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Work

Well hello! Sorry for the 7 month gap – I think I must have been rather busy. I’m writing now because I’m about to be even busier! I think when I last wrote on here all was well with my job, but since then it’s been getting harder and harder until now, when I am about to start something new – a new challenge, with more hours but hopefully less stress. Let me briefly recap…

Just over a year ago I started a new position – my first office job since giving birth to my second child, and my first office job where they actually knew I had Asperger’s! Double happy! But as time progressed, little problems popped up, and they got bigger and bigger until I thought “Yikes. I need to leave!” Then I had a stressful period of, maybe a month and a half, trying to find a good position that worked for my childcare arrangements. (That was HARD! I have never felt so penalised for having children as when I was job hunting.) And now, hooray, I have a new job and I start next week. Eek!

I should point out, the problems with my job had nothing to do with my Asperger’s, which is perhaps the most surprising and joyful part of it. I’ve made friends at that job. I’ve managed to stay on good terms with everyone. I’ve been able to be myself and it’s been glorious. This is the first time in my life where I’ve left a job and it’s NOT been about my inability to socialise, or form relationships, or deal with sensory overload. Do I hear a “Whoop whoop!”?

So, on to pastures new as of next week. My new team don’t know about the Asperger’s – I must admit, I chickened out of mentioning it at the interview because, let’s face it, it didn’t hold me back in my other job so… why risk it? But, the new team did see me being myself, and because it’s a small team, that should continue.

Fingers crossed! And hey, sorry I left it so long to update you. It’s still my intention to promote the positive side of Asperger’s. I hope you’re all having a good year.

It was about 5.50am when I realised I had forgotten to tell someone at work something extremely important the day before. Luckily, because this is 2019 and I am never more than about a foot from my mobile phone, I was able to send a quick email with an even quicker apology. Hopefully this reached her in time and mitigated what would be (in my view) disaster. I’m actually talking about a typo in a marketing email.

So, how did this happen?

I gave my feedback to her verbally.

How, after so many years practicing talking to people, do I still suck so much at this? I talked her through a few other things that needed to change, was happy that I’d finished, and walked quickly back to my desk.

Ordinarily for proofreading tasks, I’d mark up a Word or Google doc, secure in the knowledge that my typed communications are so much better than when my brain tries to come out through my mouth.

It occurred to me that having Asperger’s means I use more mental faculties to communicate verbally and face-to-face, which effectively sucks up valuable resource from the rest of my brain. I may have planned a conversation before I start it, but when it actually happens my brain is effectively put on a rollercoaster with no seatbelts and asked to hold on. I could also liken it to having static interrupting your radio station – making you miss valuable bits of information, or making you forget which questions you needed to ask.

I’ve had several work conversations where I’ve needed to go back later for more information. Sometimes as soon as I walked away I’d realise I meant to ask something else. So, another day, another face palm. And it doesn’t even help to know this – because how do I know what I’m going to miss next? I won’t know until I realise I’ve missed it.

I feel a strange urge to bang my head on the desk, but perhaps a decaff coffee would be kinder.

I hope you’re all having better days.

I’ve been really enjoying my new job – in a way I didn’t know was possible! The team is good, but the best bit is the work itself. I never thought I’d find a job that really fitted my intellect. As an Aspie, with chronic social-skill failure and lack of confidence, I got stuck in a loop of taking crappy low-paid customer service roles that made my brain feel like it might as well go on permanent vacation. And the stress levels were horrendous! Now that I have FINALLY found an interesting role in finance, I am starting to get excited about the future again.

Of course, my career choices weren’t just based on the Asperger’s. As many women will know first hand, I also felt it sensible to put my husband’s career first (as he was the higher earner), and focus my efforts on child raising, housework, and all that other valuable yet often underappreciated and mind numbing stuff.

Now, part-timer and relative newbie though I am (at the grand old age of 36) I am starting to get ideas. Ideas like “hey, I could actually finish that CIMA course!” and “maybe I could bring in a decent wage” and my personal favourite, “I’m actually good at something despite having Asperger’s!”.

So, how does this relate to the title of my post today?

The truth is I’d almost given up on having a career. I took time out for child rearing, and when I was ready to get back into an office I struggled so much. It was hard to find something that matched my hours. It was hard to find something that matched my skills and experience. But I kept looking because it was important to me to try. The interviews were as painful as you’d expect for someone like me, and the failures were demotivating. And all along, I wasn’t even sure if it would work out well for me, even if I could get a job.

So, in summary, if you’ve written something off that you were hoping to achieve, maybe it’s time to revisit that, and give yourself another chance. We only get one life.

Another long gap between posts – and I already used the last one to apologise!

The truth is, I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling totally overwhelmed. I suspect this is a common Aspie feeling, after all we are prone to stress, at least partly because (I think) we’re also prone to over-thinking everything. But first, (well, second now) the good news.

I got a job!

It seemed to come together very easily, and if any of you have read some of my previous work-related posts, like this one, you’ll know how astonishing that is to me.

So, now I have an office job 2 days a week, plus I still do some freelance work from home, plus the kids, plus the housework, plus plus plus…

So you can see why I might be a bit overwhelmed. I am very pleased to have my new job – I really enjoy being there! But at the same time it cuts into what was already a busy week for me. I am at least 70% staying on top of everything, but it always feels like a stretch and I’m wondering if I’ll ever get really good at spinning all these plates.

