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ZacWolf

Hello. Older individual recently diagnosed, struggling

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ZacWolf

Howdy, 

My name is Zac, and I'm 51. Recently I have been "officially" diagnosed with autism. It's always something I've struggled with Through the diagnostic process, I learned that I don't suffer from Aspergers; through very early intervention (both at home and early career) I'm very high functioning and my autism expresses itself in more subtle ways. The feedback that I received from the diagnostic team was that because of my age and conditioning I can pull off neuro-normative for about an hour, but after that I start to give away signs that those are just affectations that I've learned to apply, but the longer I go the harder those affectations are to sustain.

I have been extremely fortunate to have had a long career in Information Technology, but after fifteen years with my last employer, I left. I had never struggled with finding a new job, so I left without having something else already lined up, but I have had nothing but problems in finding a new job. When I started in IT, the field was dominated by Engineering types, where knowledge/talent/ability was all that mattered. But, it would seem over the past 10 years, there are now more MBA types in IT than Engineering types, and they have put in place hiring practices that put way more importance on cultural fit than ability.

Over the past five years, I have interviewed with many companies, big and small. Twice with Amazon in Seattle, but I was not able to complete their behavioral interviewing process either time. I even reached out to the Microsoft Autism hiring program, but all they were interested in hiring were programmers. While I'm a very good programmer it is not something I can sustain full-time, especially now that Agile project management is the dominant methodology.

I am fortunate to be in a long term relationship (18yrs), married for five, but in leaving my job our household income is now only 1/3 of what it was. The last several years I have subsidized our household through income generated by investments. It's nowhere near what I was making, but it was enough to survive comfortably, but last quarter's stock crash decimated my investments, meaning they are no longer generating income; not only that but the hit was substantial enough to reduce my principle, meaning not only do I no longer have any income but it will probably be a year or two before the principle regenerates itself enough to generate any additional income.

It seems my biggest problem now is that during a long interview I start to throw up red flags, but what I seem unable to convey is that those red flags need to be put into a context of a 34+ year career. One doesn't work for Walt Disney World(3yrs), Hewlett-Packard(6yrs), and Cisco Systems(15yrs) and not know how to navigate interpersonal dynamics, but I have been unsuccessful in conveying that. The group that diagnosed me (the TEACCH program through the University of NC Chapel Hill), have scheduled sessions to try to work with me to see if there is a way that I can convey that the red flags that interviewers might sense need to be put into the right context. Starting next week, I also have some sessions with a Vocational Rehabilitation program, to see what resources they can help me with.

I'm grocking that there are several issues at play. My age is a big one; I'm getting the sense that nobody quite believes that someone of my age is as technically savvy as I am [much less 9 out of 10 times more technically savvy than them!]. Which I don't understand when they are looking right at my resume.{shrug}  My guess is that anyone my age that started in technology has moved on to Management? The second issue at play is that I don't have a professional "network". I think most people at my level of expertise find new opportunities through people that they have worked with in the past, but I always viewed "networking" as a huge waste of time, so, I spent no time in establishing those sorts of professional relationships. I have always viewed work/roles/people as functions; as long as those functions were working as intended why invest resources in them, and if they weren't working as intended then my job was to fix them, which I've come to realize runs counter to establishing positive interpersonal relationships.

So now I'm at the mercy of going through the same hiring processes that are designed for people that don't have my level of ability (nor disability).

So I'm starting to feel...
...fear(?). Which is not an emotion that I am familiar with. For whatever reason, my career has always been effortless, so I don't understand why things seem to suddenly be going off the rails.

 

So anyway, sorry to ramble (apparently 'too verbose' is the number one negative feedback that I receive in interviews), but I just need to connect with anyone that may have had similar struggles, and discuss if/how you overcame them.

Thanks!
-Zac

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RiRi

Hi @ZacWolf, welcome to the forum! 🙂 

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Heather

Hi Zac, welcome to the forum!

I'm not sure if I can be helpful, that is a lot that you wrote.  I really hope you find the a good job for you.  I know how hard it is to find the right job.  Remember, there are many more jobs out there that are not the right ones for you and it just takes one company to see you and realize they would be lucky to have you.  I think it is very good that you are working with some people to help build your skills for the interview process, to help the interviewer look beyond any unusual behaviors and see the years of experience in IT.  It is good you have a supportive long term relationship and other sources of income to sustain you and your partner/family during this time.

It is also a comfort you have found out more about yourself with the autism diagnosis, and found some supports.  Hopefully this all leads you in some positive directions.  I wish you peace through this stressful time and try to remind yourself of what you are thankful of every day.  It sounds like you are doing good, all things considered.

Again, welcome to the forum, see you around! 🙂 

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Sanctuary

Welcome to the forum Zac. My situation is very similar and much of what you say resonates with me. Employment is rather like a train and while the journey can sometimes be difficult while we are still on the train we have a certain security and stability; once we get off it getting back on again is difficult - at least getting back on at a point similar to where we were before. As you mentioned the employment market has changed and seems to have become more focused on "business skills" rather than technical skills or subject expertise. Getting jobs seems to hinge greatly on social skills and some connections - not necessarily an extensive network but having contacts who can provide links to new jobs and vouch for an applicant's quality. I can't offer much advice as I'm also still job-seeking. There may be autism support groups who have advice and employment agencies may also be helpful but sometimes these are more geared to getting someone into any sort of employment, not necessarily what they really want to do. However sometimes even a fairly basic form of employment can show future employers that an applicant is keeping busy and has remained in the employment market. In a sense the best way to get a job is to already be in one but it's getting that current job that can be difficult. Sometimes we just have to keep going and eventually the right opportunity does come along - good luck!

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ZacWolf
5 hours ago, Sanctuary said:

My situation is very similar and much of what you say resonates with me.

 

Thank you! I just feel so lost. 

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Alice

@ZacWolf Welcome to the forum 🙂 

Can you look into off-sight, freelance type work where you dont have to be in a corporate environment? Where most of it can be email-based
Do you have any business ideas related to your field and expertise that might bring something original to the field? Would being self-employed be a possibility? That way you dont have to convince someone of you skills to hire you, if you can provide something of value directly to customers, or some kind of innovation

 

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