GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—When the going gets tough, are the tough getting a little help? A tuck here or a lift there?
With a still tight job market, revamping the resume and work wardrobe isn't enough for some. Statistics show more and more older Americans are getting plastic surgery to look younger, and fresher to get a competitive edge.
"I think they want to project a vitality, an energy that they're going to bring to their job," said Dr. Doug Leppink, a Board-certified plastic surgeon with the Centre for Plastic Surgery in Grand Rapids. "Sometimes if they're looking tired or a little older, it can detract from what they're really trying to project to their prospective employer."
Rockford resident Dawn Norton underwent three cosmetic procedures nearly three years ago.
"I'm so happy, I'm the happiest person in the world when I look in the mirror," Norton told FOX 17 News. "I was being told so often that I looked tired."
Norton spent almost $10,000 thousand dollars to change that. Just shy of turning 50, she turned to Plastic Surgery Associates in Grand Rapids for an upper eye lift, modified facelift and CO 2 laser skin resurfacing treatment.
Two weeks later, she was back on the job helping to manage the Grattan Irish Pub in Rockford.
"There was a huge difference, people I hadn't seen in years said you haven't changed," explained Norton. "People that knew me that didn't know I had the procedure done couldn't believe how great I looked. I just feel great about it. Never regretted it, I would go in tomorrow and have it done all over again."
Norton had dabbled in plastic surgery before. She had been getting Botox for years before going under the knife. Still, she says she knew it was just a matter of time before getting a more serious cosmetic procedure.
Norton explained the stress of losing her father had taken a toll on her looks. She also admits feeling pressure to look younger and better to keep up in the bar business.
"We have a lot of people wanting to work and being a woman, I felt great physically and I wanted to look that way facially," said Norton. "You have young college grads that come out, that they can be paid less money, why wouldn't it be competition? The way you look has everything to do with it. Everything."
The "work" factor is one that plastic surgeons are hearing voiced more often these days. Dr. Doug Leppink with the Plastic Surgery Centre told FOX 17 News it's becoming quite common.
"The competitive nature of the job market out there means people have to put their best self forward," explained Dr. Leppink. "I think people feel more confident about themselves if they feel they can project that inner youth, that inner energy... If you're looking tired, or looking older than you feel, that may detract from your ability to get that job."
Leppink, who's spent 18 years practicing as a plastic surgeon, says patients are commonly getting work done to target trouble areas around the eyes, jowl, and neck.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the 40-54 age makes up almost half of all cosmetic procedures. For the first time since before the recession in 2007, facelifts saw a big jump in 2011, increasing by nine percent. The procedure is now in the Top 5 surgeries being performed, replacing tummy tucks.
Injectables like Botox continue to be popular as being somewhat of a "quick fix" that doesn't require much time away from work, and is relativelyinexpensive comapred to a more invasive procedure. The ASPS reports injectables grew by 12 percent last year.
Nearly 14 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures (both surgical and minimally-invasive) were performed in the U.S. in 2011. That's up five percent since 2010.
So, should plastic surgery be considered when it comes to getting hired?
Mimi Fuger, a volunteer program coordinator with Career Steps West Michigan with more than 2 decades of Human Resources experience says to remember going under the knife is not just a career choice, but a life choice.
Fuger, and other volunteers at the non-profit organization help job seekers learn tips and tricks to land employment. The group also works with those looking to transition or "tune up" their career.
"Appearance is a key factor in the job search process," Fuger told FOX 17 News. "If you're healthy and taking care of yourself, no matter what age you are, that is going to be the first impression."
Fuger added though there may be considerations, Career Steps West Michigan encourages its clients to seek a more "holistic" approach in addition to re-working the resume and brushing up on interview skills.
"We are looking for more than just physical appearance, we're looking for highly engaged individuals in the process that have prepared themselves well," said Fuger. "Those are the attributes that really shine through in the interview process, along with physical appearance."
Dr. Leppink also advises his patients to really weigh the options before considering cosmetic plastic surgery.
"These are medical procedures with some risk, and it's not for everyone," he said.
Norton says she has no regrets and is open to the possibility of getting more procedures done in the future.
"None of us are blessed with everything being perfect, everybody has a spot here or there that they need to tweak," Norton told FOX 17. "It's absolutely the best thing I've ever done... I want to be out there for as long as I can. 50 is the new 40, it is, it absolutely is."