The employable Aspie

I’ve seen some Facebook comments from people with Asperger’s talking about how difficult it can be to find, and keep, a job. I think our communication difficulties can hold us back, making us give less than perfect interviews, and making us struggle to become ‘part of the team’ (see last week’s blog for more on that!).

But, we are usually intelligent people, quick to learn, and mentally capable of performing a range of tasks with considerable skill. I have found it easier to enjoy my job (and stick at it), since I started a role that makes good use of my intelligence. This has the double effect of keeping me interested, and making me feel like an important part of the team.

My previous jobs were all the sort of thing you didn’t need specialist skills or knowledge to start. Of course, I had on-the-job training, but anyone vaguely presentable with an IQ of  at least 100 could do them. I got these jobs because I was well spoken, vaguely presentable, and didn’t have the confidence or verbal communication skills to aim higher. Consequently I got bored very quickly and didn’t feel like I had a good reason to be there, or that I had much in common with my colleagues who tended to be all NTs, very bubbly and sociable (except for when I was around).

So, here are my top tips for finding a job you can actually enjoy:

  1. Be an expert – find a job that interests you and learn what you need to know. I was going to write “pick a topic” but actually, you need to have a role in mind or you may struggle to focus your studies effectively.
  2. If possible, find a small company, or a small team within a company, to work for. You could also search for work-from-home jobs, but good ones are rare! The option to work for a small company may not be available, depending on your location and chosen role-type, but being in a small team makes a big difference. Two people are less intimidating than 10, or 100, and you’ll find smaller companies can be more flexible and friendly in attitude. The downside? You’ll probably have to work harder to find vacancies as small companies are less likely to use recruitment agents.
  3. Use recruitment agents with caution. They have been known to consider their bottom line over your well being and suitability for a role / company.
  4. If you have friends who are Aspies, ask them about their role and employer. Are they happy? Maybe you’d like it too?
  5. Be honest in your interview. This is good advice for anybody, but I think it’s especially important for people with Asperger’s. If we lie, and say we enjoy teamwork, meeting new people, or whatever else you think they want to hear, then this job is not going to make you happy! If they really need a people person, let them know that’s not in your skill set. It’s better to be honest and make a good impression, even if you don’t get the job, than to lie, get the job, and have to leave in three months’ time due to stress.
  6. Remember that having impaired social skills does not make you a second-class citizen. Everyone has weaknesses, and strengths. In the right role and company, you will fit.
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