Are You in the Wrong Job?

Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, November 2019

After earning a master’s degree in business informatics, Laura quickly found an analyst position with a large corporation. Although there were no problems with her job performance, she found it challenging to meet expectations. Sitting under fluorescent lighting was distracting, and her slow auditory processing speed made it difficult to participate in group discussions.

Additionally, Laura’s assignments varied each week, and the unpredictable schedule made her anxious. One of her tasks was training staff members, for which she typically received only one or two days notice.

Laura explained that she was near tears at the end of almost every work day. Every few weeks, the stress and anxiety become so unbearable that she left work early.

Jackson was a programmer at a start-up company. There was a lot of pressure to turn out a high volume of code each week. Even though Jackson routinely worked 10-hour days, he was often behind and had received a warning from his supervisor. He described each work day as being “in a minefield.”

After a few weeks of coaching, Laura realized that she was in the wrong type of career, and Jackson realized that he was in the wrong job.

This is not uncommon among my clients. Here are some signs that an individual should consider a change:

▪ Being fired three times or more, from the same type of job, for the same reasons. Sometimes clients tell me that their dislike of change compels them to seek out the same type of work, even though it is a poor fit.

▪ Working much longer hours than colleagues to meet the performance standard. Even after Jackson implemented suggestions from co-workers on how to complete tasks more efficiently, he was unable to keep up.

▪ The tasks and/or environment trigger anxiety or sensory processing problems. Laura was aware that she could request a workspace without fluorescent lighting as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, the nature of the job meant that her assignments would vary, and that she had to participate in many group interactions.

▪ Spending the majority of the workday performing tasks that are  are difficult. Another client of mine, Diane, did an excellent job teaching children. However she had great difficulty with classroom discipline, creating lesson plans, and interacting with parents and school administrators. The latter duties made up the majority of her workday, creating lots of anxiety and stress.

Do not be afraid to research options. Many skills are transferable to different jobs or industries. Jackson found a programming position with a healthcare organization. Not only was the pace manageable, he was building expertise in a rapidly growing field.

If you need to acquire new skills, do not assume that a degree is necessary. Laura discovered that she could become certified in to perform a particular type of statistical analysis in less than one year. This would qualify her for a more routine job with less interpersonal interaction.

An excellent resource is the Occupational Outlook Handbook (www.bls.gov/ooh). This database describes all types of occupations, including the primary tasks, work environment, educational requirements, employment outlook and similar jobs. If you live outside the U.S., search online for “occupational information” to find resources for basic career research.

Copyright 2019, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching