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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 holdĀ  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!

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Job interviews. Ick, ick, ick!

Imagine, someone with aspergers, not socially confident and fully aware of their shortcomings, competing alongside tens or hundreds of others. These others will mostly not have aspergers. They may have other issues but the vast majority will be ‘neurotypical’ and that means stronger social skills and perhaps even a ‘bubbly’ personality.

In my experience employers like bubbly people. They like socially confident individuals.

So many times I smiled, nodded and tried to persuade people that I loved working as part of a team and was great with customers. It was complete rubbish and most of the time they either saw right through me or just weren’t wowed by my attempt at social confidence.

It has taken me a while to discover what jobs are actually suited to my skills and personality. It’s important to try and match the job with your actual personality – not the personality you want or the one you think you should have! But let’s assume the job and company are just the ticket. What next?

Interview Tips

Shaking hands won’t come naturally but it’s easy to get it right. The tricky parts of interview body language are maintaining eye contact and avoiding what I call ‘face freeze’.

Eye contact

  • I don’t use direct eye contact. I stare at a point between the interviewer’s eyes which makes it look as though I’m meeting their gaze.
  • Don’t stare but try not to let your eyes roll all over the room as the interviewer will find it evasive.

Face Freeze

It’s hard to always know how your face is supposed to look. People expect your expression to react to what they say and to what you say but this doesn’t always come naturally either – hence the face freeze.

  • Nod, smile, raise eyebrows – not all at once!
  • Practice your reactions in front of the mirror (imagining your interview is happening), or practice with a friend to see what they think.

It may sound as if I’m advising you mimic the ‘neurotypicals’ and deny your true self. The idea is to reassure the interviewer that you’re capable of communicating and listening – which is true.

The natural tendencies of those with Aspergers syndrome are inclined to be misunderstood by those who don’t share our traits. That is why we need to adapt our behaviour, we need to translate and make efforts to avoid misrepresentation.

If you have any job interview tips aimed at aspies, or would like to offer an employers perspective, please add a comment!

Psst! What happens when you get the job?