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I haven’t written for over a month and it’s all because I’ve been sworn to silence. The company I used to work for is no more and I am now in charge of my own company. It’s all been rather busy and stressful but now, I am finally in a position where I feel we are getting there.

By ‘there’ I suppose I mean reaching a resolution. Perhaps another week or two of being incredibly busy and on a tight budget and then – hopefully – breathing a sigh of relief as things settle down.

For an Aspie, big changes like this can be especially challenging, and I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to hang on to some familiar things. The new company is made up of people I worked with before, and we are maintaining a lot of the same clients too. Instead of an office in the middle of town, I’ve been working at home.

If it doesn’t work out, then I’ll really be at sea. I’ll have to find a new job with new people.

This is plenty of change for me! I’ve been fulfilling new roles, and taking on new responsibilities. It’s been a real learning curve, and I’ve had no time for my studies, which I’m very keen to get back to.

Just a few more weeks, and maybe I’ll be back on an even keel. I hope so.

My husband highlighted this news story to me, about how Microsoft are planning provision for hiring people on the Autism spectrum. They are working with Specialisterne, a company that specialises in getting autistic people into the workplace.

The statistics quoted in the article surprised me. I didn’t know we were such a large part of society, but knowing this makes me even more excited about what opportunities may arise.

I know from experience that it can be very difficult to make the right impression in interviews, and fit in with colleagues, even if you only have a ‘mild’ form of autism. No wonder so many people on the spectrum struggle to gain and keep employment. What a waste of talent!

Our jobs market is far from ideal, even for those without social differences such as Autism and Asperger’s. Finally, there is help available and some recognition of our innate talents, rather than focusing on our difficulties.

If you’re on the spectrum and need help finding a job, perhaps Specialisterne can help you?

If any of my readers have experience with the company, or any advice on employment in general, please add a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

O, and good luck with your job, job hunting, or training.

 

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.

Do any two words put together cause more consternation for someone with Asperger’s?

A few years ago I was told I had to attend a team lunch. I actually trailed behind the group and went AWOL, telling them I’d received a phone call and then forgotten where I was meant to be going. Of course, that was when I worked somewhere I really hated. The whole team didn’t like me, and I grew to dislike them very quickly. No bonding lunch would have ever improved things.

Now I work with a good team – I do like them, at work. What I don’t like, is anything outside of work. A social lunch, or after-work drink is awkward. What’s worse, is the latest idea for our team bonding day. The latest idea is – wait for it – bubble football. I am being asked to actively hurl myself against people I work with and only vaguely know, but because we’re all in inflatable bubbles, apparently that’s fine.

I wouldn’t want to play bubble football with anyone – least of all people I need to face up to at work every day. It won’t bring us closer together, or make me want to open up more and include these people in my life. We’re colleagues. There is and should be a line of professionalism between us.

In the past (in my present team) I’ve gone canoeing and clay pigeon shooting. This is fine. No physical contact or eye contact required.

What’s the worst team building experience you’ve ever had? Have you ever made a terrible excuse to get out of one?

Last week I wrote about something I consider a classic Aspie ‘failing’. The chronic clumsiness, stemming from a lack of spatial awareness. Today I want to write about something positive – what I consider a classic Aspie strength. That is our ability to apply logic.

Over the last week I’ve had a couple of tasks to do at the office, which basically amount to helping clients organise their projects. Imagine you’re faced with the following request:

“We need content for the new website.”

It’s really quite a big demand and when people see or hear it they sometimes get a panicked look in their eye. Sometimes they’ll write it down and nod and not even start to consider the can of worms that statement represents. Then, sometimes weeks later, they’ll start to look at it in more detail.

This is where I came into the equation to help a few clients out.

Case study 1

What content do we need?

  1. Compare the previous website (source material) with new sitemap and wireframes to determine what new source material is needed.
  2. Add any questions or pointers to the list to help the subject matter experts gather the right information for me to edit later.
  3. Send the information as a clearly written list to the client.

Case study 2

What do we need to provide first?

  1. Repeat first two steps from case study 1
  2. How much of the outstanding content is needed to launch the site?
  3. Consider which information is likely to take the most time to gather and edit – this is higher priority.
  4. Consider which items will be supplied that won’t need editing. The simple copy and paste information. This is low priority.
  5. Talk to project manager to see if specific dates can be targeted, according to your prioritisation schedule.
  6. Communicate requirements clearly to client.

The ability to break down a request and create logical steps to fulfill it has always been very useful to me and I’m often surprised by people who seem unable to do it. Logic may not be the sole preserve of people with Asperger’s but we are known for using it a lot.

That makes sense. After all, it is logical to be logical, isn’t it?

I am trying to streamline my life. This is because I decided I wanted to do more, so I think I need to focus my efforts.

I’m not known for being organised, in my activity or my thoughts. I think people on the autism spectrum generally have a hard time arranging their ideas coherently and Aspies are known for not keeping their important paperwork in order.

I am no different. If it weren’t for my partner, my whole life would be chaotic. As it is, maybe only 30-40% of it is.

