It turned out I wasn’t worth the zero money they were paying me.
This happened 18 months after I graduated. I was still working as a waiter figuring out what I could do with my skills. (This bit makes me sound old) I thought the new and exciting world of social media would be perfect for me. I could flex my ‘jack of all trades’ creative skills by making content. So, I got an internship with a big agency.
I started out making content calendars writing copy, which I wasn’t confident in being dyslexic, but everything I did was scrutinised before being posted, so I got on with what they gave me. After a few weeks, they pulled me into an office and told me, “you make too many mistakes… this isn’t for you… we’re ending your internship”.
I talked to them about being dyslexic and how I could work better if we changed some processes and focused more on utilising my creative skills. Their response was, “you can’t do this work”.
I was beyond gutted and utterly exhausted from holding down evening and weekend work to compensate for this full-time unpaid role. I felt utterly useless and just sat a cried in front of them. It was brutal and extremely awkward.
After the dust settled, I began thinking about the extra help I enjoyed at university, where tutors are obliged to make concessions for dyslexic students. I realised this wouldn’t happen anymore. I would be held to the same standards as my peers.
I didn’t accept that I couldn’t work in social media (stubborn to a flaw 🙋). But I changed my attitude from feeling like it was inevitable that I made mistakes; to working incredibly hard at mitigating errors. I did this by surrounding myself with grammar geeks. I learned to spot the mistakes that spell check missed. Like my favourite grammar meme says, “It’s the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit”.
I got better, really fast, and it dawned on me; the extra help I got at university actually held me back. I had for too long just accepted that I was bad at writing, but I realised that it isn’t just dyslexic people who find writing hard. Spelling is easy to check, but grammar is complicated, and capital letters are a minefield. Everybody who wants to write clearly and correctly needs to work hard at it every time they write.
Now I am by no means the person you should come to for a final proofread, and I make sure everyone knows this. But I am incredibly proud of my writing now, both technically and creatively. People come to me for help making their copy more exciting and engaging. I am not a copywriter as my main gig, but I work with many small teams, and I can wear that hat.
I also learned from all this that just because you aren’t naturally good at something, it doesn’t mean it isn’t for you. So let me know in the comments if you have developed skills in your career which didn’t come easily and took you much time to master.