1. working endlessly for a job you used to love and now resent entirely
2. knowing that a little of your soul is inextricably tied to the work you do
3. moving in a way that feels out of control
There’s a fine line between on the right track and coming off the rails.
Harri has poured her life into her job at Panache magazine, losing friendships, the love of her life, and increasingly, her sanity. She knows it will all be worth it when she gets the top job. Until she’s side lined, passed over for promotion and forced into running ‘a new venture’, which everyone knows is code for ‘being pushed out’.
Imogen has had to hustle her whole professional life to cling onto an industry that favours the privileged. When Harri offers her a job, putting an end to her constant sofa-surfing, she feels like all her dreams are coming true. But her fairy-tale ending soon sours as she finds herself putting more and more of herself into writing for a company that doesn’t care if she sinks or swims.
Harri and Imogen both thought they loved their jobs, but it is becoming increasingly clear that their jobs do not love them. Together, they stage a rebellion the only way they know how. But what will the view look like from the other side?
“SOME PEOPLE THINK YOU MOVE TO LONDON BECAUSE YOUR IDEAS FOR YOUR LIFE ARE TOO BIG, BECAUSE YOU’RE ARROGANT ENOUGH TO BELIEVE YOU MIGHT GET NOTICED, BECAUSE YOU WANT TO BE SOMEBODY. THEY DON’T REALISE THAT MOST OF US END UP HERE BECAUSE WE NEED TO FEEL LIKE ANYBODY – OR NOBODY. WE NEED TO DISAPPEAR. WHEN I LEAN AGAINST THIS WALL, I AM NOT JUST A DISAPPOINTING DAUGHTER, A DISLOYAL FRIEND, A FAILING WRITER. I’M JUST ANOTHER GIRL IN A WINTER COAT, RUNNING A LITTLE LATE FOR WORK.”
Hilarious and unflinchingly honest, Careering takes a hard look at the often toxic relationship working women have with their dream jobs.
The story moves between Harri and Imogen, reflecting opposing sides of the toxic workplace. Harri, an accomplished editor in her late forties, and Imogen, a twenty-something sex blogger and intern at the same magazine as Harri. The pair are brought in to work on a new online publication, which is packed full of obstacles. Harri is up against tight budgets and illogical, ever-changing rules from a senior management team who are desperate to see her fail. Meanwhile, Imogen is eager to make a name for herself in the cutthroat media world.
While both women are dissatisfied with their jobs, they are at different stages in their career. Harri is navigating the heartbreak of both being a widow and losing out on her dream promotion, which leads her to begin considering pursuing her own ambitions. Imogen, however, is only just getting started and having tasted early success, is hungry for more – even if it means watching her hometown friendships implode.
Perhaps the reason that I enjoyed Careering so much is because I could relate to it. Having started out my career with stints in publishing and journalism in my late teens before transitioning to PR agency life, I’ve had my fair share of ‘interesting’ intern experiences. Careering gave me mild PTSD to my time in publishing, evoking the days of being sent out on coffee runs, being scolded for existing, eating lunch alone, freezing outside as I waited for the Evening Standard print distribution point on the street to be topped up, and the classic crying in the loos!
The reality of ‘dream’ jobs is a funny, hearbreaking thing. I’ve experienced it in the comms world too after landing a role at what I believed was my ‘dream’ consultancy. The company itself was well-respected and one of the best of the best in the industry. While I learnt a lot and am thankful for the experience, I was lonely, miserable and cried a lot. I liked that Careering explores how tricky it can be once you get your dream job and the rose-tinted glasses come off and then you’re hit with the realisation that sometimes it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Much like Imogen, I’ve previously let fancy companies with a lot of prestige and industry power shape my self worth. I remember colleagues panicking that they only had X amount of years left to be listed on 30 under 30 and feeling like a failure because that wasn’t even on my career checklist. Should it have been? But I’m not even 25 – have I still got time? It drove me crazy with career paranoia!
Careering was a hilarious ride down intern memory lane, but it was also really comforting. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re starting out, and I appreciated how Buchanan touched on how burnout, self-esteem struggles and imposter syndrome are common issues regardless of rank and background. Don’t get me wrong, Careering is a story about the London career gal. The long commute hours, the restlessness to fulfil every ambitious career goal while still being in your twenties, the terrible dates with hipster creatives and the nights spent regretting your every life decision in the pub.
Buchanan makes some effort to add some occasional thought-provoking moments about women in the workplace, as well as classism and misogyny. However, it’s nothing extraordinarly profound or deep, and it’s clear that Buchanan isn’t trying to be that kind of book. Instead, Careering is like a warm hug. A reassuring pat on the back that everything is going to be ok and that you are worthy of love and respect regardless of what you decide to do in life.