Strengths are the whole of me

Days into the coronavirus crisis, young people throughout the UK learned that they wouldn’t be sitting their exams this year. Many were distraught with the potential impact that would have on their future career.

No sweat, I thought; exam results are just one part of what makes your career. That’s true for everyone. The Dyslexia Scotland Career Development Service Holistic Strengths Daisy demonstrates exactly this.


When I shared this diagram via a LinkedIn post, the image quickly began trending as  hundreds of other career educators picked it up and shared it with their networks. Parents got in touch to express relief, and young people found a sense of perspective about what really matters; be that during times of crisis or times of calm.


These weren’t dyslexic people. These were people from all backgrounds and situations. All affected in the same way.

This model, originally designed for dyslexic people to recognise, understand and value holistic strengths suddenly became of significance to the other 90% of the learning community.

In the worst way imaginable, this global crisis has levelled the playing field. Every one of us has a unique suite of skills, abilities, talents, knowledge, capacity to learn and adapt, and character strengths to be the best we can be, for ourselves and others. And together, the whole of these are greater than the sum of their parts. We all now have a significant part to play in making the world a better place for everyone.

The young generation, anxious this year about the effect their exam results will have on their future needn’t worry, as they will be judged not on their academic attainment of 2020, but on how they handled a crisis, and what learning they have taken in to their futures.

Dyslexic strengths, in particular, are of great value to ourselves, families and communities and society. Make the best of yours. Help others make the best of theirs.

Learning points:

  • We are more than our exam results
  • We each have a unique blend of strengths
  • Dyslexic strengths are of great value
  • We can make the world a better place together



Please see our news page which has a statement from the Scottish Government about exams and dyslexia:

Blog by Katie Carmichael, Career Coach

So, what do you do?


“I don’t cut hair” Coronation Street barber David Platt said, dreamily, in a recent episode, “I shape destinies.”

Studies show that he’s got the right idea when it comes to getting job satisfaction. Some people dread being asked ‘so, what do you do?’ Rather than feel stuck in a rut, we can mentally re-frame our job so that we can love it, rather than leave it.

Part of the Bigger Picture

One famous fable relating to this involves architect and engineer Sir Christopher Wren asking three labourers what they were doing. The first said ‘I’m working’, the second said ‘I’m laying bricks’, the third exclaimed, arms upwards, ‘I’m building a cathedral’. The third of these workers saw the bigger difference their job was making and felt he was doing so much more than making a living. Not unlike the (perhaps) urban myth when President Kennedy is said to have asked a NASA janitor about his job. He told JFK, while sweeping the floor “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

Do what you love

A true-life equivalent of this phenomenon was the supermarket bag-packer who had come to loathe her work. Run down and fed up, she craved a job where she could flex her social muscle and perform a role that enabled her to brighten people’s day. With help from a career coach, she realised a way to fulfill this was… to keep being a bag-packer. She saw an opportunity in her existing job that allowed her to use her key strengths, and her job satisfaction sky-rocketed from then on, as the focus of her day became, not about filling bags with groceries but about connecting with the customers she was serving, ensuring that her work, and the ways she engaged people, made their day better. Psychologist Martin Seligman highlights this example in his TED talk about finding authentic happiness.

Knowing your Strengths

But how do we get there, from loathing to loving our jobs? The secret is to know your strengths, to tap in to the things you do well, that make you feel happiest, and recognise the opportunities to put them in to play. This is something that Dyslexia Scotland’s Career Development Service explores with new clients, as career development isn’t just about getting a job, it’s about finding fulfillment, and sometimes that feeling is closer than you realise.

If you need a bit of help figuring out your top strengths, these self-understanding exercises are one way of helping you work that out.

VIA Strengths

Authentic Happiness questionnaire – available here.

What are your top strengths? How can you make the most of your top strength in your job, or even in your relationships and home life? How much happier would you feel overall applying those strengths?

Try it yourself. See what difference it makes to you. Tell us what changes you notice.

We have a drop-in career corner at DyslexiFest tomorrow (11am-1pm) where we’ll be chatting to people about making the most of their strengths.

Katie Carmichael, Career Coach

How to speak with your dyslexic child about their career prospects


Parents can get anxious about what their dyslexic child might be able to do for a living when they grow up, especially if school is a struggle. So, how can you help nurture your child’s career interests without over-raising ambitions or creating self-limiting beliefs?

Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology, said in his recent essay that trying to identify the ideal job is actually counter-productive because you’re highly unlikely to ever find it, and if you do, the reality of it will be underwhelming as it’s not what you’ve built up in your mind.