Fellow plate spinners – how do you manage? Does it get better with time?

 

It’s nearly time for my second little bundle of joy to start nursery, which means life is soon to get a lot more expensive. It also means I will have more time on my hands, which I was hoping to fill with more work. Maybe a real job, like I used to have when I was trying to fit in with all the ‘neurotypicals’. But it’s been a few years since I worked in an office, and I keenly remember how hard it was to fit in, and how I never really managed it.

Over the last few days I’ve been searching for a job that meets my available hours, skills, experience, and level of bravery. It turns out this is quite similar to squashing a sofa into an envelope. One job matches my skills but they want somebody full time. Another has the perfect hours but they want me to have a specific qualification, or experience with a specific piece of software that I’ve never used. Ooh – here’s a good one! No wait, it’s so far away I’d never make the school run. And so on…

I also found a website for freelancers… but I’m not very good at being a freelancer. I have one client and my relationship with him is brilliant. He loves what I do, and I don’t have to talk to him on the phone or video chat. The freelancer site talks about web chat and video-link interviews. I suck at interviews and I suck on the phone. My confidence is close to zero and the thought of my income relying on this is literally making me feel nauseated.

When I spoke with my husband about these options he suggested I go back to my finance studies and wait for his side project to kick off. Then there will be lots to keep me busy. This certainly solves a problem but it feels a bit lame. I have worked, on and off, with my husband and his companies for years now and it can be very enjoyable. But at the same time I feel that it’s a cop out. I can’t get a job with another employer, so I end up working with my husband.

The joblessness is not merely a result of lack of opportunity (although that certainly doesn’t help). Before I got pregnant I had a few interviews and everyone said the same thing. They were happy with my skills and attitude but they didn’t think I’d fit the environment, either because it was too busy or too changeable. One interviewer also commented that I didn’t speak enough. This is the most frustrating part of Asperger’s for me now. (Apart from being unable to make playground conversation). I know I can do the work, but I can’t get past the interview. Even when they understand that I have Asperger’s, I don’t fit the team.

One company was going to hire me, but then things changed and the job never became available.

And of course, with each passing month and year, my confidence wains. It feels like a very long time since I was in a busy office. It’s a very long time since I had colleagues that I could see 5 days a week. A lot of mums will know this feeling, because it’s nearly always the mums who put their career on hold  to have a family. So now I feel doubly cursed. Once because of my children, and again because of the Asperger’s.

I will probably go ahead with my husband’s plan. Perhaps completing my studies will give me more confidence?

If any readers would like to share a story about your employment woes or successes, please post a comment!

After the other week’s anxious exchange, and even more anxious rushing to meet some deadlines, I am in the happy position of being able to say “I did it!”.

I did not offend my client. She is still in touch and keen to keep working with me. The cherry on the top is that, so far, she is also pleased with my work. Naturally, I am still a bit anxious, after all, the project isn’t entirely over yet! My next hurdle will be to negotiate phase 2 of the work.

But, I am happy to have had some success, and I am happy not to be in such a rush at the moment. It’s very easy for people like me to skip between worries without stopping to appreciate, or celebrate, when something comes to fruition or goes well. For example, I am currently worrying about three separate issues, but I’m trying not to.

Last Thursday I met two big work deadlines and on Friday I celebrated with my daughter, sister, and nephew, and lots of cupcakes and gingerbread men. I can tell you, after some long, stressful weeks, salted caramel never tasted so good!

So, what’s next? I still have plenty to do but I don’t want to keep worrying about it all. I want to move forwards with confidence, because actually, I do sometimes know what I’m doing.

Let me remember the salted caramel a little longer.

Today, I come cap in hand looking for reassurance and guidance. I’m not too proud to admit, I’m a bit stumped today. Let me explain…

I recently acquired a new client and I have been working very hard to complete their project. It’s a copywriting project – my first non-editing role in over a year! I quoted, all was agreed, the deposit paid, and the working relationship seemed to be developing nicely. But…

Today I found out that my client thinks my quote is effectively a cumulative piece rate. She has divided my charge by the number of resultant pages and thinks this is the way forward for future work. This is not it at all – and I now have to explicitly, yet diplomatically, sort the misunderstanding out before I’m doomed to an untenable working relationship.

This happens so often with copywriting – and probably other services too. Clients don’t understand that it doesn’t come down to the number of words or pages. It’s about getting the right message across in the right way for the right people. It’s about the tone of voice and choice of words. It’s about the research involved, and the level of your copywriter’s experience and expertise. There are many contributing factors, it’s not like you’ve put a monkey in front of a typewriter and promised it one banana per page.

But that’s enough of the copywriter’s rant. My real issue here is the communication with my client. I am really hoping that my email is suitably diplomatic. I was aiming to be assertive, but not an a**hole. Speaking as someone with Asperger’s, I have no way of knowing if I’ve achieved that. Even if the client writes back and says that’s fine, I don’t know if she’s secretly fuming, or confused, or fed up.

So tell me – where’s the line between assertiveness, and that other a-word? Can an Aspie really learn to spot the difference?

PS. If you’d like to have a rant about how your professional services are misunderstood or under-appreciated, go ahead in the comments! I love a good rant.