As I read my last entry I am reminded of the anxiety, self-doubt and depression I felt at that time. Unfortunately, transitioning into the workforce can be a very stressful time for someone with Asperger’s. But, I am here to tell all you Aspies out there that there is hope for us in the workplace, I did indeed land my dream job, but not for lack of hard work!
After my last entry I gave up on trying to look for a job and applied for ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program). After about 6 months of unemployment, I started to realize I had more to contribute then what I was offering at the moment. I knew I wanted to work but I needed to be more prepared this time around. I started with lots of research.
I discovered that there are a few places out there that are willing to help you find a job. Contact Hamilton and ODSP have employment supports that were a huge help to me in areas such as determining the right job, improving interviewing skills, and help keeping a job. They also encouraged me to review the Employment Equity Act to be aware of what I was entitled to and to make sure I knew how I was to be treated in the workplace. Temple Grandin was also influential for me at this time in her work on finding jobs for people with Asperger’s and Autism (I put a link to this at the bottom).
I applied to jobs in the computer programming field. I had 5 interviews and this time (through Grandin’s advice), I did let the interviewers know about my Aspergers. None of them knew what it was, and after they found out, 4 of the interviews were very short. One interview however, went very well. I ended up getting the job – I am now a computer programmer!
The past 6 months at my job have not been easy. Although I am doing something I love, there are always going to be outside influences I will have to compete with. My co-workers are finally realizing that I do not make small talk; in fact I dread the morning walk to my desk knowing I will have to say “Hi” at least 10 times. Being in large groups of my co-workers overwhelms me and I can’t join them in the lunchroom and need to ride the elevator solo. There is a new social challenge I have to face everyday and I just need to accept this and find ways to cope.
I think the biggest lesson I have learned in this whole experience is that not all of us are created equal and we can’t all adapt to the same working environments, nor should we be required to. I have grown up thinking I am the one who needed to change to be like everyone else, but in fact there are instances when others need to be more accommodating to me, and work is one of those. My manager and I have been learning together as this is a new experience for both of us. He has accepted that I don’t perform well working closely with my coworkers and has found a quiet place for me to work. I also let him know that my anxiety increases when I’m in group situations and he has allowed me to skip out on our team meetings and have a one-on-one meeting with him instead. Email has also been a very useful tool for me to correspond with my coworkers and clients as I am much better at conveying information and thoughts through my writing.
Aspies do have a rightful place in the workforce. If I could give 2 pieces of advice, it would be to stick to your interests while knowing your limitations, and finding an accommodating work environment. It is not an easy path to take and there will be obstacles in your way, but so goes the life of an Aspie.
Here are 2 links which I found very helpful;