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The Career Lift

The latest résumé boost? Cosmetic surgery. In an increasingly rough job market, Judith Newman finds that it pays to look good.

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Randy B., a blue-eyed blonde who works in television sales in West Palm Beach, FL, agrees. "I was 40, working in this highly competitive environment where I was making lots of cold calls - and most of the clients were men," she says. "I did OK, but then I came to New York City - to Dr. Lawrence Reed - for a mini face-lift, a brow-lift, and my eyes [upper and lower blepharoplasty]. People were like, 'You're crazy; you're beautiful.' But you know what? I don't know if it was the work or how I felt about myself afterward, but my business took off. I've done better since the procedures than ever before - and that's in a very tough business climate."

The patients who are "freshening up" for work are by no means limited to the AARP set. "I'm seeing a lot of women in their 40s, even 30s, who aren't ready for face-lifts but want something in addition to antiwrinkle injectables," says New York plastic surgeon Dr. Gerald Pitman. He's been performing a lot of neck-lifts on younger clients, where tiny incisions are made under the chin and behind the ears, and neck fat is suctioned (or cut) out to create a more angular chin.

But plastic surgery in the workplace can backfire. At 30, Trisha S., a television-development executive, was already concerned about not looking young enough - "I didn't have the body I did in college," she says - and got liposuction everywhere: on her stomach, thighs, knees, back, waist. She was perhaps a size 8 beforehand; now, with the surgery plus diet and exercise, the 5'6" pale-blonde beauty is a size 4. She also had her lips surgically plumped and got some Restylane to fill wrinkles - the ones nobody but her really saw.

But instead of getting kudos for her makeover, Trisha may have garnered a little envy: "Even though I think I'm more attractive, I'm more of a threat, too. My female boss seems to like me less and isn't listening to me the way she used to."

Shortly after our interview, Trisha was let go.

Maybe the key is to be up-front about what you're doing. Don't pretend you've got miracle genes - just fess up to the fact that you want to shave off a few years.

Ultimately, appearance really isn't that important, at least not to me. To hide that I want to look better - younger, more appealing - is to give that desire more weight than it deserves. If I hired somebody to write my stories, I'd be ashamed. If I hired someone to suck out my fat, I'd give you his number. But then, I've never been such a fan of nature anyway. Nature gave us mosquitoes. Man gave us the Sistine Chapel. And silicone.

Brush Up on Beauty

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