Monday, January 5, 2009

a tadpole amidst a sea of frogs.

I had a frighteningly eye-opening conversation with my dad a few days ago - a general summary of what he told me:

"You've made so much progress thus far, but I can't understand how you'll possibly survive in the work world. You forget appointments, you're disorganized, and you are stuck in these one-sided generalizations about work. The frustrating thing is, though that you refuse to acknowledge them and work on these issues. You're driving yourself into a deep hole, _______ - you're creating a handicap for yourself where you'll be incapable of working."

Now I'm not a religious person, but let me pray to God that none of this is true. I've had such big dreams for years, and if his words are entirely accurate, and I do nothing about this, then I will be incapable of accomplishing those big dreams. I've been pushing myself through school my entire life to get to where I'll be within 5-10 years, and if all of my efforts thus far turn out to be completely fruitless, then what am I to do?

I hate to admit it, but I do see some fact behind his words. He means well (even though the general statement above is a bit harsh) and he wants nothing but the best for me. Let's face it: I'm awful on the phone, I have difficulty schedueling appointments and calling back people (and furthermore, knowing when to do so), and I can't understand people's expectations unless they explicitly tell me what these expectations are. This may cause a number of problems with employers in the future, you know? 

Of course, I would ideally like to run my own business to not be beat down by a higher authority (this is what gets to me), but doing this even involves skills that I don't yet have. I'm taking my traits into consideration when doing this - and it really is possible - a solitary environment where I'm surrounded by my own creativity and a few close employees and business partners is really all I need.

Finding the success I will need to support myself, however, requires people and organizational skills I don't yet have. I really hope I get there. There's nothing wrong with recieving an SSI from the government but I would like to be able to say I've gotten this far on my own. I guess I'm stubborn in that sense, heh.

Maybe I will go to some of those Asperger's group meetings my dad keeps telling me about. I used to be terrified of them when I was younger, as it's taken me years to adjust to the idea of having Asperger's and standing out due to some of these traits. I'm still not completely adjusted now, but I think going to meetings like these will help me get there. I'm still young, so there's still time, right?

If I start now, hopefully I'll be okay. I would be interested in hearing about others' experiences with adjusting to the work world, if anyone reading this is interested in sharing. Ta-ta!


Gavin Bollard said...

The workforce is a strange thing and as young adults, we often feel that we can change the world.

Those plans usually all come crashing down around us once we realise that we have to work as part of a team. A team that usually won't have the same goals as us.

After all, idealistic goals are usually geared towards the greater good while business goals generally seek the greater profit.

In addition, many businesses have bureaucratic structures which ignore anything innovative on the basis that it is different.

The sad fact is that by the time you reach a position of power, you're usually a "corporate thinker" and the spark of innovation is gone.

Even aspies who do reach a certain level of power often find that they have to either relinquish that power or accept that others simply won't do the same quality work that they expect.

I'm sorry to crush some of your dreams but there's really not much hope, particularly for idealistic aspies, in the corporate world.

That's not to say that you won't be able to find a great and satisfying job or that you can't become one of the flukes (Bill Gates etc) which occasionally develop.

Set your sights on an achievable goal for your first years in the workforce and try not to stress out too much. Don't worry about trying to change the world... instead, find a way to enjoy what it can offer you.

LizzieK8 said...

Find a job that meets your needs rather than change yourself to meet the job's needs.

An Aspie acquaintance is a librarian. He works at a prison. He is "ordered" to have minimum contact with the inmates. A perfect job for him. He loves being a librarian and he gets to be one in place he doesn't have to deal with people.

Another person has a job in another library shelving and cleaning etc., after hours. Loves being around books, etc., doesn't have to deal with people.

At 56, let me tell you, find the job to suit you, don't spend years trying to change yourself to suit others. It doesn't least not for long.

Fleecy said...

A couple of things to keep in mind (and these are going to be incredibly general statements, since I don't know what kind of career type thing you have a goal of).

