MIAMI - Years of installing satellite television equipment had taken their toll on Henry Williams' skin. Having a 9-month-old baby and a 6-year-old at home made the bags under his eyes feel permanent. - On top of that, he was out of a job.
Williams and about three dozen other unemployed South Floridians were treated to free cosmetic procedures by a Fort Lauderdale physician who had heard clients talk about how they felt they needed to keep up their appearances to keep their jobs or find new ones.
Last month, after three chemical peels that skimmed away some of the sun damage and smoothed away some of Williams' freckles, he landed a job as a satellite technician - his field of expertise.
"It's nice to be working again," said Williams, 47, of Miami Beach, who had been unemployed since November. Although he has years of experience, he didn't want it to show on his face - and possibly get beat out by a younger-looking competitor.
He isn't alone. A survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that 75 percent of physicians said they had performed facial plastic surgery on patients who said they wanted to stay competitive in the workplace.
"I've noticed a difference," Williams said. "I look good."
His fresh face was courtesy of Dr. Jason Shapiro, a Fort Lauderdale internist, who performed free procedures for 37 people - chosen from 1,200 who responded to his offer of no-cost Botox, chemical peels and other facial treatments. His patients completed their new looks with makeovers at Elite Group, a Fort Lauderdale hair salon, and Universal Legal, a legal industry recruitment service.
To date, 10 of the winners report finding jobs, Shapiro said, and their refreshed appearances didn't require more invasive - and far more expensive - plastic surgery.
"You can really make a difference in how they look and how they feel," Shapiro said. "That's exactly what we're trying to do."
Kristin Mira said she doesn't think the chemical peel she received was the driving force behind her finding a new job as athletic director of a new charter school in Pinecrest. But her entire attitude changed just from being selected by Shapiro for a procedure, she said.
"It's more than a boost of confidence," said Mira, who did not want to give her age. An experienced teacher, she had left education to open her own business three years ago but found it was no match for the recession.
"I was down in the dumps," Mira said. "I'm starting over. Getting this job and having my face worked on - it's a sign that God's on your side and the sun will come out again."
That's how Lisa Cammaleri felt too. She had been looking for work since July 2008 when she lost her job as a property manager. She said she spent countless hours looking for jobs online, networking and sending resumes to unresponsive companies.
"I was really depressed," Cammaleri said. "The beauty grant just really helped restore my self-confidence."
After some facial treatments, a company she had applied to for a job in January called her up.
"All the cards were in order," said Cammaleri, who is now a property manager again at a beachfront condominium complex in Deerfield Beach. "I felt confident and radiant and ready to step into the position."
Contest winner Jerry Johnson, 56, closed his furniture store in Fort Lauderdale more than a year ago after the housing market had crumbled and sales had slowed to a trickle. He had been turned down for some jobs, he was told, because they were entry-level positions.
"That didn't make me feel good," Johnson said.
But about two weeks ago, after Shapiro injected Botox around Johnson's eyes and a dermal filler into the creases around his mouth and performed a pair of laser procedures, Johnson got a job at an office furniture company in Boca Raton.
Johnson knows that his experience is probably what really landed him the new position, but he doesn't discount the effect of seeing Shapiro.
"All of that made me feel like I could compete," Johnson said. "It gave me such a psychological boost just to win it and be in it.
"I'm thrilled and I'm working."