There’s a lot in the media at the moment about how low the employment rates are for people on the spectrum. While I know people with ASD personally who are having a real struggle finding work, I wonder how many people with undiagnosed ASD are managing to hold a job down or maybe even thriving?
My Asperger’s/Aspie-like traits have certainly influenced my career. Once I’d learned the rules of interviews – the ‘correct’ answers to all those weird interview questions that you’re not actually supposed to answer honestly – I managed to get jobs quite easily. I certainly didn’t thrive in most of them though, as I hadn’t twigged all those other rules that you have to follow in order to do well on a day-to-day basis.
Self-diagnosis has brought with it a much better idea of what works for me and why, and I try and manage my work in line with that as much as I can, although I still keep my self-diagnosis secret from colleagues. I’m fortunate that in my latest role – postdoctoral researcher – which I’ve been in since February, I can work mainly from home. I go onto campus about once a week. I don’t live nearby, and the commute wouldn’t be practical for anyone on a daily basis, but it’s manageable for a day here and there. I know that on that day, I’m not going to be productive beyond the first few hours. I’m in a shared office, and although my colleagues are lovely, they are pretty distracting. They usually come in a bit later than me (most of us are part-time, so work around other commitments), and there’s quite a bit of chatting. From that point, I do what I can, and figure that the time I spend doing research-related reading on the train makes up for what I don’t do in the office.
I also know that the day after going on campus, I function at about 50% of normal level. A lie-in will improve things, and it’s important that I don’t schedule anything too intellectual for that day. Initially, this job ran alongside another part-time job (a contract that’s now finished – this is the job that I was struggling with in the last couple of blogs I wrote, and I cut it down to part-time hours when I got this job) and sometimes the demands of that job, where I had to be out client-facing quite regularly, were draining. I find university campuses easier to deal with than business environments. There are lots of people who don’t ‘fit the mould’ in academia, and being a bit odd is less of an issue than elsewhere.
My challenge is how to replace the part-time job that’s finished. I don’t want to replace the research job with a full-time role somewhere else because I really enjoy it and it’s adding some good stuff to my CV. I’m hoping to find some part-time university teaching, and am writing ebooks. I’ve also set myself up to do my old job on a freelance basis if the opportunity arises, although that’s more of a common sense thing than something I particularly want to pursue. There are a few bits of work coming up for that, mostly statistical analysis, at home. Just my sort of thing!