Sadly it turned out I wasn’t worth the zero money they were paying me.
This happened about 18 months after I graduated. I was still working as a waiter like I had done right through university as I couldn’t figure out what I could do with my skills. I had studied Creative Technology and dabbled in many things like photography, design and coding without ever specialising, so I just felt like I wasn’t good enough at any particular skill to get a job doing ‘that thing’.
A friend told me about their role in the new and exciting world of social media (this makes me feel so old). I thought this would be perfect for me, as I could flex my ‘jack of all trades’ creative skills to make content. So, I got myself a full-time unpaid internship with a big agency.
My initial role was making content calendars and coming up with ideas for posts. I found myself mostly writing copy which I wasn’t very confident in being dyslexic, but everything I did was scrutinised before being posted, so I just 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 job isn’t for you… we are ending your internship”.
So I talked to them about being dyslexic and how I could work better if we changed some of the processes and focused on using my creative skills rather than copywriting. Their response was, “you can’t do this work… it’s not for you… pack your bag”.
I was beyond gutted and utterly exhausted from holding down evening and weekend work in addition to this full-time unpaid role. I felt utterly useless and just sat a cried in front of them. Awkward.
After the dust settled and I thought about my next career move, I began thinking about the extra help I enjoyed at university, where tutors are obliged to make concessions for dyslexic students. There are guidelines on how our work is marked in addition to extra time and support being offered. I realised that these things weren’t going to happen anymore. I was going to be held to the same exacting standards as my peers.
So, was I going to accept that I couldn’t work in social media as I had been told, no. I didn’t take their advice (stubborn to a flaw 🙋). But I made a huge shift in my attitude, from feeling like it was inevitable that I made mistakes in my writing: to working incredibly hard at mitigating my errors. I did this by surrounding myself with grammar nazis. I learned from them how to spot the mistakes I made 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 correctly has 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, 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 skills in your career which didn’t come easily and took you a lot of work to master.
#dyslexia #successtips #motivation #mystory #hospitality