Being on the autistic spectrum, I know full well my limitations. For many years I struggled to find a permanent job, a problem all too common for autistics like myself. In fact, according to an article by MoneyWatch, a whopping 85% of college graduates affected by autism are unemployed! (1) Many people who knew me well thought that it would be good if I found a part-time job, though I wanted to work full-time. Some people thought I would also never be able to drive myself places and achieve many of the goals I wanted to accomplish.
However, that all changed when I met my mentor Jill* and, a couple years later, when I met my then-manager Elizabeth.*
When I first met Jill, I really didn’t think anything would change in my life, but, at the same time, I unconsciously hoped that life would get better. I was also still trying to adjust to some changes in my life, and change is especially difficult for those on the spectrum who need/like more routine. However, Jill kept insisting that I learn to drive myself and that I could eventually find a job that would suit me. I did not believe her. Even my parents thought I needed a job in which I had minimal interaction with people, and those kinds of jobs would be very difficult to find! I eventually did learn to drive myself a few months after I met Jill, but I still did not think I would ever be able to find any job—part time or full time. Jill then helped me to find an employment agency that would assist me in finding a job.
After climbing through many hurdles to find an agency willing to work with me, we finally found a friendly and determined person from the employment agency that would work with me to help find me a suitable job. About six months later, I finally got a call to get interviewed at a thrift store. Because God was with me, He helped me to be confident enough to make a good impression on the interviewer and I got the job. I worked very hard there, but I did not know if I would last long at the job. Fortunately, I was able to be there for two and a half years before I sensed in my spirit that God wanted me somewhere else. I was ready to take the next step in my employment journey—finding a full time job. However, some of the people at the agency thought it was good that I was even employed, since it is difficult for people on the spectrum to find any type of jobs! But Jill was confident in my ability to find a full time job. So, we pushed through and the same person from the agency that worked with me last time was willing to work with me again to find me a full time job.
It took several months before we found anything. Then, one wintry February morning in 2016, God intervened and I got interviewed at a store in the company I am with now. Though at first I was part time, about six to seven months later, I was instated as full time. I was overjoyed the day I got promoted to full time. (To see more details on how I got my first full time job, please see this link: https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/a-godsend-my-current-job/). If it were not for Jill always believing in me and never giving up on me, I do not know where I would be today.
About a year later, I met Elizabeth. When I first met Elizabeth, I did not know how much she would change my perspective on life and the trajectory of it. Like Jill, she always believed in and never gave up on me, even when other people around me did. For instance, when I approached her about wanting to learn the register, she immediately suggested that I could train for twenty minutes each week until I felt comfortable enough to be a certified backup, which was my goal, but I did face some backlash from others. My now ex-friend told me not to continue training for cashier because she thought I couldn’t handle it when there were difficult customers and that it would be too stressful for me. Another manager commented, “ A CSM [customer service manager] would never call you up to ring.” Thankfully, I listened to Elizabeth instead of the people around me, and a month before Elizabeth left our store, I was instated as a backup cashier. The customer service managers called me quite often, and as the number of register-trained associates dwindled, I became one of the few who were register-trained. Most customers were satisfied with my speed and efficiency in my service to them at the register. Elizabeth also believed in my abilities so much that she trained me on some of the things that a department manager, and not a regular associate like me, does. With her, I not only continually learned new things in my work, I also gained more confidence in my God-given abilities.
I learned from Jill and Elizabeth not to doubt my own God-given abilities and to not listen to the naysayers who doubt that I could achieve my goals. Jill and Elizabeth instilled in me the power of their belief, which motivated me to prove the naysayers wrong and to realize the dreams that I had held inside for so long.
1) Pesce, Nicole Lyn. “Most college grads with autism can’t find jobs. This group is fixing that.” MarketWatch. April 2017. Republished 2 April 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2020. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-college-grads-with-autism-cant-find-jobs-this-group-is-fixing-that-2017-04-10-5881421.
*=Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned