T Nation

Perceptions of Size, Career Advancement


I wanted to get peoples thoughts on what you believe to be public perception(or maybe perception in your particular field) and what your own personal experience has been.

I have thought about this a lot lately. Basically it comes down to this for me - My career is more important to me than getting big. If there is any reason to believe that I'm at a point where being bigger would be in detriment to succeeding in other areas of life than I would be perfectly willing to stay put where I am.

I'm going to guess a standard response from many on this site and give a response - "don't sacrifice your goals to appease other peoples expectations " -Ok, It is not a "sacrifice" if I value the benefit I feel I'm getting from not being so large more so than the benefit from being big. If possible would I choose to have both ? - most definitely.

But I'm being pragmatic. In the real world people make judgements based on appearance, most especially first impressions, and these judgements, in my opinion, exert a strong influence on your success. Another common thing I hear is " You can still get where you want even being big, you can overcome!!" . To this I say yes, of course you still can get where you want, I'm not saying it's IMPOSSIBLE, simply more difficult. For me my career is more important than bodybuilding so it's only logical to sacrifice the latter for the former.

Now I want to get into specifics. At what point do you feel, if you do agree, that being large (muscularly obviously - I actually think big muscular people are discriminated against more than fat people to an extent) interferes with, lets say, climbing the typically corporate ladder? Or even in a situation where you are self employed but have to deal with people a lot- network, put together deals, gain trust, etc.

My personal opinion, for a man of lets say 6' is at around 200 lbs (lean). At this point in a shirt and pants things are still pretty hidden, you are wide and quite obviously built but its not so overwhelming as say at 220lbs and up.

Basically I want to know this - at what point can you meet someone, for the first time, and have them concentrate on YOU and not your body. That is, listening to what you are saying and not having the constant thought of "this guy is built" .

For the record I'm a business student looking to get into accounting/finance. I use to be 210 @ 5'11 ( about 2 years ago ) but have since come down to 185. I have found that in general peoples reaction to me is better at this size.


Something related that I think is really interesting - Height discrimination . I'm sure you could make somewhat of a good argument for it being a correlation and not a cause but I tend to think it is in fact a cause.

From wikipedia -

A survey of Fortune 500 CEO height in 2005 revealed that they were on average 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) tall, which is approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm) taller than the average American man. 30% were 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) tall or more; in comparison only 3.9% of the overall United States population is of this height.[9] Similar surveys have uncovered that less than 3% of CEOs were below 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) in height. Ninety percent of CEOs are of above average height.[10].

I think this clearly illustrate the need to fit a certain "mold" in order to make it to the top....


I need to have my legs broken and pulled so I'm a little taller eh? I heard that works! :smiley: Here I come success!!!



What a goober. Seriously when I talk to somebody they mention my size or if I workout when I first meet them. But usually don't mention it again. What the hell kinda people you meet that just talk about your size all the time?

And I call Bullshit on being big not helping you in your work, as you progress through the chains of command being bigger HELPS establishing you as a authoritative figure. Ever seen a short boss? I bet he has more challenges in the work place then whatever problems a Big Muscular guy would get.

You probably were just a fat 210lbs and people were like "lol look at that fatty who thinks hes big".

Also don't worry unless your going to a Top Tier Ivy League school you won't worry about having to fit the mold of a CEO of fortune 500 company.


at 6' 245 I'm expected to play Santa every year.


I could see people, especially rivals, saying that since you are that big, you must be doing steroids. And you don't want a boss who does steroids, right?

For some reason I can see that happening.


Of course there are outliers to this rule, Mini Thor comes to mind.


Having worked full time for the last decade in a wide cross section of roles for multinational companies what I feel is that physical appearance (including what your body composition is or isn't) makes a huge impact on being selected for a job interview through to the reputation inside the office or office to public (B2B, B2C) environment - this isn't a generalisation I'm just saying that it DOES matter.

For the OP, your career is important and you should evaluate what keeps you happy physically and if that is giving you the satisfaction to further your career. In other words you should never feel how your body looks limited your career progress.

In terms of commenting on the impression publicly on their physique you'd really need to hear from the bigger and better conditioned people on this site what sort of response their physique gave (or perception thereof). Between 185 to 210 as you describe it you may still receive many favourable impressions depending on what line your in (client facing or otherwise). If your job involves influence of any kind (sales etc) then how you look is critical.

