Statistics state only 4% of adults with an ASD diagnosis are in employment.
In the last six months I have applied for twenty five positions, had fifteen interviews and twenty four rejections!
In theory I am employed, I have a zero hours contract and since gaining that position six months ago I have had less hours than one weeks full time work over the full six months period! Certainly nothing you could actually class as earning a living.
I am great at my job, I know that and on the odd occasions I get the opportunity to show others what I am capable of I get told I am a natural, and really good at what I do. I have loved every second of the few hours of work I have been able to get. Those precious few hours left me wanting more.
I am good at written applications. That definitely isn’t an issue.
So why can’t I get a contract for regular hours?
That is the question I have been wracking my brain for weeks trying to answer.
I am good enough to fill in for staff that are off ill often at a moments notice but not good enough to do my job on a more frequent basis. That is the message I am getting.
I know I totally screw up job interviews, even donning my finest neurotypical mask can’t hide the fact I have a communication disorder and a very different brain to others. I struggle with eye contact when anxious.
I can’t hide my Aspie brain enough.
I say all the wrong things, can’t process the interviewers questions quickly enough or remember them long enough to answer properly.
Or totally miss understand the questions because I think too literally!
An example being…
”Why have you applied for the position?”
So I once actually gave the reply “because I want to model for my children the importance of working to break the cycle of poverty and unemployment my family have become trapped in, to show them that employment and hard work will give them a better life.”
My answer was true that is essentially what drives my ambition to have a decent job. I want a better future for myself and my children.
What the potential employer wanted to hear though was why I was particularly suited to the position I had applied for. A totally different answer altogether.
It is no use realising hours later what a particular question actually meant.
You see the problem?
In an attempt to combat these problems I decided to write prompt cards with all my strengths along with other points that come up frequently in interview questions in the area of employment I want to work. Plus examples I have of relevant experience. All in my own words.
I though this a good idea. It wasn’t.
I always ask for feedback from interviews, the last one, where I was brave enough to use my prompt cards said I needed to believe in myself more and apparently all of the few candidates the potential employer chose to interview were employable and suitable for the position but I was still unsuccessful. They felt my responses were sometimes scripted.
The other regular feedback I get is I don’t have enough experience.
I have even been told I need to smile and not be so serious!
That last interview actually came close to breaking me and I mean really breaking me. I felt I had done well. I nearly didn’t go in the first place because I am so fed up of screwing it all up. I had got to the point of seeing attending interviews as pointless.
I am a really positive person and the picture in my head kept telling me not to give up hope.
I don’t know how I can believe in myself more?
I pushed myself through three years of studying because I knew I could do it because I wanted to work in a particular area. I apply for job vacancies because I believe not only can I do the position I would be one of the best. I know I can do better than many already in the job. I do believe in myself!
Some of my responses may have seemed scripted, I have twenty three screwed up interviews for experience, where I later find myself frustrated at some of the stupid things I have said, if sticking to a script actually gets me through then why is that wrong?
As for experience I have over seventeen years plus related relevant qualifications.
On needing to smile, you try remembering to smile when you are trying to follow and process questions, not screw up answers and trying to make some eye contact.
Every time the hardest part is explaining to my children I didn’t get that job.
I preach to them about studying hard to get a good job yet can’t prove it to them.
One of my children asked if it is because I have ASD. I told them of course not, it is just a case of I wasn’t the right person this time.
I can’t keep putting myself through this. It is so stressful and exhausting. It is soul destroying.
No matter how far I come it is never enough.
Every rejection leaves me feeling like something inside me has died, my internal light dims every time.
I cried through a full box of tissues and wanted to hide away from the world forever that last time.
Hiding didn’t work for long I had to put on my brave face and attend a child review meeting that same afternoon, I struggled through the meeting, trying to hide my feelings, I have no idea how that child is getting on at school, my brain was too shutdown to take anything in properly.
I have decided I am not applying for any other jobs. Not for a long time. Even the picture of hope in my head has well and truly gone.
I really tried,
I wanted to be like everyone else so badly. To have a career. All I was asking for was one chance.
I wanted to be included, I wanted a place to belong.
I can’t be someone I am not though and ultimately I think that is why so few adults with ASD are in employment, as a society we have ASD awareness but actual acceptance is a long way off.
I am a wife, a mother and a carer and I am going to have to learn to accept that is all.
We can’t compete. Potential employers won’t give someone who has ASD a chance over someone who is neuro typical. The whole traditional system of recruitment is unconquerable to those with ASD. We fail at the first hurdle.