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Up In the Air: Overweight?

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Recently the headlines were filled with the story about movie director, Kevin Smith, who directed “Cop Out.” He was asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight, because they have a stated policy that requires obese passengers to buy two seats. This is one of those juicy topics that always creates lots of opinions, and mail.

I am hardly a gym rat, and I love junk food, and not an advocate of the super skinny … yet I think it is a wise policy, because, nothing is more unfair, then to be seated in coach, especially in a window seat, next to a 300-pound man or woman in the middle or aisle seat next to you.

Seat belt extenders help passengers be safe on the plane. Not you, them. Try to go to the bathroom, worse if they fall asleep, and the safety issues related to trying to get off the plane. Fact is, almost all airlines now charge coach passengers for baggage (by weight and size), I personally see nothing wrong with doing the same thing for passengers, who may have “extra baggage” on their person. Six figures earners make up the largest percentage of business travelers. It is beyond what we see in the popular movie, “Up In the Air.”

I am very sensitive to people’s weight and image issues. I grew up in a family with a over-weight mom. My friends in the neighborhood whispered behind my back, about my mother’s weight issues all the time. Then, on the other hand, I grew up so skinny I was ridiculed. So I have been a victim of image issues. I now work on TV, and when I tell people I work on a TV show … guess what they ask me? “Are you a producer?” the ultimate insult to a air-on person, because they take one look at me, and they are really saying “oh you must be behind the camera.”

Now with that out of the way, let me share the advice I give in my book “Bulletproof Your Job” (HarperCollins) and I tell people on my forthcoming TV show “The Headhunter From Hell). Image is as important as credentials. Sorry, it is.

Legally it may not legal, morally it may not be fair or right, but it is human nature, that image it important. More corporate CEOs (men and woman) are tall—the majority of men are over six feet. Why? I have no idea.

I get the people who say “ I am happy with my body and who I am.” This is not about that, it is about seeing that the “image” you project to others, is as much a part of finding a job today, as your credentials. I know, “Dove” soap, using natural softer woman, and plus size models seem all the rage. I just don’t buy it.

Use the weight story in the news, as a wakeup call, of keeping an appropriate image “Look the part,” if you are looking to be hired in the six figure arena. The exception to this may be: rocket scientist, doctor, anything where your brain counts more than anything else. Finally, clearly, “image” does not mean you cannot be in your own business … and be overweight. “Oprah” is a perfect example of that. So is Rush Limbaugh. Many media icons, and “entrepreneurs” use their weight as part of their shtick.

However, most of corporate America does not want to buy you a special chair (I once had a overweight client in my headhunting office, crack a stainless steel chair while sitting in it!) Ironically when I was working full time, as a headhunter, I had a difficult time, unless a candidate was also over-weight even wanting to work for this guy, or any fat boss, unless they were fat too. Most businesses, do not want to buy their traveling executives two seats, for a business trip, no matter how good at their job they are.

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