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Dyslexia and careers

It is believed that one in ten of us is dyslexic.

Dyslexia is not a barrier to success as demonstrated by Richard Branson founder of Virgin Group, IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, actor and comedian Whoopi Goldberg, former CEO of Goldman Sachs Gary Cohn, John Chambers, former CEO of CISCO, actor Keira Knightley, and a whole list of Hollywood names.

Dyslexia can offer a unique perspective in navigating the competitive graduate job market. Graduate applications, CVs, cover letters, assessment days and interviews can be opportunities for growth even if reading, writing and spelling aren't your strengths.

Dyslexia does not manifest in the same way for everyone. Some individuals may struggle with spelling and grammar, others with ordering their ideas or clearly structuring sentences which can make giving examples in interviews more difficult.

You don't have to face these challenges alone; there are numerous empowering strategies and tools available to support you. Embrace resources such as mind mapping and voice-activated software, which can be your allies in achieving success.

Seek help from others with writing your CV and cover letters and when preparing for interviews.

Obtaining this support will enable you to focus on your strengths and recognise the strengths you have as a result of dyslexia.

Play to your strengths. Lots of dyslexics are creative, visual thinkers and much more besides. Focus on these traits and back them up with examples in your applications and interviews.

The information below discusses show some of these strengths and also goes through some of the considerations when engaging with the recruitment process for people with dyslexia.

Skills and strengths with dyslexia

Dyslexia presents differently for each individual. These are some of the strengths and skills that you can look for within yourself:

Seeing the bigger picture

People with dyslexia often see things more holistically, taking in stimulus and information from the wider environment/sources and synthesizing these to form an understanding. This can be useful for enabling strategic thinking, a quality that is highly sought in graduate roles.

"Perhaps my early problems with dyslexia made me more intuitive: when someone sends me a written proposal, rather than dwelling on detailed facts and figures, I find that my imagination grasps and expands on what I read." - - Richard Branson, from Losing My Virginity: How I've Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way, Times Business, 1998

Interconnected reasoning

Interconnected reasoning is the ability to make connections or see similarities such as analogies or causal relationships as well see and understand multiple perspectives. Individuals capable of interconnected reasoning can get the "gist" or big-picture context surrounding an event or idea, enabling them to identify new and innovative connections and provide insights that others may miss.

Many people with dyslexia work in highly interdisciplinary fields or fields that require them to combine perspectives and techniques gained from different disciplines or backgrounds.

Improved pattern recognition

People with dyslexia can have the ability to see how things connect to form complex systems, and to identify similarities among multiple things. Such strengths are likely to be of particular significance for fields like science and mathematics, where visual representations are key.

Pattern narrative reasoning

Many people with dyslexia tend to remember facts as experiences, examples or stories, rather than abstractions.

These individuals excel in fields where telling and understanding stories are important, like sales, counselling, physiotherapy, trial law or even teaching. In addition, a large number of professional writers are dyslexic.

Dynamic Reasoning

Dynamic reasoning is the ability to reason or make predictions in settings where the facts are incomplete or changing. This skill is linked to interconnected reasoning and the ability to see the bigger picture. Individuals with these strengths often work in business, financial markets or scientific fields which reconstruct past events, like geologists or palaeontologists. These people are comfortable working with processes that are constantly changing, and in making predictions.

Finding the odd one out

People with dyslexia can excel at global visual processing (seeing a visual stimulus as a whole) and the detection of impossible figures (optical illusions). They can look at large quantities of visual data spot the things which are out of place.

There are so many people with dyslexia in the field of astrophysics that it prompted research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Findings confirmed that those with dyslexia are better at identifying and memorizing complex images.

Thinking outside the box – problem solving

Those with dyslexia are well known for having sudden leaps of insight that solve problems with an unorthodox approach. This is an intuitive approach to problem solving, easing around a problem to let connections assemble.

Good spatial knowledge

Many people with dyslexia demonstrate better skills at manipulating 3D objects in their mind, meaning individuals excel in areas such as art, sculpture. Many of the world’s top architects and fashion designers have dyslexia.

Picture thinkers

People with dyslexia tend to think in pictures rather than words. Research at the University of California has demonstrated children with dyslexia have enhanced picture recognition memory.

In an increasingly visual world of infographics, memes and online advertising, this could be a strength in communicating with others.

Highly innovative/ creative

Many of the world’s most creative actors have dyslexia.

Pablo Picasso (Artist)

Picasso was described by his teachers as “having difficulty differentiating the orientation of letters”. Picasso painted his subjects as he saw them – sometimes out of order, backwards or upside down. His paintings demonstrated the power of his imagination, which was perhaps linked to his inability to see written words properly.

Ikea's Founder – Ingvar Kamprad – was influential in creating distinct furniture assembly instructions, which largely consist only of images. These visual instructions can be universally understood, and have contributed to the company's worldwide appeal.

Good verbal communication skills

Despite possible weaknesses with reading and writing, many individuals with dyslexia have developed great verbal communication skills.

Persistence and determination

Many individuals with dyslexia are persistent and determined. Some things might take a bit longer or are harder to work through and understand. Having got this far to University, you will have already shown these qualities.

Collaboration and teamwork

Understanding divergent ways of being, and thinking about your own experience, can also help to make you more aware of others’ experiences.

By knowing your strengths, we can help you to nurture them, and enable you to develop your skills and continue learning and progressing.