I have been struggling for a long time trying to find a job. Lots of cover letters and resumes have gone out over the last 3 years. The only thing my efforts resulted in was an inbox with some rejections, some automated responses saying that “They will contact me if they find a match” and for some of the resumes I sent out, I never got a response at all.
My partner helped me:
We thought through some ideas of why I was not getting favorable responses. She helped me write excellent motivation letters and as she suggested, we removed most of the information you can use to figure out how old I am. Ageism is a real issue. I think the reality is that there are many applicants out there, both women and men who have great academic backgrounds and they have been in the workforce for ten to fifteen years so they have a lot of experience and they are not autistic. After three years of looking, I did not get one call. Zero interviews.
The US Unemployment Rate Statistic: at least 85% of adults that are autistic are unemployed and have a college education.
This rate unemployment rate increases as autistics age. I have an associate’s degree but no bachelors.
My past jobs have varied greatly. I left home at an early age and the only person I could rely on was myself. I started working very young by lying (I did not feel good about lying but I needed a job) about my age on an application. From there my life was based on surviving. I went from job to job burning out (back then I had never heard of burnout or autistic burnout) Really bad burnouts happened a few times through the years and I was hospitalized. I would eventually recover and go through the process all over again. I knew that there was something wrong or different about me but I did not understand what it was.
When I was in my early 30’s I went to a therapist who asked me to write down all the jobs I had had on a large piece of white paper. The list was long. Too long according to her. With that many jobs you would never be able to settle down into a routine. A solid routine she told me was a good friend to people like me. I understood her “people like me” comment as all the people who also had lots of jobs like me. That was not what she meant. Many years later when I called her asking for some advice, she told me she thought I was on the autistic spectrum and “the people like me” comment was for that. By the time I had placed that call to her I was already aware that I was autistic.
Working with others:
I noticed over time the people I worked with in the same position as me and hired around the same time as me would move up or go to other companies in a better position. I might get some success but ultimately it would not last long. For a while I would bounce laterally but not really up into a better position with higher pay.
I was in my mid-twenties and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. I worked hard. I tried to act as I saw others act but in the working world, I did not have the energy to maintain a job. I continued to see people who did not work as hard as me make it into better positions. No matter how hard I worked or how I tried to network I could not break out of the job loop that I was in.
The pattern became very apparent when I worked in film for television commercials. After a job or two I would not be asked back and I would have to go and find another production company and try to get a job there. When I would finally acquire another job, I thought I needed to work harder. Working for 24 to 30 hours straight became common for me. I did not know it at the time but my long-haul hours did not impress anyone. It just added to the peculiarity that surrounded my persona. It just made me tired and a few times this type of behavior put me in the hospital or under a doctor’s care.
Fast forward 25 years:
As you know I have been actively looking for a job for three years. I even worked with an organization who helps autistic people find a job and that did not produce anything. The process was frustrating and it became very difficult to wake up each day with the idea of finding a job after trying for so long and getting nowhere.
And then one day my partner saw that the post office was hiring. I applied and was hired. This was back in November of last year. I learned how to deliver mail in the worst part of the winter and at the busiest time of year. It was rough some days and I found the job difficult when I had to deliver the mail up and down a busy street. Way too much stimulation. I worked hard trying to be accurate and do the routes in the time allotted by the mail app. My biggest challenge became if there was a stray letter or small package that was out of order in a bundle I would want to go back on my route and deliver it. Officially if that happens, you’re supposed to bring it back to sorting and put it through the mail system again and it would be delivered another day. This was really challenging for me because during the holidays there were many out of order letters and packages and I needed to deliver them so I had completed the route successfully. There were some evenings that I could not go back on the route because it was raining, cold, and dark. It took me about two months to get used to the job. On the positive side I loved memorizing the route numbers and names on the letters. It felt good to map a route and know it so well I could tell you the house number of all the different Cramer’s on a given street. I also liked it, because once you leave the mail pickup location, you deliver the mail alone. Last week after three months on the job I finally felt good about my work. I was finishing my routes as fast as I could and I felt more at ease.
And then things changed:
Last Thursday my manager (a very nice manager) asked to speak with me privately and told me that I was too slow on my routes and he had many people who could deliver the mail faster than me so he could not justify me on his payroll. He also added that he had enough slow people on his roster and again he could not justify me. The last bit about slow people is that there are people who have disabilities and they have been delivering mail for years. The difference between me and them is that they may have a similar disability to mine but they have been working for years for the post office and my manager inherited them when he took over the routes.
This coming week will be my last week. It’s supposed to rain and be cold.
I am curious to hear if you have had or have now issues with work and getting and keeping your job. Please feel free to write something in the comments.