Wednesday, 30 December 2009

It's Christmas week, one Administrator job on board

Being Christmas week, only one "Administrator" is cropping up in my area on the main job boards, but look at this spec:
* Greeting customers, post and telephone duties
* Dealing with general enquiries
* Placing and chasing supplier orders
* Matching delivery notes with orders
* Administer clock cards and input timesheets
* Assist with payroll
* Arrange carriers and administer records
* Banking, Post office and filing
* Ad hoc general office duties

The usual thing that it combines the sort of computer input work I would be good at, but with customer and supplier contact that I wouldn't.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The death of the Office Christmas Party?

"The death of the Office Christmas Party?" on BBC News online struck a chord. The article is about how, understandably with the current recession, many companies are not having Christmas parties or if they are, getting staff to pay themselves. I do hope that those staff who wouldn't have wanted to go anyway, aren't forced to pay.

These were the comments in this article that really stood out for me:
- More people, like myself, prefer temporary contracts and do not expect, or want, to get involved with office based socialising. When I did have work I still preferred my away-from-work circles of friends, as described above.
- I'm not sad to see the end of the party, as a spouse I find that one ends up in a venue that really isn't to your taste, surrounded by people talking shop and trading office politics. Says it all, office politics was the biggest turn off for me.
- Who really wants to 'socialize' with their bosses anyway? Tomorrow I have an awkward lunch with my co-workers. Over the weekend I'll have a 'tree-trimming' party with friends, family, food and fun. No doubt which this person is clearly looking forward to a lot more.

I did try a couple of the parties when I had my last programmer's job in 1998 and 2000, ok those were paid for, but I did feel uncomfortable with some of the people at that place and I'm not one for meals out anyway, and in later years opted out. In my more recent admin work in the local public sector I was given peer pressure to go, resisted but got lots of "why aren't you going?" from my line managers and one particular person in the team at my level. There was to be a departmental lunchtime meal, a departmental ten pin bowling evening, and a big organisation-wide meal with disco, all at our own expense. Now I do enjoy bowling, and answered the line managers that I was going to that and felt it was unfair to criticise me for not joining anything when I was going, and I did enjoy it, but as for the meals that I wouldn't have enjoyed, for what I'd have paid to have gone, I went to several of the soul music dances I enjoy instead, with the better friends I have at those.

For how much I'm yearning for a job in my current unemployment, this time of year strikes me with that one thing I have not missed, the peer pressure to go to the office party and reading this article about their "death" strikes me, is that really such a bad thing anyway? The comments showed many folks aren't into socialising with their colleagues, just as I wasn't. I take the point that one person is quoted saying "The whole point of the Christmas party is saying thank you for all the things they have done throughout the year", but there are other ways of doing that anyway.

This post on the Career Surgery on Jobsite is a good read on the subject too.

Monday, 14 December 2009

"Present a professional personal brand" - Reed e-mail newsletter about a timewasting e-mail

As I'm registered on Reed for e-mail alerts and to search and apply online on that site, it sends me e-mail newsletters every so often. This latest one struck a chord for me.

Headlined "Present a professional personal brand" it continued:
Whether you're a new starter or a company veteran, maintaining professionalism can make the difference between keeping your career on track or hitting the buffers, as one employee found out to her detriment last week. A female graduate trainee found herself out of a job after resigning from a leading global accounting firm due to an email she described to the Daily Mail as "just a light hearted joke to celebrate Christmas". The message, sent to female colleagues asking them to vote on who the best looking and best dressed man in the office was, found its way around the world. She resigned just 24 hours later.

This just made me wonder, was she someone who had initially impressed the interviewer with her "good communication skills", started the job and then done this? It annoys me so much that I'd undoubtedly have been pipped at the post in the interview by this very person, yet had I got the job I wouldn't have pulled a timewasting stunt like that!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Interview rejection of "People who may not fit in"

This thread on the Money Saving Expert forum was posted when the poster attended an interview, didn't get the job, asked for feedback and was told the job went to someone more qualified, later found the same job re-advertised with an additional comment "previous applicants need not apply".

Replies pointed out that employers are entitled to decide who they want to hire, as long as they don't act illegally, and to re-advertise if they don't find someone suitable. Poster 10 struck a chord when an interviewer was impressed with their experience, qualifications and fed back about performing very well in the interview but weren't sure about whether this poster would fit in their team and they didn't know why, the poster going on to state he didn't have any personality issues.

