Looking for professional edge, will cosmetic surgery boost your career?

If a nip, tuck or injection is what you think would make you feel your best, that’s a personal choice. There are some who firmly believe that it’s a sure way to career advancement. But could cosmetic surgery boost your career? Should we even have to consider it?

There are limited authoritative figures on the number of surgical or non-surgical procedures carried out in the UK or elsewhere, but what is emerging from the limited statistics available is that the number of cosmetic surgery procedures carried out has grown considerably in recent decades. The Society of American Plastic Surgeons reports a record $16 billion spent on minimally invasive procedures.

Reasons for cosmetic surgery

Research from the Nuffield Council for Bioethics indicates that the majority of people undergoing procedures are women, although men continue to make up 10% of all those undertaking procedures. The reasons for these number, range from pressure to look younger, in order to meet social and cultural “ideals,” as well as intra-personal reasons rooted in dissatisfaction related to body image, low self-esteem and the experience of family and friends. Health and congenital abnormalities also are factors but there is no doubt that the real drivers are psychological around self-esteem and confidence.

In an era of the “tyranny of youth” in difficult economies, appearing young and vibrant is becoming increasingly important in the eyes of some to retain that competitive edge in the job market. Cosmetic surgery is no longer only for rich and famous celebs, but becoming more mainstream. We also live in an age when appearance bias is deeply embedded in our cultures especially via social media where norms are exaggerated.

The American Association for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery suggests that “although psychological evaluation is not a requirement for plastic surgery, certain practitioners find them very useful in patients they consider may have psychological or psychiatric issues. Some examples would be a patient that appears to have an exaggerated concern over a minor or nonexistent problem or a patient that has undergone repeated surgical procedures by other surgeons/ physicians. That concern is over what is called Body Dysmorphic Syndrome. “

Popular cosmetic surgery procedures

Image and impact

This research comes from the US in 2016

  •  Breast augmentation:
  •  Liposuction:
  •  Nose reshaping:
  •  Tummy tuck:
  •  Buttock augmentation:

Popular minimally invasive cosmetic surgery procedures:

  •  Wrinkle treatment injections:
  •  Hyaluronic acid fillers:
  •  Chemical peel:
  •  Microdermabrasion:
  •  Laser treatments:

Some examples

In a call out on Twitter for people willing to let us know about their cosmetic surgery we received these responses:

Joanna  –  an Event Planner from Leeds, UK “I had a nose job as soon as I could afford it. It gave me a confidence boost and improved my profile, which I had always hated. I was always teased in school about my big conk. I felt better and when I feel better I am more confident”   

Marianne – a US based PR specialist told us “I was a sun bed worshipper when I was younger and my skin has paid the price. So I had Botox injections on my forehead to get rid of frown lines. I stopped because I was worried about the long-term side effects which are currently unknown. I saw what has happened to some movie stars who seem to have taken it too far. If I have a big presentation I might consider doing it occasionally. I also have fillers from time to time.”  

Sara – a sales consultant in Belgium said “I had a tummy tuck. Two pregnancies and three kids left me with bad stretch marks and saggy skin on my abdomen. It was gross. I did it for myself, then my partner and also for professional reasons. My figure improved and clothes fitted better. I felt uplifted, although no one knew why! I seem to handle myself more assertively now with customers. I have more poise. ”  

Alex – a Houston based corporate strategist admitted “I had a boob job. I don’t tell anyone but I am very petite and was flat chested, even a 32AA bra was loose! At 32 I was still ID’d going into bars. It was crazy. I felt my size was holding me back in my career – I looked very young and lacked gravitas. I went up to a C cup – nothing major, so I looked like a  professional woman and not an adolescent. Interestingly I went for a new job shortly after. I’m not sure if my appearance played a role but I had been unsuccessful in the previous three processes I had been involved in.  It might have been a coincidence but I definitely felt more confident. In Texas cosmetic surgery is very common. Girls get nose jobs for graduation presents.”  

Confidence is essential for success, and it is something you can improve. 3Plus can help you with our Returner Roll-Up Session on Building your Confidence.

