Over the last couple of months, I’ve been wondering whether my chosen career choice is the most suitable for someone with my – shall we say – unique mindset. In my past employment, I have been made fun of in various ways because of my disability. I’m not keen on that term though; firstly, I don’t see myself as disabled for the simple fact that I’m high-functioning. I know some don’t like that term either, but what I mean by that is that it is not obvious to most people, and I can come across as being neurotypical. This sometimes leads me to even begin to doubt the diagnosis that three clinicians gave me after more than seven hours of assessment. “Of course I’m not autistic! I could just be very socially awkward and shy. Yes, that’s it”. But alas, that’s just me deluding myself, and no matter how much I try to avoid the inevitable, the truth is, I am autistic. Much as I try to appear neurotypical, it does, can and will impact my life in ways that, at times, I don’t even realise.
Taking all this into account, some people are surprised to find out that my job, far from being science-based or computer programming, is very public-facing, and involves me needing to make small-talk with people in a little village near my hometown.
This is a big change of pace from the career I had before I moved to Devon : an aerospace engineer. During my career there, I did everything from office work, forklift driving, logistics and managing a team of people, right down to laboratory based R&D. To be honest, there are times when I miss working in that industry and the large financial reward that went alongside it, but I don’t miss the shift work and the extreme pressure of deadlines, etc. Since moving down here, did a couple of jobs before settling into this job role. I did a stint working in a laboratory as a microbiologist in the food industry, and also as a marketing assistant for a local company, both temporarily. Eventually, I went into the service industry and I have spent four years doing this role. I now basically spend my working life looking after a bar and front-of-house area of a very pleasant family-run business. My team has changed since I took over supervising the front-of-house team, but they are all great at what they do. We’ve had some great summer staff as well who made those hectic Sunday shifts go without a hitch. So, over the last few months, I’ve started to settle down within my role and get to grip with what it all entails. I like to know the rules, apply them carefully and expect my staff to do so too.
I know that I do struggle with some aspects of the role and as the customers don’t realise I’m autistic, if I’m under pressure, my reactions can be unintentionally snappy. This led me to question whether I was in the right career, until I had a baptism of fire recently when both of the owners had a family event and were away for the weekend. They needed me to look after things while they were away, and I’m very glad to say that this went really well. After they returned, I had a conversation with them over how things had gone and the issues I was aware of.
They were so supportive, and told me that my performance work-wise was extremely promising and this gave me a way in to explain that, despite how I come across that I have a diagnosis of Aspergers. They seemed as if they already knew, which surprised me, but as I explained, I find the social side challenging and do it to push myself outside of my comfort zone. This was met with “that’s commendable – I admire you for that”. That chat helped me no end, and since then, I have started to realise that, despite my occasional wobbles, I’m a pretty capable, valued and respected member of the team. I’m also very lucky to work with such an amazing team.
Stay Safe X