A later poster talks of how "People who may not fit in" are not covered under antidiscrimation laws, whilst technically with a named disability I would be covered, an interviewer can still get round it by justifying the communication required in the role and stating that I wouldn't fit in, and they merely chose the right person, and I could go for such a long time not being anyone's right person.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Appointment for the paid employment scheme for disabled - I'm reasonable positive

I felt very positive overall about my meeting today. The woman couldn't say a definite yes to starting the programme on the day as she has to take my information back to the head office panel, but empathises that my situation is what the programme is aimed at. Most importantly she can see my capability of work in my CV.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Back on the right track!

E-mailed my adviser back as said and she's replied, she's clear now, contacted the right people about the paid employment scheme for disabled, and I have an appointment with them a week today. Wish me luck!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Friday 13th - of tick boxes and mix-ups

Went to see the Flexible New Deal adviser again today, she seemed confused about the paid employment scheme for disabled and was now thinking that I needed to be an ex-offender or recovering from drug or alcohol abuse to sign up for it, then instead called the parent company of where I had already been to the "Flexible Routeways" sessions that had the role play stuff. Of course as I'd done this already, I couldn't do it again.

The adviser was confused though, after this meeting I looked up on the internet and found the scheme in question. It clearly says who is eligible is "people that have been claiming benefits for more than 12 months where their disability or health condition is a barrier to finding employment" and nowhere does it say anything about being an ex-offender or recovering from drug or alcohol. I wonder that she's probably had to deal with many people in that position and got muddled by all the different programmes and tickboxes. I'm going to e-mail her this link on Monday because I'm sure she's got confused.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The need for a "thick skin" in Customer Service

The second stage of the Jobcentre college course began yesterday and today, with a two day Customer Service session, oh whoopee doo I think not. To be fair the stuff was interesting, but really reinforced why one will not transform me into a Customer Service bod, anyway at least they didn't put me through the dreaded role play exercises. I talked to the tutor one-to-one about my condition and why I really need a back office job that I can just get on with, without me having contact with customers, she could empathise which was good.

Points were made about being "assertive" and how much one really needs a "thick skin" in Customer Service, which is why I was saying that merely attending the course was not going to transform me. The theory makes sense, granted, but as I'm naturally nervous and passive I won't put the assertiveness into practice effectively.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

This gets my goat - lazy guy on TV documentary and teenage apprentice stealing

No word yet on the situation with that scheme. Another local agency have been in touch about a temp ledger clerk job and they are still for the client employer to make their minds up. This waiting etc is so soul destroying, no wonder I started this Blogspot.

I have been these documentaries "7 Days on the Breadline" on Tuesday nights where celebritites have moved in with families on Leeds council estates with some perfect examples of really lazy folks, the last of the series is next week. One of these guys is late teens or early 20s, he slept in missing his Jobcentre appointment which of course meant he would not paid his fortnight's jobseekers, yet he even shrugged this off saying "so what". Worst of it is I wonder how many employers see the length of my unemployment and tar me with the same brush, when it is merely one count where I can't compete on the same level as my counterparts who don't have this disability.

To add to the upset I feel, a friend e-mailed me about her beautician taking on this teenage girl for an apprenticeship, but this teenage girl has stolen from them. It makes me sick that I'm crying out to be given a chance by an employer, while the beautician has given this teenager that chance of her first apprenticeship, and she's abused it by stealing.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Glimmer of hope - scheme offering paid employment to disabled

Had the "Flexible New Deal" meeting at the Jobcentre this morning, the adviser told me about this scheme through one service provider where they get a PAID placement in the charity / voluntary sector, maybe this is brand new, if not one wonders why wasn't I told about it earlier. She really empathised with why the issue of selling oneself is difficult for me and that it is a crying shame I've got such a great CV with clear talent currently going to waste because no-one's giving me a chance. In our previous meetings she had given me letters to send with applications to explain to them that I'm eligible for 3 week "Work Trials" at no cost to them as I'd still get Jobseekers, yet none took this up. This scheme could really pay some dividends if they can pull it off, the gist is that the provider would actually be my employer and this would last for up to a year, it is aimed at people with conditions making it difficult to compete in the open market.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Flexible New Deal - interesting Guardian article