Specialist input

Davina Saunders, Director of Clinic Services at Harley Street Skin Clinic Surrey, told us that women should consider any treatment as an investment. “It’s sad news however, that age discrimination in mature women appears to be more problematic than ever at a time when many women are having to work longer and harder due to divorce, economic factors, eroded pensions and the fact that their earning power over the age of 50 is some 30-50% less. Anyone who has aver embarked upon a new job search over the age of 50 will bear witness to this (male or female).

She reminds us that many women in the public eye have extended their careers. “Dame Judy Dench, Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda, Bo Derek, Raquel Welch, Susan Sarandon, Rita Wilson; we consider these women vital, sexy, youthful and more importantly admire both their looks and the longevity of their careers.”

Not just older women


cosmetic surgery boost your career

The appearance trap for women starts early. It’s not just older women who are willing to embrace cosmetic surgery for a career boost. Even women in their 20s are willing to go down this path.  Some of the issues are to deal with genetic abnormalities or health issues. Very often rooted in personal insecurity research from Rutgers University, New Jersey and Villanova finds that young women are very susceptible to internalizing media messages from a very young age. Instagram and the selfie generation are perceived to be key drivers with celebrities such as Kylie Jenner openly discussing procedures such as lip fillers at the age of 18.

Women, appearance and the unwritten rules

Even though none of us can control our age, we can control our confidence and our appearance. And we all know confidence is key when searching for a job and appearance is sadly more critical for men than women.

There is no doubt that women are under immense pressure to look the part for their careers. But the goal posts keep moving and they experience backlash if they don’t get it right. Called the Goldilocks Dilemma they are judged excessively on they way they look. Research from the European Commission shows that in an interview process a woman’s appearance places before qualifications and experience  in terms of importance. For me it comes in at 9th.

Hanna Greeman wrote in her post Do women need to look the part “If this is the case, then it seems unfair that getting the ‘right’ image is so important, particularly for women. There are countless unspoken, but very real rules regarding fashion that women come under scrutiny for. 

Whatever their age or body type men’s choices are mainly limited to suits. In contrast, the choice that women have leads to many more chances to get it wrong. Skirt length, neckline, fit, makeup are just some of the invisible parameters surrounding female dress codes. Their acceptability is then further dependent on age, body type, and personal opinion. Women can be expected to wear high heels to look professional and it is often said to give them more presence among male colleagues. However it is hardly a practical or comfortable choice with associated health risks. Women that don’t want to wear them may be penalised or overlooked professionally, which doesn’t seem fair. Makeup is another tricky subject; most employers suggest that some is necessary, but too much looks cheap. Women also must be careful to dress their age whilst being neither revealing nor frumpy. There are many hurdles to overcome.”

As we move to bias conscious recruitment processes setting up behavioral nudges to flag up appearance related biases is now vital for all organisations. We will no longer need to ask the question does cosmetic surgery boost your career.

Change the way you hire female talent. Check out our corporate recruitment services  

Men too

Nip-tuck is also becoming part of a career strategy for  some men to beat down competition from both younger men and women and to overcome age bias.

Dorothy Dalton, CEO of 3Plus told us ” I looked into this some years ago in 2011 which was the first year that cosmetic surgery for men saw a significant spike. At first I didn’t believe it, I couldn’t understand how sporting a “6 pack” could make a difference to a man’s career unless they were a fitness trainer, life guard or in the military. Presumably it’s not on display in the workplace, or at least not the offices I go to, making me think it would be more appropriate for the beach or bedroom than the boardroom. So I was surprised to hear suggestions in the media that the number of nip/tucks for men showed a higher increase in 2011 than in any other demographic. Only cursory research showed similar trends in Australia and the United States. One of the reasons cited was to gain, or maintain, professional credibility and advancement. That level has been maintained.”

Forgotten demographic

Dorothy continues “I spoke to a number of older men at that time who see themselves as a forgotten demographic. The 50 something male executive, by anyone’s standards is probably successful. But they absolutely feel that cosmetic surgery to boost your career is a valid route in a competitive job market. Even they are feeling the pressure from younger professionals, both male and female. Many will have to work longer than they anticipated. Some have re-married and have young children, even at this age. Our culture places great emphasis on physical appearance as an outward sign of what is basically power; control, high energy, seeming competent, capable and in charge. Old-looking men with straining shirt-buttons over bulging-bellies don’t give off that impression. They work long hours, have business lunches or sandwiches at our desks and on trains. Combined with family commitments, they struggle to get to the gym or take the exercise they need. For many this is a quick and relatively painless solution.”

