An issue that often comes up living on the spectrum is jobs, how to get them, and how we manage at them. Like with everything else, I describe the reality of the spectrum experience is different than what one might expect. Jobs have their own subcultures and those subcultures often don’t include you. When someone applies to a job, it is usually a job in a field they have had some experience with and thus they are accustomed to the mores and aesthetics of the interior culture. When they come in, the workforce welcomes them. Yet, on the spectrum, even if we have experience, we’re often not welcomed. The degree to which we are depends on the particular subculture with, unsurprisingly, college-educated liberal people being the most accepting. That means entry-level jobs are more difficult for us because the cultures of those workplaces tend to be less educated and more conservative.
Someone from a less woke culture is less likely to take excuses that one has accommodations one needs respected. For example, florescent lights are a common complaint by spectrum people and a more educated and liberal person is likely to understand it while a less educated person is going to assume it’s petty and fake and may even become angered with the spectrum person for expecting “special treatment”. They have a Middle-American “common sense” and if they don’t see a disability then it’s made-up just like all those “welfare queens” who fake poverty and who could work but don’t. Even if there are some educated liberals in more blue-collar workplaces, there are not enough to shift the culture leftward enough to matter sufficiently. That’s not to mention things like bullying and hazing which are much more tolerated in the less woke gutters of the blue-collar and entry level worlds.
That means a few things, there is an entire section of the job market that is effectively barred to us to a significant degree and, unfortunately, that section is where we would have to start and that means our resumés are much thinner going into the professional world. If an aspie goes into accounting, they’re less likely to have worked a cash register. If they’re going into sales, they’re less likely to have worked in retail. And so on. That is in addition to the fact that in college and in K12, we may have received few or paltry special needs accommodations which means, despite our intelligence and skill, we may look worse on paper than we actually are. Our GPAs might be lower, we may have failed some classes, we may have taken longer to graduate, and so forth. So, there are multiple impediments to autistic employment even before an interview is scheduled.
The stereotype is that we lose at the interview because of our social skills. The reality is that lots of us can manage an interview but by the time we sit in the chair for one we’ve already been outcompeted by most of the other candidates. We’re dead on arrival. So, in short, you can’t get a job in a liberal enough workplace to accept you because of how you look on paper despite your qualifications in terms of skill and expertise and it’s difficult to get a job lower in the market because those jobs are dominated by less educated and more conservative workplace cultures that are likely to not accommodate you, are more likely to haze you, and more. It’s a system and a cycle that’s difficult to escape from and an insult to our dignity and our humanity as much as our wallets.
It is struggling to get recruiters to overlook for you what they don’t overlook for other people. It is begging them to do what they feel in their gut is unfair. It’s desperately making connections, trying to avoid looking desperate when you’re desperate, and trying to charm people with all of the socials skills you managed to earn. You can’t make it on paper and in the bureaucratic world we live in, people are ever less willing to overlook that. Marketing yourself to the job market on the high-functioning end of the spectrum is a struggle unlike many others. On the low-end, they get accommodations because their condition isn’t invisible. Ours is largely invisible and society is far less sympathetic to your condition when it doesn’t see the scars. We do what we can and we fight as hard as our strength can push but, for a lot of us, the other side wins and we lose and that’s a lot of the reason the autistic unemployment rate is so high.
4 thoughts on “Why Are Autistic People So Unemployed? An Aspie Explains the Reasons.”
It’s a rough situation to be sure. It’s on my mind heavily because my son (on the spectrum) is now in high school. It’s impossible to tell when he’s going to excel and when he’s going to languish–well not impossible. We didn’t really expect him to do well with distance learning during the pandemic and yes, it’s been a struggle. When I think about my first job, my father pulled strings to get me in the door. It took a few false starts but I eventually excelled. Because of my own social deficiencies, I don’t have the connections to swing something like this for my kid. Reading blogs like this helps me understand what may be coming our way. Thanks for writing.
Thank you! I’ve written a lot of blogs about life on the spectrum that may help you with your son. I’d advise you to subscribe. I try to dispell the myths and stereotypes and give an accurate first-hand account of spectrum life. Everything from the bullying to what Special Ed is like to everything else. And if you want to share my blog to get other parents and Aspies themselves to subscribe, that would be beautiful!
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I’ll give it a go. Not sure if we’re going to be a good fit. If I unsubscribe, don’t take it personally. You’re a good writer.
Thanks for the compliment!