Sunday, 17 January 2016

Career planning for Aspies

Can Aspies have a career plan?

This is a question very much on my mind lately, as I sort through my muddled employment history, juggle multiple part-time jobs, and wonder what on earth comes next.

It's not that I don't have skills.  I have lots, some of which someone might even conceivably pay money for.  But being a can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees type, as detail-loving Aspies tend to be, I struggle to pull them all together into something that looks good on a job application.

Some people on the spectrum have had success with jobs tied to their special interests - Temple Grandin being the obvious example, and John Elder Robison's first career in music electronics.  But I've always been leery of this because special interests aren't carved in granite.  As we grow and age and change, our obsessions can too.  It'd be dreadful to have to engage for eight hours a day with something you used to love but now can't stand the sight of.

Like the rest of the population, our jobs depends on our skills too.  My main splinter skills are to do with language and verbal skills, and that's led me to various wordy things from journalism to PR to hosting trivia nights, and whatever comes next will probably be wordy as well.

The environment of the job is something we need to keep in mind too, around both sensory and social pressures.  Some workplaces, like hot, dusty mine sites or busy newsrooms with multiple TVs and radios going can be so sensory hostile some of us simply won't be able to work there, regardless of our skill. In the media, there are the many huge and often fragile egos that tend to cluster there and the extra social shenanigans that come with those.

And that's before we think about the trouble finding work in the first place.  As well as the general unemployment rate, and trouble finding work commensurate with your skills, people on the spectrum face some specific problems finding work:
  • Tending to have smaller social networks, meaning we're less likely to hear about or be suggested for jobs on the grapevine
  • Trouble selling ourselves, like my problems turning my various skills and experiences into an overall employable narrative
  • Social anxiety making job applications and interviews harder
  • Specific and unusual skill sets limiting the number of positions we're skilled for
  • Plain old fashioned discrimination.
What's the answer to all this?

There isn't one: there are multitudes.  There are as many as there are people on the spectrum working, or not working, or thinking about working.

So, over to you: Are you employed or freelance, entrepreneur or happily salaried?  Do you change jobs often or have you stuck to the same once since you left school? Are you between jobs and looking? Maybe you can't work, or choose not to?  Sound off in the comments: