Those of you that have been following my blog may remember just before Christmas I wrote the blog entitled ‘Work, support and fear of failure‘. It reflects on the fact that my internship and first official job had come to an end and the fear that faced me about going out into the unknown.
I didn’t know how long I would be an unemployed graduate seeking a new job.I feared the fact that my dyslexia and dyspraxia may be an issue for a potential employer. However the job hunting only lasted a month before I found myself a new job.
Hope and succes
7 weeks ago I was lying in bed feeling sorry for myself that I was unemployed and it didn’t look like I would find something any time soon when I received a text from my brother who was at work.
His text directed me to an advert that showed that a hotel in my town was seeking a marketing manager. This was perfect, as you know from my last blog I just graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Marketing and this hotel is a 5 minute walk from home, I never thought I’d be so lucky.
I sent in my CV and hoped for the best. About 4 hours later I received an email inviting me for an interview early the following week.
I went for my interview and he told me I would hear from him in a day or two. When he got back to me he told me the job was mine if I wanted it and I would start the following Monday.
This was fantastic, I found a job a lot faster than I thought I would, it’s close to home so I don’t need to travel and its exactly what I studied at college.
A lot of responsibility
As Marketing Manager I have my own office, I report directly to the owner of the hotel and I have the freedom to set my own workload rather than being told what to do by a manager.
I have responsibility over setting hotel room rates and availability online. I must put together and implement a marketing plan for the hotel.
I will be developing a brand for the hotel so that all marketing activities and material from adverts down to information packs in the rooms portray the same feeling and message.
I must develop and improve all marketing material from brochures to information packs. I must design adverts and choose when to advertise, where to advertise and what to advertise.
I am responsible for the digital element of the hotel from social media to the website. I will need to look after a lot of the hotels PR and get people talking about the hotel in a positive light and finally I will be looking after and organising events in the hotel to help increase foot flow and cash flow.
Should I tell about my dyslexia or proff myself?
This all sounds fantastic and after the first 5 weeks I have settled in and I love working there but there is a part of me that wakes up every day anxious and nervous.
I am open and honest with you all in my blogs and I was open and honest with everyone in college about my difficulties but this is the working world, this is different and as a result I feared telling the hotels owner about being dyslexic and dyspraxic in case he didn’t understand and presumed this meant I was slow or stupid.
I decided that I would not tell him until I have proven myself capable to him. As a result I still haven’t said a word about being dyslexic or dyspraxic.
How does one approach the topic with an employer? I know I’m admitting to the general public that I still haven’t told my own boss that I am dyslexic and dyspraxic and you’re probably thinking I’m better off telling him before I go discussing it in a public blog but I don’t know how to approach the topic.
If I call a meeting with him to tell him, it sounds like I’m making a big deal of it and he may think I’m incapable and this is why I would rather prove my capabilities to him before I let him know my difficulties.
On the edge every day
A point I have often made is the fact dyslexia and dyspraxia are with you for life. Just because I’m finished education (for now, I may return for a masters someday) doesn’t mean I no longer have difficulties.
I still have a very bad level of reading comprehension and I find myself sitting in my office reading documents allowed to myself to try and listen to it as if someone else were reading it to me.
I still have to read things 5 or 6 times before I understand what I read. I still have fierce bad hand writing. I still have all the difficulties, only now I’m in the working world and not sitting in a class in primary or secondary school or college.
I still have all my difficulties but I no longer have my supports. I no longer have Larry my amazing note taker. I no longer have the safety net of the disabilities office to fall back on if things are getting too tough, to ask for some extra support. As a result a part of me is on edge every day.
Saved by the phone
Already I have found myself in situations I found quite uncomfortable. I was passing reception one day and the lady there stopped me and said she had drawn a blank and asked me how to spell something.
I froze on the spot remembering the fact I failed every spelling test I ever sat in primary school. Before I could even think of something to say the phone rang and she answered it so I took off.
I was also asked to proofread something one day and again I began sweating instantly and a mini panic set in where I was arguing with myself in my head.
One part of me was saying, you need to tell them your dyslexic and that will help avoid these situations. Another part of me was saying, you can’t tell them, not until you are here a while and you have proven that your capable of doing your job by showing increased visitor levels from this time last year.
While I stood there frozen on the spot arguing with myself my phone rang, I saw the number and said, this will be a while you better get someone else to check that for you. That’s twice I have been saved by the phone, what happens if it doesn’t ring next time.
I’m asking for your advice
It is estimated the 10% of the general public are dyslexic, but despite this volume you would be amazed at the amount of people who don’t know what dyslexia are.
There are also quite a few people who think they know what dyslexia is but in fact they have actually picked up the common misconceptions and as a result they presume I lack intelligence, I’m a slow learner, I’m lazy or even that I see and read backwards.
Due to these common misconceptions it’s a lot more difficult to tell your boss that you have dyslexia than you would think. If he is one of the many people who believe the previous about dyslexia then you wouldn’t blame him if he began to think he employed the wrong person.
I began writing my blogs to give people advice and support but today I find myself asking for your advice. Have you found yourself in this situation before? How would you best advice approaching the conversation with an employer?
