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Book Review: Careering by Daisy Buchanan

My God, I related so much to this book.

In Careering, Daisy Buchanan manages to skewer every woman’s dysfunctional relationship with her career, whether you’re at the beginning, middle or end of it, no matter what age you are.

careering (verb) 
1. working endlessly for a job you used to love and now resent entirely
2. moving in a way that feels out of control

Careering covers everything….

You’ll recognise the imposter syndrome.

You’ll remember the bone-tired feeling of exhaustion.

You’ll be familiar with the burnout.

You’ll recall comparing yourself to others.

You’ll laugh out loud and nod along 

This is a story about Imogen and Harri – both are facing those challenges but under very different circumstances.

I loved these characters and recognised the pressure they were under; many women will feel the same.

Imogen has always dreamed of writing for a magazine. Infinite internships later, Imogen dreams of any job. Writing her blog around double shifts at the pub is neither fulfilling her creatively nor paying the bills.

Harri might just be Imogen’s fairy godmother. She’s moving from the glossy pages of Panache magazine to launch a fierce feminist site, The Know. And she thinks Imogen’s most outrageous sexual content will help generate the clicks she needs.

But neither woman is aware of the crucial thing they have in common. Harri, at the other end of her career, has also been bitten and betrayed by the industry she has given herself to. Will she wake up to the way she’s being exploited before her protégé realises that not everything is copy? Can either woman reconcile their love for work with the fact that work will never love them back? Or is a chaotic rebellion calling…

I’ve been lucky, I have my dream job, but I’d be lying if I sat here and said it’s always been a match made in heaven.

I have certainly been Imogen. I’ve worked for free in newsrooms and then gone straight to crappy part time jobs to be able to pay my rent.

I didn’t know a single soul who worked in the media growing up, that means you’re doing it all off your own steam…there are no favours.

My first wage was a pittance. I spent years commuting 120 miles a day in a fiat cinquecento across the M62, hoping I’d be able to get my head down on the back seat for 20 minutes at some point during the day.

And like Imogen, there have been many, many occasions where I’ve questioned if it was worth it. 

What was all that graft for? 

What happens when the dream job is sending you under?

And my God, will it ever get easier, or will I be this tired until I retire? 

Fortunately for me, it did get easier, and I do think it’s worth it….hence why I’ve stuck with journalism and am now a news editor.

Harri, on the other hand, has been passed over for promotion (I hear you Harri, very much got that t-shirt), being moved to The Know feels like a demotion, it feels like a betrayal, and she’s devastated.

Harri feels she’s sacrificed so much of herself and devoted her life to Panache and is now questioning what it was all for and whether it was worth it.

These are women who are constantly trying to find the balance between what they want to write/produce and the intense pressure from above to deliver money and web traffic.

What both women have in common is that they’ve dealt with that expectation that you should give your all for you ideal, creative job. That you should think yourself lucky to have been allowed into the club, this is your dream gig so be grateful and do not under any circumstances complain about it.

I once worked at a place where an oft repeated motto was ‘make yourself indispensable’, it’s perhaps one of the most toxic messages people are fed when trying to build a career. 

That phrase carries the implication that you should be making sacrifices, that you should be giving more of your time and energy to a job because maybe one day you’ll be acknowledged and rewarded just as long as you’ve proven yourself to indispensable….. I hate to break it to you, but to your employer you are dispensable. 

The only people who actually believe you are indispensable are your friends and family, the people that love you for you, not what value you can bring to a business.

This is what Imogen and Harri are reckoning with albeit at opposite ends of their careers. They’re learning that their careers do not define them or give them added value. It’s a refreshing message to be left with in a world where “and what do you do?” is one of the first questions we ask each other.

My only criticism with this book, and it is really minor, is that I’d have liked a resolution to Imogen’s friendship with Jen, that story and relationship seemed to fizzle out, then again, I guess that’s what happens with a lot of friendships as our lives move in different directions.

I loved this book, I loved the dark humour, I love Buchanan’s wit and intelligence. I had a wry smile at the power structures that both women found themselves butting heads with, and understood the doubts and conflicts they had with themselves.

It’s a tale of ambition but ultimately about self-worth, because if you don’t have that, you’re on a hiding to nothing. 

Happy Reading x

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

11 thoughts on “Book Review: Careering by Daisy Buchanan Leave a comment

  1. Oh this sounds fantastic. I love books about women and careers because I think the majority of women can have a difficult relationship with their work and career. I know I massively have right now so I feel like this would be a good one for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! This sounds like such a relatable book, I love that it focuses on women and their careers – and the struggles that come with them. I definitely think it’s true that only loved ones see us as indispensable! Thanks for sharing x

    Liked by 1 person

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