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Graduate Story: Dyslexia and the job interview

We first met Rachel late 2017 as a final year student when she came to visit one of the University Specialist Employment Partnerships (USEP) consultants for some ideas and support about the jump into graduate work. With a great attitude and a real desire to work in her field, Rachel had concerns about dyslexia and how that might look in the workplace.

Now graduated with a degree in hand and working, Rachel is keen to let others out there who are thinking that dyslexia will stop them to know what’s possible.  She has answered some at times confronting questions about her journey through life, study at university and now into work living with Dyslexia.

What are you studying & why?

I studied a Bachelor of Science with a major in Zoology. I have a love of all animals and wanted to know as much as I could about them, and the environment that surrounds them. 

What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not studying?

I like going out with friends to observe animals in nature and play roller derby!

Did you have any concerns about what university might be like for you before you got there?

I had so many concerns about starting University, I would stress about it constantly.

Some of the biggest concerns for me were…..

  • Am I smart enough?
  • How much will my Dyslexia impact my studying?
  • Would there be a facility on campus that would be able to help me?
  • Will anyone understand me or will I be alienated?
  • Is it worth it?
  • Can I do it?

Do you often share information about your disability with those around you if yes, why? If no, why?

Yes, I did often share information about my disability with friends and people around me. I wanted them to know about it and how it affects me, but also as a way of showing them that you can be different and smart at the same time.

I would only share the information with people who would have to work and interact with me for long periods of time, such as lab partners, group work assessment, and close friends. It was also a way for me to cope and to blend in with a cohort rather than stick out and draw unwanted attention to my disability. By only telling select people I could work and get minor help without making a big deal about it. 

Can you recall any times when sharing information about your disability has been super positive – what happened?

Sometimes being honest and upfront with people about my Dyslexia can yield positive outcomes.  For example when working in a lab and having a lab partner who I trust and is happy to work with me, if have any trouble reading the instructions or I miss-spell a chemical compound. 

Having that person there to quickly read out instructions to me or help with spelling in a quick discreet way so that we can both get our work done safely is good – without having to draw attention and making a big deal over a small problem that can be worked around quite easily.

Another positive outcome to sharing about my disability would be when I’ve decided to tell a teacher about it. Some good teachers will listen enthusiastically, have ideas to help out straight away, will offer extra one on one time to help you, and most importantly just being supportive and nice about it and not treating you like you have two heads.

Can you recall any times when sharing information about your disability has not been to your advantage – what happened?

  1. I have shared information about myself and my Dyslexia to class mates when paired up for activities and I’ve had people laugh in my face and say “that’s not a real thing, you’re just covering up for being retarded or stupid.”
  2. I have told someone I thought I could trust and rely on to help out in class, only to have them avoid me by always partnering up with other people, siting far away from me, excluding me from class discussions.
  3. I have told a school teacher and they’ve said “Don’t care what your excuse is, you’re not going to get anywhere in life and be a burden on society.”

If the whole world could know or understand something about your condition/disability what would it be?

That It’s not contagious and I can be just as smart as everyone else, I’m a little bit slower and just think outside the box.

What are you mostly worried about moving into getting a graduate job after studying?

Will any work place even hire someone with a disability, how will I be treated in the work place, and how do I tell my soon to be Boss that I have a disability?

What are you mostly excited about when finishing university and getting into work?

I’m excited about being able to be a part of something bigger to improve and provide better  knowledge to the world, and being able to work with new and exciting people.

What’s the main type of support you think would be useful to you when looking for graduate work?

Information on how to bring up the fact that I have a disability to a new employer, when is a good time, what I should or shouldn’t say.

Do you feel comfortable sharing information about disability with a future employer when needing workplace adjustments?

I am a little shy and hesitant but I know it’s going to help and will make things easier for the future if I do it myself.

How would you go about it?

I’d try and find a quiet time where I can speak one on one about it, trying to be confident and positive hoping that they would understand.

Rachel has since started a new role working in her chosen field.  During the interview Rachel successfully hosted the conversation about dyslexia, and received that gratifying ‘successful’ letter.

From her USEP consultant Zandee, Rachel accessed support to build up confidence and skill in having the discussion about dyslexia with an employer, and one-on-one support to apply for roles – alongside some general positive encouragement in what is a nerve wracking period of time!

Rachel’s current role is matched to her degree, and is a fixed duration contract in a competitive field.  If no extension is forthcoming or available, Rachel now has access to a dedicated consultant to work together to keep the career on track.


University Specialist Employment Partnerships (USEP)