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Finding meaningful employment after graduating can be difficult for many people. However, for graduates with certain disabilities, this process can be particularly challenging writes ‘ASD Grad’

guardian.co.uk

Tuesday 19 October 2010 15.07 BST

Finding meaningful employment after graduating can be difficult for many people. However, for graduates with certain disabilities, this process can be particularly challenging. I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome as a teenager. Asperger Syndrome is a condition that can affect communication and social skills, and also lead to certain unusual behavioural patterns, such as an obsessive interest in narrow or obscure subjects. I enjoyed a fairly successful academic record, gaining several good A-levels and a degree. I fully expected that my success as a student would translate into a successful career in a meaningful, interesting and well-rewarded job. After all, everyone from my parents and my teachers through to Tony Blair had told me that the road to career success lay through hard work and good grades as a student. This proved to be far from true in my case.

Many new graduates struggle to find work immediately after university, but my experience was perhaps even more difficult than those of my peers and certainly more drawn out. Some of these problems seemed to be similar to those experienced by many other recent graduates who are not disabled, but others were closely or directly related to my condition.

The first thing that I discovered to my surprise, in common with many other recent graduates, was that most potential employers were not as impressed by my academic achievements and qualifications as I had hoped and expected. The next issue was that they also seemed to be preoccupied with the fact that my work experience was limited to having worked in bars and supermarkets. Again I was surprised by this, since I had not been successful in gaining a place on one of the extremely competitive summer internship programmes I had applied to, for the most part I considered that gaining both my academic qualifications and the kind of experience that I now apparently required were largely incompatible. It is of course very difficult to gain full time work experience when studying full time, especially if you study a very academically focused degree which does not include anything like a sandwich year.

As well as this, in hindsight it was probably also the case that the nature of the jobs that I applied for did not really help my cause. I mostly applied for prestigious graduate schemes with “blue chip” corporations, whose entry standards seemed to be commensurate with my academic achievements. In hindsight, this was a mistake and I would have been better casting my net wider.

So far, the experiences that I have described could have been those of any recent graduate. However, it became apparent that my condition was also the cause of some quite specific problems. The combined effect was that while most of the people I had graduated with eventually found employment, my increasingly desperate and dispiriting job hunt seemed to continue indefinitely. I was unemployed for nine months and I eventually drifted into very low-paid temping, often on the minimum wage. This was some time before the financial crash caused the current graduate unemployment crisis and as a result the economic climate was, at the time, far more benign than it is now.

What, then, were these specific problems related to my condition that so hampered my search for graduate level employment? In general, they seemed to relate to the interview and assessment process. I applied for dozens, possibly hundreds of jobs during this period, and while I was immediately declined by the majority of them, I was invited to a fairly large number of interviews.

This was the stage at which the problems specific to my condition became prevalent, and it is significant that I never got beyond the first interview stage for any of the assessment processes that I undertook. I noted at the start of this piece that Asperger Syndrome impacts upon sufferers’ communication and social skills. As a result, I found interviews to be particularly difficult. Many people find interviews to be challenging and daunting, but as a result of these difficulties, a person with Asperger Syndrome can have particular problems surrounding extreme nervousness, understanding questions properly and expressing their meaning.

Read in Full:  http://careers.guardian.co.uk/graduate-view-job-seeking-with-asperger-syndrome



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