Dyslexia affects approximately 15% of the population. Although the exact figures of unemployment or under-employment (people being highly qualified but not working in their preferred area) is estimated to be somewhere between 75-85%. However there is what is described as “the double empathy problem”. There’s a lot of fear and trepidation on both sides. Employers are nervous to employ someone that requires reasonable accommodations and the dysleixic employees are nervous to disclose their condition, because they will be discriminated against due to lack of education and employers having an outdated stereotype of the condition. However there are benefits if your open about your condition. Here are just a few ways my dyslexia has helped me in my career or educaiton.
Being an Employment Officer for the past 18 months I come across people having issues in work due to their neurodiversity. Having neurodiverse conditions myself this gives me more credibility than most to give advice in this area
Having gone through 135 interviews in 10 years and had questions like “would your standard of English be good enough to work here?” followed by “would your manager need to give you more support than a normal applicant” as well as having my diagnosis disclosed to an employer without my permission, there’s very little that I haven’t seen done to me, which means I can now make it better for others entering the workforce.
One of the great things in recent years about Dyslexia is people in business being more open about speaking about their neurodiversity. WIthin this while doing articles that speak to this area, we now have an amazing community of like minded people who all advocate for different types of neurodiversity, so that we can promote what each other are doing in the area.
When I was in school I did Home Economics for the Leaving Cert. I typed my Leaving Cert but even though the new Home Economics course I had to write into the practical book, which would take me 3 times as long as everyone else. This led to my teacher and learning support teacher writing a complaint to the Department of Education. In one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I was hauled into the principal’s office. Only for him to tell me he 100% supports the teachers and he’ll be getting the board of governors to sign another letter on my behalf! (20 years later I know someone who is having the exact same issue!)
Since the age of 10 I was entitled to learning support. I would not be where I am today without them. They gave me confidence to go forward and gave me skills like time management, organisation and stress relief, advocated on my behalf and gave me a dressing down when I needed it too. I wish everyone had access to the resources I had.
In all of the positions I’ve been in I’ve been a natural mentor for those with neurodiversity because I’m so outspoken on it. It’s also led to me writing several articles about job hunting, CV and cover letter preparation and interview skills, packed with plenty of hints, tips and tricks to get ahead in the recruitment process.
While unemployed l went to a meeting in Dell Technologies with The Dyspraxia Association of Ireland, who was setting up a Neurodiversity Awareness Training Program. That led to me doing a presentation on Dyspraxia in the workplace to the Trueability ERG later that year. When it became time to launch the program, a position became available on their Diversity and Inclusion team. They asked me to apply and I was successful. So without have dyslexia and dyspraxia, I wouldn’t have been able to make those connection and be successful.
Another real strength of being neurodiverse is knowing what you’re very good at and what you’re terrible at. I was always terrible at English and maths, I specifically chose college courses that would avoid both as much as possible. This led me to go into marketing, advertising and advocating for underrepresented groups. Basically put those three together and you have my current job!
While I was in 1st year of my degree I began doing presentations. I had never done them before, I hated them. My dyslexia would get in the way. So I would start reading my notes, then look at the laptop then look back at the big screen and look back at my notes. I’d completely lose my train of thought, stumble over words and stop and find my place again. I very nearly gave up college due to them. But I’m too competitive with myself! I decided to get rid of the notes, get rid of as much text as possible off the screen, and learn off the presentation from start to finish. This made me a 10 times better presenter. So much so that in my masters we had a huge presentation at the end of the course. The lectures said you can’t use notes. While others panicked I wasn’t, because to me it was just another presentation.
After I joined Dell Technologies, I was assisting in giving the training to a number of Dell’s senior leadership team. At the end of the training one of the most senior leaders asked me to stay behind. It turned out their son had just been diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia. We had about a 30 minute chat about what advice I would give (more on that later). Our discussion was in a clear glass, soundproof office beside a workplace. One of the directors walked in and said “what the hell is he doing in there with them, I’ve been wanting a meeting with them for 2 months!”
When you’re dyslexic you have to come up with ways around your dyslexia to get ahead. So I went to college and chose to do courses that were more focused around assignments rather than exams. Often these assignments would all come at once, so I had to develop organisation and time management skills, so that I could get all the assignments done. Not only did I have to get them done on time I had to get them done with 2-3 days to spare. So that my mum and/or my learning support teachers could correct the English in them and I could punch it up a little, so that I could meet the deadline.
During those assignments I was terrible for being the guy that would write 5000 words for a 2000 word assignment. A couple of times my lecturers refused to correct them until my word count was 50% over the allotted words. I began getting everything on the page and then cutting it back. When I started creating articles this made me a 10 times better writer because I could be more expressive.
When you’re from an underrepresented group in the workplace, you begin to grasp the experience of other under-preresented groups in the workplace trying to find employment. Therefore I’ve become a huge ally of other underrepresented groups, because, as Caroline Casey of The Valuable 500 says “you can’t be diversish, either you’re diverse or your not”
Now that I’ve found a fantastic company to work for. I can now advocate for other groups in Neurodiversity so that people with conditions such as autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and others I can now work with employers to coach them into how to attract, interview, hire, on-board and support people with neurodiversity, so that those with the conditions don’t have to go through what I went through to get to this place.