Finding a way around
Just because I have not told him does not mean I am unable to do my job. After 22 years of being dyslexic and dyspraxic, 9 years since I’ve been diagnosed and 6 years since I truly began to understand and accept my difficulties I have managed to develop techniques to help me overcome my difficulties.
For example I know if I am verbally asked to do something there is a very high chance I won’t fully remember the message and as a result I won’t be able to complete the task I was asked to do.
To combat this I always ask if I can have that in writing. There are a number of ways you can subtly do this at work. If I am on the phone discussing something important at the end of the phone call I always say “can you email all of that information on to me please as I’m heading into a meeting now and don’t have time to take not of everything we discussed”. This way I have all the important information in writing to read over as many times as I desire.
If my boss (the owner of the hotel) asks me to do something I use a similar trick by asking him to put it in an email as I have a few things to do at the moment and an email will remind me to get around to it.
By doing this I flag emails as important when they come in, and only after I have read and understood what he asked me to do and completed the task I then remove the flag from the mail marking it as important so I know I have finished it.
Dyspraxic: To-do lists
Another trick I learned that helps combat my difficulties is creating to-do lists. With a to-do list I start my day by checking everything I need to do.
I work my way through this list in order crossing off details as I complete them. This is very helpful for those with a heavy work load as the physical action of crossing something off can be quite satisfying and it defiantly helps self-motivation as you can see you’re making progress.
As I work my way through the list anything new that comes in gets added to the end of it. At the end of each day I finish work by going through this list, I then write into my diary a description of everything I completed in the day and I write a new to-do list for the following day so it’s not messy with bits crossed out.
Keeping a diary is also a very helpful trick. By keeping a diary if your boss ever asks you to show him what you have been doing you can refer to your diary to check what you did each day.
It also helps if you want to remember when you completed a task or requested something or submitted something, by referring back to your diary you know exactly how long you have been waiting for something.
Dyspraxic: Reminders on my phone
Another trick I find useful is to set reminders. This can be helpful both in everyday life and work life. I know I have a short term memory as a result of my dyspraxia and as a result I would forget my own head if it wasn’t stuck on.
By setting reminders on my phone I no longer forget about meetings or to send emails to someone, or phone someone, or even deadlines for submitting adverts.
My phone is so much more than a phone to me at this stage. It’s more like a personal assistant that beeps to remind me of something nearly every 30 minutes.
For those of you who work in front of a computer all day I presume you have outlook open in the background so you can monitor your emails coming in. Outlook has a fantastic reminders system on it just like your phones that will block of time in your calendar for meetings, remind you of anything you ask it to and you also have the added benefit of knowing you’re not going to misplace your computer like you may do your phone.
Understand my difficulties
As you know life with dyslexia and dyspraxia can be tough. Whether you like to hear it or not there is no medicine or magic wand that can make your difficulties disappear. But something that is vitally important in overcoming and coping with your difficulties is to firstly understand them.
When you are diagnosed as dyslexic you receive a name for your difficulties and you become entitled to supports. As dyslexia affects different people in different ways there is no handbook that comes with your diagnosis that outlines what you will find difficult and how you can face this difficulty best.
As a result it is very import I think that you understand your own difficulties and learn how you cope best with these. You will have these difficulties for life so the sooner you understand them the better.
If I didn’t understand my difficulties I wouldn’t be able to work as my difficulties would make it too hard. I know I need to get everything in writing, I know I need to keep a diary, I know I need to keep a to-do list, I know I need to set reminders for everything, I even know that I find it easier to read size 14 text using font style Calibri and printed on baby blue paper.
I find when I’m reading this way the word sit on the paper a lot easier and as a result I can read it better than I would size 12 on white paper (which is what most people use).
Overcoming my difficulties
I have also discovered that the endless hours I spent in the library in college to study for exams have not exactly ended. I will always have to work 10 times harder than everyone else in order to overcome my difficulties, but I have decided as long as I enjoy my job I won’t mind working harder.
My hours are supposed to be 9 until 5 but I have already found that I’m finishing work later and later every day in order to get through the workload and I even found myself still in the office at 7:30 last Friday evening.
I know my life will never be easy but I also know that I have achieved a lot already in my life already because I am capable of overcoming my difficulties.
Play to your strengths
I also believe when it comes to work you should choose something that matches your strengths. After all you are going to spend a significant portion of your life working.
Dyslexia as you may know is a combination of strengths and weaknesses. A lot of dyslexic people are very creative, we have the ability to think outside the box a lot better than non-dyslexics, we are good problem solvers and there are other strengths too.
This is one reason Marketing always appealed to me. Marketing is almost an art, the best marketing campaigns and adverts are the creative ones where the designer thought outside the box. These campaigns and adverts get people talking which is what marketers want.
If people are talking about your advert or your product or service as a result of your advert it means that you are in the consumers mind and next time they need to purchase what you sell you will be the first company they think of.
Marketing suits me down to the ground, I would not make a good accountant, I would not make a good engineer, and I would defiantly not make a good journalist with all the reading and writing that’s involved.
One of the best ways of coping with dyslexia and dyspraxia is to play to your strengths and that is exactly what I do and why I have managed to achieve so much in my life so far.
For now I am happy to report that I have found myself a job I enjoy and one that I feel is worth the all the effort and stress. I feel this next chapter in my life is going to be a good one and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog, until next time,