(This is my post for Disability Blog Carnival 59: Disability and Work.)
I’ve never applied for a job in the traditional manner.
Sure, I’ve done some work for my father’s office, and I’ve done some freelance work for organizations owned by his friends and associates. But this has all been through connections, through friends, family, and friends of family; I’ve never actively sought out a job on my own in the traditional way.
But it’s not that I don’t want to— in fact, I would absolutely love to find a job that suits me well. It’s just that the process is… a difficult one for people with the issues I have, to say the least.
I still remember when I attempted to go to a college job fair a while ago— it was about as chaotic as one might possibly imagine (no doubt aided by the fact that this was a particularly large job fair put on by the biggest university in the state). It was crowded. It was noisy. And… well… that poses a bit of an issue, for someone with social anxiety and no cocktail-party effect. I still wonder how anyone was actually able to carry on a conversation in there— the noise got to me so quickly that I left after only a few minutes (and, in that scenario, it would have been rather pointless to listen to my iPod!).
So clearly, that’s not exactly the best option for me. But there are job-search sites, right?
Well, yes. Except that there are certain important bits of information that businesses tend to omit from their job search listings. Things like… where the job and/or interview will be located.
It’s no secret that I can’t drive. And some parts of town, simply put, are not even accessible via public transit. There’s one major business corridor that’s just beyond the county line, and because of quirks in the way funding arrangements were made between the two counties, the nearest that any buses get is a mile and a half away. Not exactly a pleasant walk to work— though at least the road in question has sidewalks, which is more than can be said for other transit-inaccessible parts of town.
Even in parts of town that do have bus service, the schedules can be rather wonky. Most routes only run once an hour, and based on where my apartment is, I’d likely have to make a transfer to another route. And because of the way the routes intersect, in order to get to a job at 9:00, I’d have to leave the apartment around 7:00 to get somewhere that’s mere minutes away by car.
Oh, and on top of that, I’d have to figure out a way to work such things as grocery trips into my schedule if I worked five days a week, since there’s no bus service to my apartment on weekends when school is not in session.
Matters are also not helped by the fact that, in general, IT-related jobs— i.e., the ones I’d be searching for— tend to generally be clustered in larger cities. And of course, I’m attending graduate school in a smaller college town, about an hour and a half away from the big city. Transportation options are… rather limited, to say the least. Greyhound only runs twice a day (and not on a schedule that’s actually suited to work commutes, either), while there’s an airport shuttle that runs more frequently but is $45 each way.
Of course, I could also choose to live in said city during the summer, but that would bring its own set of challenges— things like trying to find an apartment lease for just the summer that was short enough to allow me to return to school afterward, and that allowed for easy access both to work and to such things as groceries via public transit.
And that’s just the job searching process, of course. Upon finding a job I could get to, and discovering the interview would be held at a location I could get to… well, I’d have to actually do the interview.
Here’s where the social skills issues come in. At least I’m starting to get better at faking eye contact (something I alluded to in The Stress of Seeming ‘Normal’); I’ve found that staring at the bridge of someone’s nose, or their eyebrows, is virtually indistinguishable by most people. But still, even with the eye contact issue taken care of, interviews are largely made up of… well, mind games. I love Bev’s latest video on the subject at Asperger Square 8 (and don’t worry; it’s even captioned!). Let’s just say, it’s not uncommon for people of my neurology to be skipped over when it comes to applying for a job. And that’s completely ignoring the uncomfortable clothes one has to wear to an interview (which, of course, one must also wear on the bus ride there), or all the little aspects of etiquette that one has to keep in the back of one’s mind (and that one is quickly judged on)…
And phone interviews? You’d think those would be easier because of the lack of eye contact, right? Well, not if one’s constantly having to stop to process what was said because half the consonants are muffled— needless to say, that quickly gets tiring. And yes, there’s the option of the relay service; for a traditional relay call, that leads the interviewer to quickly realize that the potential employee has hearing difficulties, while for a VCO call, it leads to long blocks of silence as the interviewee waits for the transcription to catch up with what was asked. (Not to mention that, depending on how the interview is set up, you may have to call the interviewer back via relay if they call you initially.)
On that note, a lot of business people seem to want to be contacted via the phone, or contact you via the phone. You can probably see how this can be stressful.
So yes. It’s not that I don’t want to get a job— it’s just that, between searching and applying for a job, and all the other little things like transportation that are involved in the process, it’s stressful and spoon-consuming to an extent that people just don’t realize. I don’t doubt that I’ll eventually get a job on my own at some point, but the process simply won’t be as smooth sailing as it is for a non-autistic.