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A few days ago, my company ceased trading and, although I still have some work to do finishing the accounts, I am very close to being unemployed. I knew this change was coming. I’m confident that it’s the best thing for my family. And yet…

I am in limbo, facing the kind of terrifying freedom I haven’t had for years. The freedom to look for work, and actually make a choice about what I do next with my life. I made some bad choices when I began my ‘career’ – can you call it a career when you were stumbling blindly between bad choices without understanding what you really need or what your real value is?

Anyway, now it is time to choose again. The old worries resurface. Will I find anything that really suits me, Asperger’s and all? Will I make friends? Will I end up in another job that stresses me out, just for the sake of having something to do?

I am in the unusual position of not needing to work. Financially, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I just stopped. But I’m a young woman (well, 30s) and I feel like I need to work. It’s not the 60s, or even the 80s, I’m not going to stay at home and pop more children out. I want to use my brain for more than entertaining a few children. I guess I still have a bee in my bonnet about proving that I can be useful.

And that’s the Asperger’s talking again. I want to find my place in society. I want to have a regular payslip, to show that people find me useful. To show that I’m contributing to society. To show that I’m not lazy. To show that I don’t want to be a kept woman.

But for now I am still in limbo. Not quite finished with the old company. Not quite ready to face the terror of job hunting. Just thinking, and overthinking, and wishing I could be more like somebody who doesn’t think they have anything to prove.

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This week, I have a serious problem with recruitment agents. I will soon be job hunting in earnest and, while I prefer to apply to employers directly, I know that many will use recruitment agents as a go-between. Why is this a problem? Well, there are actually lots, but today I’m focusing on their narrow view of humanity in general.

The title of today’s post is a phrase that has appeared in every recruitment agent’s job advert I’ve looked at so far. To give you a context, I’d estimate that I’ve looked at 30-40 adverts over the last week.

And you know me – you know I’m not looking at sales or PR positions. I’m looking at roles related to accounting, which is a large part of what I do now and is what I’m training to become qualified in.

When I was fresh out of uni and and looking to broaden my skill set (and greatly lacking in experience) I accepted several low-paid jobs, customer-facing, requiring me to be “outgoing” and “confident”. I muddled through. I felt uncomfortable every day. Now, working with numbers, I really don’t see the need to be outgoing or socially confident. Yes, I can work well within a small team. Yes, I know how to talk with and email people in a way that is not offensive or too sharp. Yes, I can use the telephone effectively, even though it often still gives me stomach ache. But outgoing? Me? NEVER!!!

And why should I have to be? Why is this word appearing in every sodding advert? Are there no jobs for people like me? Should I just curl up in a corner and wait for death? Should I retire from stress and rely on benefits for the rest of my sad, unproductive days? What a load of crap!

Aspies – do not listen to recruitment agents telling you you need to be different to get ANY job. We CAN do all sorts of jobs. We CAN contribute to society, and to paying our own bills. We CAN function in the workplace.

If you’re using recruitment agents and you’re worried they don’t see you as a complete person, don’t trust them to find you a good job. Apply direct. Think about what skills you really have and how valuable those can be to employers. Don’t feel you have to try to conform to someone else’s narrow perspective. We are real people and we have a role in society.

Getting and keeping a job is tricky for everyone at the moment. Aspies have a lot to think about before they start applying!

I spent years thinking it would all click into place if I just kept trying and telling myself that I could do sales and customer service and talk to people on the phone. It didn’t happen. Don’t kid yourself! There is a place for you, you just have to know what you’re looking for.

The Aspie job hunter’s tick list

Genuine passion is the best motivator!

Aspies often have a particular passion and if this passion can translate to a career so much the better!

This is where education really matters. I don’t mean your qualifications – I mean you need to know your options. You may not be able to see how your hobby could become a career but very often they can and it just takes a little research online or even at the library to find out.

The type of employer matters, enormously!

I started out working in large organisations – why? This makes no sense! Open plan offices, lots of new people, lots of noise (from phones and people chatting). Awful!

Small companies, small offices (or even cubicles at a push) and small teams are the way forward. Two or three new people are so much less frightening than five, or eight, or twenty, or two hundred!

Specialise or die!

Aspies are natural experts and detailed workers. Mindless jobs are a waste of our talents and boring too. Your self-esteem (and ego) will benefit if you can specialise in something.

University or college courses, on-the-job training and personal research will help you perform and increase your job satisfaction.

Psst! Need tips for the interview?