The Importance of Increasing Your Pop Culture Knowledge

Posted July 6, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

We tend to make fun of them – the people who watch too much TV, see every movie out there, and know the names of even the newest celebrities. They know TMZ, E! Entertainment Television, and have seen every episode of Friends, Sex and the City, How I Met Your Mother, and even some of those unpopular TLC reality shows like Sister Wives and Toddlers and Tiaras. They read every magazine and every popular new book, and somewhere, some judgmental person is saying, “What a waste of time.” But is it?

Popular culture isn’t just about the next big thing, it’s about the happenings of the world around you, even though it might not be one you want to participate in. While we make fun of the pop culture addicts, there are numerous reasons you should continue to watch for and learn about what’s going on in pop culture in order to advance in your career and improve your networking skills.

Why become knowledgeable about popular culture? Here’s why:

  • Avoiding it can show your age. It’s natural that pop culture appeals more to a younger generation. But every time you say something like “Who’s Justin Bieber?” or “I don’t do the whole Facebook thing, it’s just a fad,” you show your age and not in a wise sage kind of way. Those individuals who can keep up with pop culture will find relationships easier to craft across generational lines.
  • Pop culture isn’t just national. There is a popular culture in your city, whether you know it or not. There are “local celebrities” and controversial companies. Newspapers highlight them in their event coverage, magazines profile them, and you should absolutely know who they are. Keeping up on regional pop culture makes your networking more powerful and your connections stronger. Know who’s hot and who can help you or your brand excel in your area.
  • Relevance is king. There’s nothing worse than seeing a nonprofit organization or corporation parade out a celebrity from the 1980s thinking they’re a fantastic spokesperson. The question then becomes whether or not that person or brand is still relevant. Keeping up with pop culture means knowing what’s relevant in which circles today, not when you were 15 or 30.
  • It’s not all business. At some point in a business relationship, your conversation has to go beyond the boardroom. And there’s only so much you can do to talk about your family or your hobbies. Sooner or later, politics, news, pop culture are all going to come up. Being able to talk about everything from baseball scores to who’s dating that favorite baseball player may make you more interesting and help build relationships outside the office.

So how do you become more knowledgeable about pop culture if you’re in the dark on it now?

  • Subscribe to your local newspaper or read it online. Look specifically at the columns that feature local individuals who are “on the scene.”
  • Diversify your news sources – if you normally watch CNN during the dinner hour, switch the channel every now and again and check out entertainment based television on E! or Entertainment Tonight, or maybe even just switch over to FOX or MSNBC to hear a different perspective or different stories.
  • If you’re not on social media, get on it – especially Twitter. Follow great companies, celebrities, local organizations, entertainment resources in your city, and take the time every few days to really run through your Twitter feed and find out what’s happening in the world.
  • Switch the radio station. If you normally listen to the same radio station, or no radio at all, turn it on and switch it to a channel you don’t know. You’ll learn what music is popular in another genre or perhaps what talk radio is saying on another station.

Ultimately, getting to know pop culture means stepping into multiple situations, reading a variety of news, and listening to a wide variety of newsmakers in the world. You’ll find it will make you more conversational, and heck, you might just like the Kardashians!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."