This Guardian article about Flexible New Deal with an interview with the founder of the company with the large contracts raised some interesting points. It was good that she acknowledged that "the outgoing, one-size-fits-all, classroom-based formula central to earlier government New Deal employment programmes" didn't work and "If you are coming on FND, it means that other interventions in the past year have not worked. You will find there will be multiple issues. That person might come with a lot of aggression, or exceptionally low self-esteem and no confidence. Unless the adviser deals with that first, then pretty much everything else we do is wasted." The comments on the article aren't too optimistic though.

I'm not one of the "more difficult cases also needing drug addiction treatment or lack of basic skills", low self-esteem and confidence yes, that's part of the condition of Asperger, yet my overall capability of work is so clearly there, just for that one issue of employers' typical requirements for good communication skills in jobs I could otherwise do well, therefore despite what I can do well I'm still not their first choice of person, get rejected, and ever closer to the time I'll have to go on this programme. It needs the provider to actively sell me to the company, I'll be all for it if they can do just that.

I found the article as a result of following this blog, which had a link.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The disability in applications issue latest

The three day course at college finished today, the issue of when to state my disability in applications came up with one of the tutors. Jobcentre staff had agreed it was actually good to be upfront because that ties in with making the employer aware that there are grants available to them and the option of Work Trial, while the tutor said a definite no, don't say it until interview because at first letter stage it is just sell, sell, sell.

I was also rather hacked off, when I was talking to the tutor on the course, about why I should not have contact with customers and suppliers, this other colleague (not involved in the course but just there in the office) cut me off mid sentence with a rather abrupt "you have to toughen up and learn to deal with it." That is easy for her and perhaps many people to say, but I felt very patronised, given that she had only met me that moment on that day and did not have first hand knowledge of the situations I'd been in. I put this in writing to the co-ordinator, probably nothing will be said, but it is in writing on the college e-mail system, if it happens again I certainly won't let it drop.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The first morning of college course and very short job interview

Well I've just got back from the VERY short interview, upon arrival in reception, I was given this page of the job specification, showing lots of phone contact with customers and suppliers. I spoke up that I was daunted by it, as said on the previous post, I'd said about my disability in the letter. They appeared to have completely overlooked that, I could understand not being shortlisted in their situation if there was not the manpower to allocate the communication aspects, why was I actually interviewed? Such a short interview, must have taken all of 5 minutes, probably the shortest I've ever had, I felt irritated but knew I must still thank them for their time and leave on the best terms possible, and to say that I would like to be considered for temp work if they had any peak times to require someone to do data entry without contact with customers.

I've also got the first morning of the "Employability Skills" course at college to talk about, it was mainly spent listening and being given handouts. This was somewhere I would have actually appreciated a bit more time for one to one discussion of barriers to work. Plenty of the usual talk about selling oneself in an interview but what does someone in my situation do? This selling oneself does not come naturally. Another thing about being back in college, looking at the 16-18 year old full time students messing about and being loud mouthed reminded me why I really would not want to work in the education environment unless it was the absolute last resort.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

An interview - have they read my letter correctly this time?

Well there goes the postie, just delivered a letter from a local seeds company I wrote to last week about an admin job. Expected it to be the usual rejection letter, but no, I've actually got an interview on Monday 21st, funnily enough the day I'm starting the "employability skills" at college. Interview is at 2pm, should be able to explain I'll be leaving college early, after all its for the reason they want.

The catch, well the advert stated they do want reception work, it was the usual dilemma, that if I didn't write I wouldn't get enough applications out for the job centre, but if I do I'd have to admit I wouldn't be suited to that reception side. So I'd included the crucial sentence 'I would admit I would not be suited to the reception aspect as I do have a moderate condition of the communication disability of Asperger's Syndrome', hopefully they actually read this unlike that company I went to in April.

Somehow I just can't quite feel excited I've got the interview, I know I should, but I've just had so many knocks, and this "have they read my letter correctly" thing. Still it does make a change to even get to interview stage of late.

Can only cross fingers!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Just found ....

