They know you can get the job done.
And I'm a big advocate of updating your fashion sense. I was a reporter for Women's Wear Daily early on in my career and there was something to be said about just the right outfit that enhanced your best features. Not everyone is good at figuring out what works best for them, and buying a bunch of fashion magazines will only make you ill. If you're really in the dark, I'd hire a professional image consultant or stylist who can help you find the right wardrobe. You want to look age appropriate but you also want to look hip.
As for leadership, I've interviewed hundreds of CEOs and top dogs at corporations during my career, and 55 in my book, From the Sandbox to the Corner Office, and let me tell you, these men and women oozed confidence. It came from within. The majority I have interviewed did not have plastic surgery. But they looked pulled together, fit, and seemed to always dress right. Most seemed to spend a lot of money on their wardrobes and their hairstyles. Quick snapshot on why, I think, they are so confident—they admit mistakes; they ask for help, and seek out mentors; and they were not afraid of paying dues during their careers and learning from the ground up.
Frankly Liz, I don't buy this confidence-with-surgery BS. People with low self-esteem, or individuals who have become obsessed with aging, are looking for quick fixes to help them when they walk into that job interview. It's a stressful moment. There is no debating that. But doing your homework about a company you want to work for, or staying on top of the changing landscape of your industry, is how you gain real confidence when you're face to face with a hiring manager or a customer.
It's easy to blame your wrinkles for why you're in a career abyss. While I know there is a lot of age discrimination in the workplace, I think the 40-plus crowd is actually helping prop up this bias today. Why? We don't even like ourselves. We walk around like sad sacks wondering why the Gen X hipsters don't want to be our Facebook friends.
What ever happened to the "we're in charge of our own destinies" generation? Maybe we need an old fogy Woodstock to help us all feel better about what is inevitable, folks--growing old. Embrace it, don't try to erase it.