Whatever happened to the revered elder statesman role? But who is going to see this perfectly re-constructed abdomen in a professional environment. Exactly like women they said “It’s about confidence. My suit fits correctly. I just feel better.”  


Cosmetic interventions are not without danger and there are a number of complications reported for those that go for processes requiring surgery under general anesthetic. These include: heavy bruising (hematoma) nerve damage, infections, deep vein thrombosis, scarring and even organ damage.

Even Botox has some downsides and side effects include pain at the site of injection, swelling, fatigue, rash, redness, itching, dizziness, fainting.

There is no doubt that for those that go down the needle or injection route it’s important to check out the credentials of the person carrying out the procedure. The rise of Botox parties where groups of women go through Botox procedures together, alarm specialist doctors who advise caution, recounting they are regularly called on to “fix botched Botox party procedures undertaken by unqualified practitioners”.

Davina Saunders emphasizes “For an accredited clinic, physician, doctor or nurse there should be a formal ‘Informed Consent’ process of communication between a patient and the healthcare professional’ that results in the person’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention. It includes the principle that a physician has a duty to inform his or her patients about the nature of a proposed or alternative treatment, procedure, test, or research, including the risks and benefits of each alternative and of not receiving it.  An informed patient can then make a choice which procedure, if any, to undergo. This is a processed is bypassed at Botox parties.  When you consent to administration of a treatment at such an event there is no redress if something goes awry.

Some women even travel on cosmetic surgery holidays usually to third world destinations and report mixed results. Saunders comments: “There are some accredited clinics abroad particularly in Europe where consultants often work in London as well, so are able to see patients for consultations to surgical aftercare. They will have established a process or network whereby patients can be looked after through every part of their cosmetic journey.

Distance, language and redress are the key issues when contemplating cosmetic surgery abroad. It is always worthwhile speaking to patients who has have undertaken the surgical journey with a given surgeon, clinic or hospital before booking. The biggest problems usually encountered are aftercare and redress.

Boost your career without cosmetic surgery


There are no real stats to correlate cosmetic interventions with career success. So we have no reliable data on which to base any decisions to see if cosmetic surgery will boost your career. But there seems no doubt that the key message is feeling confident about your appearance in cultures which set frequently unrealistic norms around looks and physical presentation which are youth focused. As our working lives are extended many consider focusing budget and energy on appearance critical to not just getting a career boost but staying in the game longer. If you’re in search of a change in appearance to advance your career and want to avoid an intervention, there are some simple non-surgical things to consider to boost your confidence.

Non-surgical steps

  • Exercise regularly, get enough sleep and keep a healthy diet.  Whatever age you are employers are looking for outward signs of energy and good health. It’s not so much about age or even physical ability but how vibrant and energetic you appear.
  • Check your wardrobe.  Make sure your clothes fit correctly and reflect your personality. If you are older, nothing looks more outdated and worn out than the clothes you are wearing.
  • Consider a haircut. Consult with a stylist on the cut that’ll boost your confidence and freshen up your look. If you are on a budget some salons offer special rates for trainees and apprentices.  Your hair should always be clean and well-groomed no matter what.
  • Check your posture. Body language and non verbal communication is important – good posture is critical as well as eye contact. if you are slouching it impacts your breathing, voice and speech. You look “smaller”
  • Makeup works wonders for some people. Most high-end department or specialist stores will give you a free make-over which you can replicate at home. If you are not a fan of make-up make sure your skin looks healthy and clean.
  • Update accessories and glasses. Look for something that is current
  • Dental care. In an age of the perfect smile unless you had orthodontal care as a child then it can be expensive to play catch up. But as a minimum see a dental hygienist regularly.

Finding the right way to advance professionally is always a challenge for women. If you ask yourself could cosmetic surgery boost your career  make sure you research the process and practitioner thoroughly.


If you want to boost your career but don’t don’t fancy cosmetic surgery – contact us for a complimentary career assessment call now!

Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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