Cosmetic surgery for career boost


What is especially noteworthy about this surge in ‘drastic plastic’ is that professional executives are undergoing the surgeon’s knife as never before.

Cosmetic surgeons are receiving increasing requests for various procedures – from collagen fillers to face-lifts – from senior managers, lawyers, airline pilots, estate agents and many others.

My research – undertaken over five years of intensive interviews with women and men turning to cosmetic surgery and other makeovers to enhance their appearance – indicates that professionals are motivated by two key reasons.

First, cosmetic surgery offers a perceived fast way to combat age discrimination in the workplace.  Second, it is also widely viewed as an effective means to boost a flagging career.

In our quick-fix society, people want change and, increasingly, they want it instantly. Cosmetic surgery offers the promise of instant transformation.

This hunger for instant change is, in my opinion, driven by globalisation – which is creating profound new personal vulnerabilities. Globalisation, through its inauguration of the 24/7 society and the speeding up of the world, brings with it major changes to people’s lives.

The economic facts of globalisation, where employment is more fluid and everything moves incredibly fast, has increased personal pressures to the point where people need to be seen to try to ‘improve’, ‘transform’ and ‘reinvent’ themselves.

Driven by the fear of not measuring up to such cultural ideals, people desperately attempt to ‘refashion’ themselves as more efficient, faster, leaner, inventive and self-actualising than they were previously – not sporadically, but day-in, day-out. Society in the era of surgical culture is fundamentally shaped by this fear of disposability.

Not all that long ago, anyone who wanted cosmetic surgery would have been recommended therapy in the first instance. Today, by contrast, there is a widespread acceptance that surgical culture is beneficial and even desirable.

Anthony Elliott is professor of sociology at Flinders University. His book Making the cut: how cosmetic surgery is transforming our lives is published by Reaktion.

Flinders University