... .this other blog about New Deal, where the writer with a university degree set out to initially see it as an opportunity for retraining to improve job prospects, but was told that the only course available was something called ‘basic employability training’.

Also another forum Welfarewatch about the Channel 4 programme on over the last three weeks with the "salesman" type consultants.

Friday, 4 September 2009

College course dates for first part

Well, following the Flexible New Deal meeting, the woman from college, who remembered me from before, rang today for starting a 3 day course (common to all the "Learn a New Skill" courses), of Employability Skills on the Monday (that is CVs, interviews etc, pretty much repeating what I did on "Routeways" I suppose), First Aid on Tuesday (that could be useful to me as I've never done it before but employers often like folks to have it), and Microsoft Office on Wednesday (Word's the only part I use at home, so wouldn't mind the refresher). I did have quite a rapport with the woman in question and actually had laughs catching up on phone, as she said there'd be people on this course in various situations but all in the same boat as regards being unemployed.

Benefit Busters episode 3 - the contrast

Watched episode 3 last night. Quite a contrast, you'd got the one young lad with his self-inflicted injury from drunken high jinks in Turkey, but really felt for one woman with long term depression and the elderly ex painter, they really WANTED to work but were feeling like I do, would any employer take them on?

Had another bad early waking morning at 4am, which hasn't helped put me in the best mind for going to the job club. I will say the people where I did "Flexible Routeways" (just one was a tad agressive but he fortunately left partway through my time) were a lot more human than those shown in this series, who were target driven "sales" types.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

More New Deal conversations on "IndusDelta"

Two more interesting threads about New Deal on the forums on "IndusDelta":
"Benefit busters 2nd episode" about the programme I referenced and "arguments" about the particular provider company.

Even more interesting was this thread about the mental health of long term unemployed.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Re-education of employers - TV programme comment making the point

Comments from a Channel 4 TV programme about the company with the lucrative contract to "help" get the long-term unemployed back to work.

One poster Simon (28/8/09 16:06) makes the point I've been saying: "Of course we have to educate employers as well, as discrimination is alive and well in this country. You're only punished if you are caught and most employers are good at hiding things."

As an aside following some links I stumbled upon this hilarious photo satire of the company in question.

In the meantime I had my own Flexible New Deal meeting today, can't fault the lady I see for this, she does understand my plight in being such a largely able, well qualified person with this one issue. I've signed up for this admin course with the local college as part of "Stage 3", so not yet having contact with the company in question, though am concerned if I may be by getting to the "Stage 4" point.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Comments on article about moving disabled people to 'jobseeker’ status

This Times article is about the current Opposition drawing up plans to shift 1.5m people who claim disability benefits on to jobseeker’s allowance within 12 months of taking office.

Many of the comments are rightly touching on the unwillingness of employers to take on disabled people. At the time of writing there are 43 comments, the top one when ordered "newest" (default) and one on page 4, really put the point. So many disabled people DO WANT TO WORK, but the EMPLOYERS WON'T take them on.

Being on this "Flexible Routeways" thing showed that there was still such a strong mentality of seeing it as being jobseekers who need to be coached rather than re-educating employers. What good did doing role-playing exercises there do me? In that time could my caseworker not have been talking to some employers?

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The benefits system simply can't cope with modern working life

This Guardian article highlights the problem where the system falls apart when it has to respond to fluctuating incomes or rapid changes in people's circumstances. Many benefit claimants are now going into unstable jobs where the income and hours worked can vary wildly from week to week (eg commission-based, or agency work, or zero-hours contracts).

There's a good comment from "Pebb", a Citizen's Advice Bureau adviser, working with people with mental health problems, commenting on their "fight to have their disability recognised as real, finding that the promised 'support' to be provided by yet another private company has been in practice non-existent". Yep, can identify with this

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Asperger, crime and the media

Thread on ASD-Forum about the problem of media reporting on criminals who are aspergers or autistic, quite a lot of debate on hacker Garry McKinnon.

I've just added my own comment, as if it wasn't already difficult enough trying to persuade an employer to choose me, without more tarring with the same brush in the media.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Flexible New Deal college course

Had a periodic review with jobcentre this morning, to be on "Flexible New Deal Stage 3", woman interviewing me was decent enough and does appreciate what I'm going through with Aspergers, and my overall capability of work.