As my days veer through ideas for clients, new blog posts, laundry, things to do with the toddler, career development, friends, worrying about ISIS, and what to cook for dinner tonight, it is apparent that there is too much going on. The best cure for this seems to be taking action.

  • Worried about a friend? Do something nice for them.
  • Wondering what to cook? Make a plan and then cook it.
  • New blog post or career opportunity? Take steps towards fulfilling it.
  • Laundry? Find a slot in your diary and type it in. Then do it!

Clearly, this active approach won’t offer a solution to bigger worries such as terrorist activity. The same goes for getting angry about gender inequality. I can have all the imaginary conversations I want and I still won’t have found a suitable course of action. This is why I am not in charge of a major world power. (And I suspect there are many other reasons). I imagine that, if required and he weren’t busy running the country, David Cameron could keep on top of his own laundry schedule.

However, I can act in smaller ways to help me let go of worries and the annoying scattered thoughts which fill my mind, waste my time and drain my energy.

To that end, I’ve applied for my course and been accepted. Now I just have to wait five working days (!) to access the course material.

I realise this is a very long-winded way of giving my news. But if I streamlined too much, it would have been a very dull post!

If any of you have read my last three posts, you may have noticed I’m a bit concerned with work. Also, thanks!

Today, I marched into the office wearing a smart outfit, and sat down at my desk with a mission. Please note, I almost never bother to take the time to be smart. I do not march, either. I usually sit at my desk and wonder what I’ll be doing in between coffee breaks. So, what’s new?

I am considering re-training for a new career. I will always love copywriting and I will always want to do it but my personal circumstances (i.e. the fact that I hate meeting people and don’t live in London) mean it will probably never be a good full time career option for me. So, I’m thinking about studying for a new qualification and getting up close and personal with numbers instead of letters.

At the moment I am full of enthusiasm but I know there will come a time, probably about 8pm on Friday, when I want to stare at Eastenders instead of my laptop, when I’ll rub my eyes and say “maybe tomorrow?”.

But, I know I’m good with numbers. I know I’m analytic. I know I have a good eye for detail. If I can just fight my innate laziness surely…

Today I am flirting with change. By next week, we might be engaged!

 

I have been contemplating the human need to be useful, with three examples.

1) Even my toddler likes to help clean up spills, put rubbish in the bin, and wipe her own nose. She’s not even two – she could be ‘reading’ or playing with her building blocks but no, she chooses to come and help me pick up the rice she dropped on the floor.

2) A man with learning difficulties now works at a local cafe. He’s a bit slow to take your order but he’s lovely and he gets it right. He clearly takes pride in his work and I’m always pleased to see him doing well.

3) I once had a job where they ran out of work for me to do. I was the only person who seemed to think this wasn’t OK and, after a few weeks of being told to “read the intranet” and solving sudoku puzzles, I moved on. The work hadn’t been very interesting but I missed it when it was gone and I had to sit staring at my screen all day!

I recently heard that the UK is one of the least productive countries in Europe. It’s ridiculous. Humans clearly want to be helpful and useful and to actually DO stuff. Are we badly organised? Inefficient?

With so many people packed inside our borders, and many more keen to come here, it feels like we should be the most productive, per square metre!

Doesn’t everyone get a chance to be productive?

Perhaps we are all waiting for the right chance, like the man at the cafe. In which case, do we need to change our attitude, or the organisation of the whole country? 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my career lately, and how I’ve always felt kind of disappointed with it. I’ve been in the world of work for just over a decade and things never quite seem to click.

Even now, I’m doing something I love (being a copywriter) but I still feel like I’m running against a brick wall because of my Asperger’s.

I chose past roles with the aim of improving myself and working on my natural limitations. This meant team work, dealing with members of the public, sales, everything that doesn’t come naturally to me.

Now, my role is more suitable, but because I am partly freelance, my Asperger’s is getting in the way of getting clients. So, when I’m busy, everything is wonderful. But when I’m not, I feel like I’ve failed and my life has no purpose. And work really does seem to be full on or dead at the moment. I have a week being busy and then three being flat. There’s no consistency in my workload and no consistency in my job satisfaction.

How has being an Aspie affected your career? Are you walled in or did you break free?

My life has a structure. My days are either with my daughter or at work, that is the main division in my life, the primary organising principle. Days with my daughter are split into activities, meal, and sleep times. Days at work are split between clients and activity types. This continuous stream of order doesn’t leave much space for chaos. The word only occurs to me now because of some of my clients.

As a writer, my view of each project is only part of the picture. I glean other snippets from colleagues, but my principal understanding is of the content requirements. In my mind there is no need for disruption, confusion, or chaos, and yet…

Things keep changing. Data and requests come in that don’t make sense. Resources are reissued, without change, with no explanatory comment.

I receive each new task with a sense of bewilderment. I complete my work, and wait for the next round of confusion.

Is it because I only see part of what goes on, or are some of my clients genuinely running around like headless chickens? If so, what has caused this chaos? Is it a lack of resource, or logic?

I am perplexed by chaos because I cannot see any good reason for it.

So, this is my post today. No insight. Just confusion shared.