As a result, Grant says the main question you should avoid asking your child is ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’

There are four main problems with this question.

  1. Their responses will be limited to the few jobs they’ve been exposed to
  2. As their parent, you might inadvertently project your own unrealistic expectations or limiting beliefs and pessimism on to their ideas
  3. We have no idea what jobs of the future are – or aren’t – anyway, so we can’t begin to imagine whether jobs of today will still be around, or what other new occupations today’s children can expect to fulfill as adults
  4. They’re not likely to have just one job, but a suite of jobs, and roles that change throughout their career

Your child’s career prospects are being shaped every day by global issues beyond anyone’s control. Think back just 15 years ago. Did you ever dream that jobs like Social Media Manager, Data Miner, 3D Print Technician or Driverless Car Engineers would exist, let alone be the norm? Fast forward 15 years from now, can you begin to imagine what industries and roles might exist that your child and their differing abilities will excel in? The good news is that, according to Ernst & Young’s report on the Value of Dyslexia, the jobs of the future will need dyslexic thinking skills, and the young dyslexic people of today represent the talent solution of the future, providing their natural skills in problem solving and collaboration, and character strengths and values are well nurtured.

Farai Chideya, author of The Episodic Career, predicts that the next generation are unlikely to have the same job for life, as their parents and grandparents expected; so adaptation to change, full understanding of themselves and awareness of the changing job market are key to putting their talents to best use.

So, instead of the dreaded ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ question, the best way you can have the career conversation with your dyslexic child is to ask them ‘what type of person do you want to be?’, ‘what problems do you want to solve?’, ‘what difference to you want to  make?’ and ‘what talents will you use to do that?’ They might just surprise you. You’ll be helping them prepare for life, as well as work.

What responses do you get? Let us know.

Check out this John Oliver clip highlighting the downside of children deciding now what job they want to do.

Katie Carmichael, Career Coach


Laying a brighter career path

Crazy-Paving.jpg Dyslexia Scotland’s Career Coach, Katie Carmichael, explores how studying what you enjoy can lead to a fulfilling career.

We focus a lot on the issues of how to study, but before you even get there, do you really know what to study? And how are you deciding? We often try to decide what to study based on what job that might help us get, to plan out a direct pathway to what we’ve convinced ourselves, or been convinced by others, is the right occupation.

Keep an open mind

Road Trip Nation, career education organisation, observes that “life is only linear in the rear view mirror.” In other words, when we look back, we can probably spot the patterns and connections between our career decisions and activities, but if we expect to plot straight line to a very specific point in front of us, we might miss the real opportunities along the way as we charge down a very narrow pathway. Some of our best career opportunities can actually come about through chance encounter, as we go about doing what we enjoy and being open to new experiences.

Listen to your gut

When you’re making a decision about what to study, whether choosing your school subjects, applying for a college course or even undertaking learning for leisure, it’s perfectly ok to base that decision on your best feelings, rather than reasons, as following your intuitions can form a happier, more diverse and colourful career journey.

Lay your own path

Sir Dominic Cadbury, of chocolate fame, said that “There’s no such thing as a career path, it is crazy paving and you have to lay it yourself.” Imagine yourself making each step in whichever direction you are curious about at that point in time. Whatever stage you are at in your career or learning, you will probably have noticed that studying is easiest when it’s something you enjoy and are good at.

The reason being, that when we are really, truly engaged in what we are studying, we experience that sense of ‘flow’ that helps us to learn, feel confident and ultimately to grow and develop.

Scotland puts this in to action for young people, as the principles of Curriculum for Excellence recognise that all learning can be channelled through a subject or activity of interest, and that this builds the foundations for well-rounded human beings. This approach to studying makes for life-long and life-wide learning (and studying) success.

As there will certainly be things you know you have to learn in life or work, you can make studying have more ‘flow’ by directing the learning through a subject or activity that you are curious about, and, when you are faced with a choice about what to study, listen to what your heart wants, as well as what your head thinks.

Learning Points:

  • It’s ok to follow your heart when choosing what to study
  • Fulfilling careers aren’t always planned – often they’re discovered
  • The more enjoyable studying is, the easier it is to learn

Some further reading:

Here are some examples of people whose fulfilling careers have emerged from combining things they enjoying doing:

Did you know? Dyslexia Scotland has a members’ resource library with useful books on fun ways to develop learning, including on Literacy through Art.

This Scottish study makes a link between playing football and learning maths.

Let us know – what interests do you combine to make work or learning really enjoyable?

Katie Carmichael, Career Coach