Some blessed folks have confidence and success despite, or unrelated to, their looks. But for others—perhaps baby boomers aiming to keep their footing in a youthful industry—success seems correlated, in some part, with physical appearance.
If you're looking to invest in your career by improving your looks, here are three cosmetic procedures that experts say could boost your bottom line and three that could backfire. The prices noted are for physician's fees only. Anesthesia, implant, and operating room costs can add 20 to 40 percent, according to one estimate. And just remember: A botched or poor job is a loser, no matter the procedure.
Eyelid surgery. Average cost: $3,134
Eyelid surgery was the fourth-most-popular plastic surgery procedure last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Men, in particular, have been turning to it as a way to look younger. It ranked second among males in 2007. Gordon Patzer, a longtime researcher of the phenomenon of physical appearance and author of Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined, says much of what constitutes physical attractiveness can be deconstructed. Facial symmetry correlates to attractiveness, as do perceptions of youth and health. Eyelid surgery can be a good investment, Patzer says. Face-lift. Average cost: $5,031
Denise Thomas, a New York cosmetic surgery consultant, says that face-lifts are a wise choice for women 50 and older. "The minute the woman has her face-lift, she becomes bouncier, happier—just happy with herself," Thomas says. Self-confidence pays off in the workplace. Lois Stern, author of Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery, says that in writing her book, she interviewed a woman who felt her career as a real estate agent was threatened by her age. Younger female agents seemed to be pulling in more clients. A face-lift made a marked difference for the woman, who told Stern: "The most important thing is that I'm no longer invisible." Rhinoplasty. Average price: $3,833
A nose job, like a face-lift, can give confidence to someone who has long felt the feature was holding him or her back. Stern spoke with a psychotherapist who found her practice improved after rhinoplasty. The procedure doesn't come without drawbacks, though. Jennifer Grey, the talented actress and star of the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, demonstrated a youthful awkwardness in the film that had every American girl in her corner, but a nose job so changed her signature look that even her fans had a hard time recognizing her.
The Not So Good
Forehead lift. Average cost: $3,092
While a youthful and healthy appearance may prove beneficial, a forehead lift can leave a man with a constant surprised look, as though he's about to ask a question, Thomas says. "And you ask yourself: How intelligent was this man? Did he check it out?" Breast augmentation. Average cost: $3,816
A major breast enhancement may backfire professionally for a woman who works in a conservative setting like a bank, Thomas cautions. Remember, much of workplace success these days is based on networking and relationships with colleagues. Stern says she interviewed a woman for her book who said that women seemed to react with jealousy to breast augmentations. Whether that's fair or not, it may be something to consider.
Liposuction. Average cost: $2,982
Sure, most of us would like to lose weight, but a gym membership and a more healthful diet are probably the best ways to get there. Liposuction cuts the fat quickly, but if patients aren't upfront with colleagues, relationships can be damaged by the secrecy behind the improved appearance. Stern says she spoke with a woman who underwent liposuction and faced catty behavior when she returned to her work as a teacher.
Not a Surgery, But...
Teeth whitening. Average cost: $20 to $650
Professional whitening—either in the office or at home—is considered a good investment for the average person looking to appear younger, as teeth tend to darken over time. You can also head to your local drugstore and pick up a whitening kit for $20 to $40. That's pretty good bang for your buck, provided you actually use the kit for the length of time required.