Laid Off? Some Decide to Go Under the Knife

One went for a face-lift. The other settled for a Botox treatment.

Both were patients of Dr. Malcolm Roth, a plastic surgeon, and both were looking for work after recently losing jobs in the health and financial sectors, respectively.

Roth, the director of plastic surgery at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, said they turned to him in an effort to look more attractive -- literally -– to prospective employers.

"They were hoping this would help them get a better chance getting a job," Roth said.

"Even if you may be sharp mentally, if you don't look it" that can affect how others perceive you, he said.

Roth and other plastic surgeons agree that it's not uncommon these days for people to seek cosmetic procedures to bolster their careers. Darrick Antell, a spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said business at his New York practice is up nearly 20 percent from last year, and he has come up with a theory on why: As the tough economy leads to layoffs, the newly jobless are "buffing up their appearance" as well as their resumes.

"I think that in this day and age, with such a competitive environment, particularly with people losing jobs and being downsized, it's very important for people to look as good as they can and to look fit and healthy," he said.

Though treatments can cost thousands, Antell said that those who seek his help are more concerned with long-term benefits than short-term costs.

"It ends up being an investment in their career," he said. "Unlike an investment in the stock market that takes years to appreciate, this is something that gives an immediate return."

Different studies have shown that looks do matter in the workplace. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis released an analysis of such research in 2005, concluding that attractive people tend to earn more money and are promoted more often than their peers.

Still, it's debatable whether plastic surgery specifically benefits a person's career. Some also question the motivations of those supposedly seeking surgery for job reasons.

"I think saying it's for career reasons is a big excuse for saying, 'Oh my God, I'm starting to age and I have to do something to slow this process,' " said Debbie Then, a Los Angeles social psychologist. "It's trying to hang on to your youthfulness."

The Telltale Turkey Neck

Marie Peters is 76. The Pittsburgh investment adviser said she was in excellent health and plans to keep working for a long time. Still, she worried about clients questioning her longevity.

"People were beginning to look at me like when she's going to go croke or something," she said.

So last year Peters had surgery to remove the sagging skin beneath her chin, or as she put it, her "turkey neck."

"I'm very pleased with it," she said. "I thought I would look younger, and I do." And looking younger, she said, impresses upon her clients "that I'll be around to manage their money."

Antell, the New York plastic surgeon, said that procedures popular among professionals include chin enlargements and blepharoplasty -- surgery that improves the appearance of eyelids. Larger chins, he said, give a more authoritative air, while eyelid work can make someone look more energetic.

"If you look better, people will perceive you as being healthier and being more well rested," he said. "It's the same as if you wear a pressed shirt, a nice tie and a clean suit as opposed to having slept in your clothes the night before."

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