Employment Escapades

Finding Employment when you have Autism, and some advice for Job Agencies

looking for a job

Hi and welcome to my blog 

Firstly, a little about me.

I’m Nick McAllister. I’m 42, single, and have hopped from job agency to job agency like a foster child in Summer Bay.

Unlike Sally, I wouldn’t find everlasting happiness within the confines of a caravan park in NSW, be intrusted with handling cash or credit cards at age 9, or handing over keys and having a trusting nature of employment agencies.

But how did I get here?

Note: You need to know that this pattern which I am about to provide to you is the same for all of the agencies I have dealt with. Not one of them ever despite promises, rang me, not once did they place me in employment that was suitable for me, and not one appeared to care.

My first foray into the employment world was about as exciting as being given a birthday cake made from tofu.

My first foray into the employment world was about as exciting as being given a birthday cake made from tofu.

The only thing of benefit to me from the first job agency I dealt with was that I was provided with second hand employment clothes. The rest was a futile exercise, with the woman whose services they had engaged rambling on about colours and what colours we were and how that particular colour reflected the type of work you should be placed in… I got red which meant I was creative and warm. I could have told her that. And that’s about all I learnt in 6 weeks – about as exciting as watching the antiques roadshow! The agency closed down months later and relocated to Brisbane.

The second agency had a gym in the building next door, which was handy as I was fat at the time and needed to lose weight. So winner, winner chicken dinner!

They claimed to put me forward for a few jobs but nothing came from it. I ended up finding my own job with a newsagency, of which I kept for over a year until it closed down.

In the end the agency ran out of job leads and I had to go through an ordeal with a Government agency to request to be moved to another agency for assistance.

My third agency was rubbish. No phone calls, no contact, nothing.

It was around this time that finally, after a bitter battle with my then-doctor, I got a diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum. Once I’d gotten my diagnosis I went in to the agency and got myself transferred to a disability agency, where my bench mark hours were cut down to 15 (these are the number of hours Centrelink determines you can realistically work with the disability you have).

It was around this time that finally, after a bitter battle with my then-doctor, I got a diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum.

One day, someone from the agency called me to ask me to come in and fill out a job application form as they had spied a job and they wanted to put me forward for it. The job was at a call centre taking inbound calls from internet customers and I was apprehensive. I tried to explain that I wasn’t prepared to work in a stressful and busy environment with the phone constantly ringing, plus I had no internet experience. I also explained that as someone on the autism spectrum, this was role unsuitable and that I wouldn’t be able to cope.

After being thrown into the role and following a week’s training, I stopped eating from the stress. I copped so much abuse and wasn’t offered any support. I was in tears and retreated to the toilet for as long as I could just so I didn’t have to answer the phone.

I’m sure they wondered why I hadn’t he seen a doctor yet?

I would text my agency contact person daily and tell them that it wasn’t working out, but all they said to me was to hold tight and that they we’re trying to find me something else. I later found out that the real reason for the delay was that my job consultant wanted the bonus she would get if I stayed in the role for 6 months, with even more of a bonus for longer.

To cut a long story short, I lasted a month.

The sheer thought of getting into my car and driving to the job had made me physically sick, and so I got a sick note from my doctor, after which I stayed in bed and cried. I told my mum. I also had to ring up each day because that was the protocol. In the end I spoke with someone in HR and told them that I wasn’t coming back and that these were my reasons. The lady wasn’t pleased with me and tried to stop my Centrelink payments, but that didn’t happen.

The sheer thought of getting into my car and driving to the job had made me physically sick, and so I got a sick note from my doctor, after which I stayed in bed and cried.

I am now with my fifth agency – the fourth upon my moving here from the Gold Coast, and although I haven’t been with them for long they’re doing an ok job.

My advice for disability employment agencies is this:

  • Be aware of our condition
  • Listen to what we tell you
  • When we say our strengths lie here and our weakness here, don’t ignore our strengths and focus on our weakness
  • Don’t just advertise yourselves as a disability agency for the sake of some extra $$, we need to know that you have our best interests at heart and not dollar signs!

We want to work and to contribute to society, but we have to have structure in our working roles, as well as procedures to follow.

We want to work and to contribute to society, but we have to have structure in our working roles, as well as procedures to follow.

We also enjoy being left on our own to work in quiet environments, but we also need to know that we have support if we need it from our employers, and that if we are having a stressful time we need to know that you have our backs if we have to step out for 5 to 10 minutes to refocus.

My current employment is in Autism West’s Digital Media program, where I will be helping those wanting to write a script for a zombie movie – or so I’ve been told! I’m very excited about my new role at Autism West, and look forward to working with an engaging and motivated group of people. And who knows – maybe one day we’ll release a zombie movie in the cinemas or on TV!

Thanks for reading.

 

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