I bet you’ve never heard of Li Edelkoort. I didn’t either until I read about her in Fast Company this month. She works for a trend forecasting company and is considered a sort of ‘oracle’ to industries like retail and fashion that need to constantly reinvent their products and services. Companies pay big bucks to have her explain what the next hot thing will be.
So, what’s the latest trend?
Well, she’s listed a bunch of things like androgyny, the countrifying of cities, and even the death of vulgar self-promotion. Yet, as a career strategist, the one that really caught my eye was… (drum role please): escapism.
Okay, she didn’t specifically list it as one of her seventeen predictions, but when I put together three of her trend forecasts, I felt capable of anticipating escapism’s arrival. Here’s what Edelkoort said to convince me:
“Mushrooms will be ubiquitous. It’s definitely a time for magic and disproportion. We desperately need relief from too much reality.”
“Eccentricity will be cultivated. There will be a global quest for the unique, decadent, and decorative.”
“Reality: over. We will crave fiction, fantasy.”
Wow. My first thought was, “Ouch, I picked the wrong name for this blog!” But then, I put on my research hat to see what this might mean for our careers. Here’s what I’ve come up with…
Escapism became famous in the 1930’s thanks to the depression (hello history repeating) and is almost universally considered a bad thing because it seems to lead to addiction. Wikipedia’s definition of escapism is as follows:
A mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an “escape” from the perceived unpleasant aspects of daily stress. It can also be used as a term to define the actions people take to try to help relieve feelings of depression or general sadness.
The definition even goes on to attribute escapism with the creation of a whole host of industries including, fiction literature, music, sports, films, television, role-playing games, pornography, religion, recreational drugs, the internet and computer games. Yep, escapism is alive and well in America, just look at this article by the satirical genius over at The Onion, or the fact that Dancing With the Stars got the highest ratings last week with a whopping 21M+ viewers. (FYI – I was one of them.) It’s a fact: escapism is on the rise.
I guess the good news (and potentially a strategic bit career advice) is that jobs in escapism industries will be in good shape. So, if you are looking for a career with growth potential, I suggest targeting one of the fields above.
But that said, here’s where I get worried about the professional downside to an upswing in the embracement of escapism. You see, escapism can lead to disengagement on-the-job. Taken to the extreme, we could become a culture that just stops caring about our careers. Heck, you might be reading this and saying, “I’m there already J.T.” While I do feel we take our careers too seriously in America (In my observation, we wrongly use our careers as the main way to define ourselves and determine self-worth.), I also don’t feel the answer is to swing completely in the other direction and become anti-career. Yet, the signs show we are headed that way.
First, just look at the increased number of TV and movie plots with an office setting that use humor to show the absurdities of the workplace. Then there’s the hardcore statistics that show as many as 70% of Americans feel they are in jobs that aren’t right for them. And thanks to our tanking economy, more and more seasoned professionals are waking up every day with depleted retirement funds and the need to add years to their working lives. Finally, let’s not leave out the millions of recent college grads with enormous school loans and a job market reminiscent of 1990’s. (I graduated that year – it wasn’t fun.) Scary gang, but it looks like escapism is inevitable, and that careers may suffer from a drone-like approach to them.
As someone who spends all of her working hours trying to help people feel better about their careers, I say to all of you, “Don’t step into the light!” I’m not suggesting that diversions are universally a bad thing and that you should remain miserable. All I’m saying is to keep your head in the game. Look at these down times as an opportunity to grow your skills. While others are drowning their sorrows with excessive escapism, you’ll be strengthening your professional credibility. It’s all about balance. Like the old saying goes, too much of anything isn’t good.
In the meantime, the team over here at CAREEREALISM.com has been told to start brainstorming about how we can become a career escapist’s ideal diversion. So, be sure to sign up to receive our blog by e-mail (click here to do that now) so we can let you know what we are up to.