Tackling the Myth of the Millennial | A Q&A with Daisy Buchanan
Award-winning journalist, author, broadcaster and seasoned speaker Daisy Buchanan has given talks on ambition, mental health and the issues facing Millennials in the workplace for brands including ASOS, Sainsburys and TEDx.
We sat down with Daisy when she visited us at Speakers Corner to talk about her journey as a journalist, how she’s working to tackle the myth of the millennial and her mission to modernise our workplaces.
You’re an author, broadcaster, podcaster and speaker. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
Everything begins with my love of writing. When I was little I would create home-made books and magazines at home with my sisters, and I kept doing this at school, then at university. I’ve always been addicted to reading novels, newspapers and poetry, anything I can get my hands on – and one passion fuels the other!
After a long, thrilling, gruelling internship, I became a feature writer at the teen magazine Bliss, and then became a full time freelance journalist, writing about everything from pop culture to feminism for every national major newspaper and magazine in the UK, always wanting to educate and entertain.
I’ve written several non-fiction books, I’ve just written my first novel, and then, after becoming excited about the possibilities of podcasting I launched You’re Booked, the podcast where I go to the homes of writers I love, and ask them questions about what I find on their bookshelves. We’ve topped the iTunes chart; we’ve recorded episodes everywhere from Cornwall to California and we’ve just interviewed the legendary film director John Waters. We’re a tiny team, just me and my husband, Producer Dale, so I am very proud of what we’ve got into our listeners’ ears!
You describe a deep love for the art of asking questions and listening to stories, where did that come from and how does that influence your work today?
As soon as I started reading, I realised that I connected with the books I loved because I cared so much about the characters, and I had questions that the author hadn’t answered!
I wanted to know exactly what Amy was thinking when she burned Jo’s book in Little Women, and how Matilda Wormwood’s best friend Lavender copes with being pals with a terrifying genius.
As soon as I realised that there was a career path that would legitimise my nosiness, I decided journalism was the job for me! However, doing that job really taught me how to listen and showed me that the only way to conduct a great interview is to become very present with the person you’re interviewing. There have been so many occasions where I’ve only asked the first of my (meticulously researched!) questions because the answers from my interviewee are so interesting and revealing that they have led me down a different, more exciting path.
Your speaking topics include ambition, mental health and issues facing millennials. What are some key struggles facing millennials and how do we begin to address them?
Parents of Millennials sometimes really struggle to get their heads around just how precarious life feels in your twenties and thirties. It’s a generation defined by debt – from student loans to the environmental crisis, there’s a very real sense of scarcity that generates panic.
I think the first thing to do is tackle the myths – e.g. it’s not because we’re bad with money that we haven’t made it onto the housing ladder, or that our careers aren’t as successful as others think they should be because we’re lazy. Instead to improve the situation we need to challenge these myths and respond with compassion instead of judgement.
Don’t forget we’re the generation of podcasters, campaigners, Youtubers and side hustlers. We’ve come of age in exceptionally challenging circumstances and we’ve learned to look for opportunity in unexpected places. Be kind and be curious and you might start to enjoy those opportunities too.
Companies are always looking to bridge the gap between an incoming workforce and long-standing employees. What are some ways that we need to modernise the workplace?
I think that the first place to start is with mental health – we need to acknowledge that we all have it, it needs to be approached holistically, and every single employee will have slightly different needs.
This varies so much from workplace to workplace, but I think we need to acknowledge that managing people requires a very specific set of skills, and the person who used to do the job of the person they are managing is not necessarily the right person to teach them or support them.
I think it’s vital to give employees a degree of freedom too, to trust them to do their work and when possible, not worry about where the work is happening. We need to make the office a place where workers want to be – and I think that in order to create that enthusiasm it needs to become a place where no-one feels they must be there all the time.
You’ve written 2 books, what was your aim with those books and what message do you hope to get across.
How To Be A Grown Up is an open love letter to everyone who has woken up at 3AM and been tempted to Google the word “HELP!!!!!” it’s a message of comfort and reassurance, primarily for people in their twenties, but broadly it’s a self-help book with a secret, and the secret is that we know almost everything we need to, and we’ll never be perfect, but we can get better when we embrace the fact that we’re never alone with our flaws.
The Sisterhood is all about the way women relate to each other – the intense, loving friendships, the inevitable envy and rivalry and the fact that feminism does not mean we all have to be nice to each other all of the time, but that we can work together to support each other even when we don’t think we like each other very much.
I have five younger sisters, and they star in the book, and I think our little world is a microcosm of what I see in much bigger feminist spaces. They are the only women I would kill for – and the only women I have ever wanted to kill.
If there was one message that you would want an audience to take away from your talk, what would it be?
At the risk of sounding like a big hippy, it’s this: Always be curious, always be kind. We’re so quick to judge people when they don’t do what we expect, or what we’re used to. We can only learn from asking questions, never from making statements. And cultivating curiosity and kindness means that we’re primed to share our own knowledge in a much more meaningful and useful way.
Finally Daisy, what’s next for you?
In the immediate future, I have another novel to write and lots more podcasts to make! I’m really looking forward to starting some big conversations around the subjects I cover in my books.
I’ll never stop speaking about mental health and I’d like to work on some specific content about the impact it has on our relationship with money, and on career planning and ambition. I’m just finishing a year-long challenge – I dared myself not to buy any new clothes (but I could have full on trolley dashes in my local charity shops!) so I’m passionate about practical sustainability too, and finding ways to live better without shaming anyone for their Amazon Prime habit…
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