This topic has been discussed before in some form here. Ultimately you've got to look the way you want to look to keep you happy and driven for your career (be that corporate or otherwise).


@tmay11 - I have always been fascinated by this as well. Nature is always at the forefront of any human interaction. If you are an Alpha Male, you will be treated like it. Depending on the environment, this can be a "good" thing or a "bad" thing.

I own a chain of restaurants, so in my world I am the alpha. No one ever gives me shit about my build because I am already seen as the strong individual in the group and I act like it. If anything it has been a major asset because the perception fits the persona. I can basically be "laid back" and still get results from my workers without an obnoxious persona because they take me seriously without any additional histrionics. Almost to the man, the biggest asshole bosses I have ever had have been the smallest guys. They need the antics to make up for the size!

Now, I also spent many years working my way through the corporate world and was always getting singled out. Basically, your stature marks you as a major threat to that person (or people) making it up the ladder and they will do anything possible to single you out and marginalize your bid for the head of the herd. The corporate mind HATES ability and individuality. Mediocrity rules the business world, it's a safer place to hide.

If you call your own shots, being a powerful individual is definitely an asset. If not, it can be a major liability.


Dude...I'm a dentist.

'Nuff said. Been at it for damn near a decade. I would think if anyone on the planet had an issue with "career vs size" it would be me....and I do just fine. You always have idiots but if you are good, then you're good.


This is also a VERY good post and I agree. To do what you want physically, you literally have to perform better than your peers.

You will be singled out. You will be stared at more. In fact, the more competent the job you have, the more most seem to think the biggest guy in the room can't do it.

I can't hide my muscles at work. Even a lab coat won't do it....so yes, how I look is on display all day long but I honestly only deal with people making retarded statements rarely.


You too eh? My girlfriend is Asian so her family asks me to play Santa every year because I'm a big burly white guy. You know...because an Asian Santa Claus would just be crazy. :\

I'm an IT guy at a college. I've met other IT guys bigger than me and I don't think it's an issue in my field. I think it's refreshing for most people because they're either expecting an awkward looking, eccentric IT guy. I'm sure as I get bigger, it'll throw them off more but I don't necessarily think in a negative way.

Edit: Let the record reflect, I am not developed enough to "chime in" on in this thread.


Seems like they take the manifestation and turn it into a cause.. is there research that shows what's different about the 10% of short CEOs ? I recall another study showing how pretty people get higher grades. Again, with the importance society places on height and beauty, these people are constantly told they're exceptional. Could it be that simple ?


Many of the execs I've dealt with have been jacked, maybe not huge, but ripped. Certainly a higher percentage then us drones...

I've gone from IT normal think fat stressed out unhealthy 6' ~290 to fairly muscular 280, and response has been positive so far.


Ok I am not big, 6'0 205lbs 16.5inch arm, but whenever I go to a job appointment (for a crappy student job that is) I wear something that hide my arms.

After I get hired I come with something that doesn't hide my arm and the people there/guy who hired me will go blablabla you're muscular. If it is a male manage I know he feels somewhat threatened. I lol because I just got him to hire me, otherwise I probably wouldn't have been.

It's the same thing for punks who have lot of tatoos.

Your muscularity have an impact in these kind of situation and you have to know when to hide it/use it.


I've had nothing but positive reactions to my size. Your attitude and charisma are much more important than the size of your biceps, or even your ability as a professional. If people generally react positively to you, then you will not have any issues.


This is true.
I'm not kidding. I may be 245 to 250lbs at 6 feet but because of my winning smile I seem to be seen as a loveable oaf. Really. Check my profile for pics.


This is how I see it as well. I'd be thrilled if every contractor, service personal, and hired help of all sorts was big and muscular. That shows me that he's not afraid of hard work and doing a good job.

Anyone who sees this as a negative has some internal insecurity issues.


I got hired for an internship in spite of my bigness. Hoorah for phone interviews. I will bring a can of crisco though- not just for snacking, but to grease up any doors I need to get through.


Pretty sure we don't need to check your profile to know that you are a lovable oaf. =)