First, even if you aren't good at doing something (like having poor organizational/time-management skills), doesn't mean you won't ever be able to do that job. It just means it might be harder for you, and you might need help (from people, or from things like appointment books, PDAs, that kind of thing).

There are many, many people (more than not, I suspect) who are not organized and not good at remembering things. That's why people invented things like PDAs.

But there is also to keep in mind that sometimes a person can work really hard at doing something, and just not be able to do what they wanted after all. It can be really disappointing, but it's better to find out when this is the case so the person can find something else they can do.

So basically I guess, give the job you want the best shot you possibly can, but have a backup plan in mind in case it just won't work out.

Did your dad give any practical advice as to how to improve on these things he said you aren't good at? It's good to mean well and tell someone they need to work on getting better at something, but if a person isn't good at something, how will they have the skill to teach themselves how to do it?

Anonymous said...

You've done a great job of articulating your goals and acknowledging what you still need to work on. And although your dad's words seemed a bit harsh, it's very much in your interest to have someone who loves you be so direct with you.

I made a living in the corporate world as a technical writer for many years. I had to learn many of the same skills you do--how to organize myself, how to relate to people in a work environment--and I was able to do it. Remember: it's not that you're incapable of doing these things. It's just that they don't come naturally to you. You haven't learned them by intuition as neuro-typical people do.

But you're a very upbeat person who tries to see the positive side of things, so you've already got an advantage there. Don't lose that quality, because it will power you on to what you want to do.

There are some things that you won't be able to do. After all, AS or not, everyone has his/her limitations. Ours just happen to have a name!

pink said...

Thank you all for your thoughts. I think that, by worrying about these problems now, I'll be able to work with them in the future. I'm hoping to work towards the creative end of fashion design, and I'm going to school for this. This choice seems to be the right one for me - I can't see myself doing anything else. I can work well with other people, but I'm worried that if I fall into a job with a particularly nasty boss (as a lot of the fashion industry is rumored to have), then it may destroy me. A lot of these jobs are, unfortunately, high-stress, and since I'll most likely be working one of these in my earlier years, I'll need to better manage my stress and be capable of producing work above their expectations - fast. It's an acquired skill, I guess. Based on where my school is directing me, I think I'll be ready in time.

Next year, I'll be taking business classes as well, and I'll make sure to find extra courses which can help me with my weakest points (if not already offered in my core requirements). I do think, with the right amount of promoting and management, small business can really work and help you succeed, which is what I'd like to gear my skills towards. Of course, I have yet to learn how to do this, but with time and a lot of hard work I think I'll be all right.

Thank you for all of your advice though! Hearing other perspectives really means the world to me, because it helps me see more realistically what I need to work on. Thank you!

Dennis Sanders said...

Knowing that you have Aspergers is half the battle. Part of this means that you have limitations, but you also have advantages as well. Learn both and then find a job that fits.

Of course, it isn't that simple. But I think knowing this and telling others helps. Before I was diagnosed I was stumbling from job to job. I felt like I was garbage. Then I got my full time job maintaining and designing the website for a church organization- it was perfect because it fit me.

I'm also a pastor and work part time as an associate pastor, doing the website and some other things that I am good at. Again, it fits and aspie like me. But if I didn't know myself, I might have ended up in a position that wasn't good for me.

It's not going to be easy for you, or anyone with Aspergers to navigate the working world, but it can be done. Learn to use things like PDA's or online calendars to remind you of things (I've had to do that myself since I have the same problem). If you have a hard time on the phone, contact that person via email first. It just means learning some things that come naturally to NTs.

And the know that there are a lot of people out here who are here to help as well. Take care.

Cathy said...

I agree with so many things the other posters said but the strongest concrete advice I can give is to ASK others what their expectations are. Before learning about my aspie traits I would wait for them to tell me or try to analyze it on my own but then you are setting yourself up for a high rate of failure. It has worked wonders with business relationships. I am 54 and just discovered my aspieness.

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