Looking for graduate jobs with dyslexia: "I've been called stupid on numerous occasions"

Molly Catterall
Freelance Writer

It's Monday morning and I am sat staring at the computer with another job application staring back at me. My mouse lingers, hovering over the equal opportunity’s form. The words ‘do you have a disability?’ whisper in my ear. Question marks bouncing in front of me, I take a deep breath, unsure whether to leave the box unticked…

This wasn’t the first time I had been scared to disclose my dyslexia, but hopefully, it was the last.

Ever since I was young, I have struggled with spelling and grammar, but little did I know I had dyslexia, a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing, and spelling. Looking down at a page the words would swim, like fish in the ocean diving and twisting through the water.

According to the British Dyslexia Association, dyslexia affects around 10% of the British population, making it one of the most common learning difficulties.

For myself, I struggle primarily with working memory, processing skills and spelling. Frequently when asked to spell I would do so phonetically making it hard to notice mistakes. Dyslexia doesn’t affect your intelligence, but I've been called stupid on numerous occasions.

Growing up, spelling tests were my biggest dread. The way words formed never seemed right to me. Once, in a test, I had managed to score 1/10. Delighted, I read my score aloud, but my heart shattered as the class erupted in laughter. I don’t think people realised just how important that score was to me.

Throughout my childhood I hoped I would grow out of this 'bad habit’, however after a longwinded process of tests, I was finally diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 15.

Now I’m an adult, looking for work as a writer and journalist like many other graduates out there. Except I have these difficulties which I’ve been programmed to be ashamed of. 

Once, during placement, a woman asked me: “Why are you doing journalism if you can’t spell?” Sadly, this isn’t the only negative comment I have received concerning my dyslexia. I have been told as a result of my learning difficulty: “I don’t think you’d be very good at journalism.” 

"I get someone to proof job applications to spot and amend any mistakes before sending them off."

But thanks to my support network, my family, friends and tutors have each instilled a belief in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. From being laughed at or hearing negative comments regarding my ability, I never in a million years thought I’d be able, never mind capable of going to university. But I was able to show to myself through hard work and dedication anything is possible; going on to achieve a first-class Hons degree and later a distinction in my Master’s.

Searching for work is hard enough, but doing so with dyslexia brings another challenge. Many students and graduates like myself find themselves worrying about informing potential employers about the condition, fearing assumptions and how they might be judged or even rejected on the basis of their condition.

However, it is stated under the equality act (October 2010) you have the right to be treated equally in employment. Employers are therefore obliged to make reasonable adjustments to help you in both the recruitment process and managing work, such as receiving extra time, coloured overlays and speech to text software.

Despite the apprehension, revealing you have a learning difficulty is completely your choice and can happen at any stage of the application process. By law, you are not legally obliged to disclose a disability, especially if you feel it won’t impact your ability to do a job.

Despite being different, I use my dyslexia to strengthen myself. Choosing to disclose dyslexia may be difficult, but it provides a good opportunity to talk about your strengths which shows your resilience. I inform potential employers when it feels right to do so.

Over the years I have adapted methods to help my dyslexia. As someone who struggles with spelling, I get someone to proof job applications to spot and amend any mistakes before sending them off. Alternatively, read-back software is a great way to listen out for any mistakes.

Regardless of the hurdles and negative comments, I have been on a journey of acceptance. But by no means have I allowed these obstacles to prevent me from persevering. Over time, I have learned to love and laugh at my mistakes. Although dyslexia can be difficult, it hasn’t meant employment is impossible. Trust the process and trust your own abilities. The right job will come your way – you’ve got this.