Are Your Looks Holding Back Your Career?

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Photo by Snezana Ignjatovic /

A successful career isn’t dependent on you looking like Brad Pitt or Charlize Theron, but it can certainly help.

How your looks affect your career was the recent topic of discussion in a Quora commentary featured by Fortune.

In a perfect world, the only things that would matter in your career would be your qualifications, skill set and how well you fit into a position. But that’s often not the case.

Naturally, if you are looking for a career in modeling, acting or the fashion world, your appearance is crucial. No surprise there.

But your looks also come into play in a number of other industries. Aakanksha Joshi said on Quora:

People are predisposed to being more receptive to pleasant-looking people. … Even if a person isn’t good-looking, if he or she is well groomed, he or she is received more positively.

According to, these are three big ways your physical appearance could impact your career (and even your pay):

  • Your height, weight and hair color could influence your salary. Regardless of skill level, tall people can earn up to $789 more per inch, per year than their shorter counterparts. Research has also shown that obesity can lead to lower pay, said. And this may surprise you: blonde women earn about 7 percent more than redheads or brunettes. So it pays to be a tall, thin, blonde woman (which just happens to be the exact opposite of me!).
  • The halo effect. It’s natural for humans to be attracted to beautiful things, whether it’s a geographic location, a specific item, or a person. The halo effect occurs when an employer (or co-workers) view an individual as a good worker just because they’re attractive. What’s worse, beautiful workers earn about 5 percent more than their less-attractive counterparts, CheatSheet said.
  • Being too attractive can be a problem. While being attractive has its benefits, being seen as too attractive can cause problems, CheatSheet said. “I find that this question of personal appearance is a double-edged sword for women — if women are too attractive it can work against them, and they are sometimes not taken seriously, by men and women,” said Patti Johnson, CEO of People Results. “But women who are attractive (as long as not too much) do get an edge in my experience.”

Although your looks may play a role in furthering — or holding back — your career, it’s important to remember that appearance will never be a substitute for competence. It may help you initially, but if your work performance and competence aren’t up to par, you’ll likely find yourself on the unemployed list.

I worked as a television reporter for a few years after I graduated from college. Appearance played a big part in getting a job. Had I worked in the broadcast industry for more than a few years, it would have played an even bigger role in moving up to a larger market.

What role do you think your appearance has played in your career? Share your experience in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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