She told me there are new college courses to learn a new skill, giving me a leaflet describing the 7 options:
A - Business, Admin and Retail, well this would be the inevitable one for me, for a refresher on the Business side, don't know how involved I could be on the Retail side though. Would have been good to have an Accountancy specific one, but gather the college have scrapped all their courses anyway, glad I did my Pitmans 4 years ago.
All the others are practical type work, which was never my strength anyway, just for those reading here they are:
B - Hospitality and Catering
C - Support work in Social Care
D - Construction Skills Certification scheme
E - Construction Maintenance
F - Computer Aided Design, this one might have been interesting for me but like programming I did before it may be that bit too specialised.
G - Welding and Abrasive Wheels

Next meeting in a month.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

New month, new blog to follow

New month, new blog to follow.

The politics of unemployment
This has been so interesting to read, the writer did computer programming, like myself many years ago and his thoughts are so similar to mine. He has some good pages about other types of work he has considered and weighed up pros and cons really well.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Samaritans

So I really did it, I've just been on to the "Samaritans", it is just getting me down so much I called them. The feeling of failure and underachievement is just hitting me so hard at the moment.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A year since my last temp job

So today a full year has elapsed since I even had a fortnight of temporary work. God how depressing does that sound, am I that worthless that no-one has wanted me for a whole year? It's the whole selling oneself thing isn't it, I'm so capable of work but lacking that one thing of "communication skills" and cannot sell myself. Hence the blog title.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Employee health questions on forms - case on BBC News

This story was on BBC News tonight about a council losing its High Court case against a former managing director after claiming she withheld a history of depressive illness.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/8100126.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8100429.stm

An employment lawyer in the second article believed the issue at hand was that the questions asked of her were simply not specific enough. What was also of particular interest, was on the television report a doctor admitting many doctors advise people NOT to disclose conditions like depression. I've "got this T-shirt" too, though not to the same extent, as in my long temp employment with a public sector organisation I hadn't disclosed about having Asperger as I had sort of "pushed it to the back of mind" while muddling through employment, the medical form said "Do YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF to have a disability?" which while skimming through I didn't consciously think of myself as disabled just not very confident, and I was just doing data entry work as a lower tier temp. However, later this job got longer term and they tried pushing me into more responsibility "to develop my communication skills" and told me to improve in appraisals, I was out of my depth but felt if I said about Asperger now I'd be sacked for not saying it on the form, even though the wording was actually "Do You Consider Yourself". It certainly can be a close call for milder conditions, but the doctor on the television really struck the chord.

Friday, 5 June 2009

System 'failing autistic adults' on BBC News

System 'failing autistic adults' - tell me something I didn't know!

Quoted "Around half of those with autism also have a learning disability, but for those who do not - those with high functioning autism, such as Asperger Syndrome - accessing support for housing, further education and employment can be particularly hard" the National Audit Office said. Interestingly they also noted there is still a lack of expertise at job centres, with only 200 of 500 disability advisors trained to help people with autism.

I've already posted a lot about the "Flexible Routeways" I was on, with no special "support" as in going between myself and employers, more like just trying to "coach" me towards the normal open market, where I feel no amount of such "coaching" is really going to change me.

Right at the end there's a conclusion from Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, an expert in autism at the University of Cambridge, saying even when people were diagnosed they were often left "isolated, unemployed, lonely, and at risk of developing potentially preventable secondary depression".

I've had many bad nights losing sleep lately, thinking of my neurotypical brother being so successful in his work while I'm not. I had another last night, waking up at 4am and have had to concede I won't go out tonight to the soul music dance I hoped to go to because the sleepless night means I'm too tired to cope with driving.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Opinion Leader research

Opinion Leader is conducting in-depth research into the needs of adults with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC), which will feed into the Government consultation on this issue, due to be completed later this year.

I've just started to register on this site as I hope to be able to have my say about the employment issue.

Monday, 1 June 2009

"Better, faster... and no office politics: the company with the autistic specialists" article

There was a link on this thread on ASD-Forum to this article in the
Independent newspaper about a company in Denmark. They are debating it on the forum in some depth, I haven't digested the whole page yet, will add some comments of my own when I have!

Anyway one comment which really struck out in the article itself was where founder Thorkil Sonne said "In any company, at least one to five per cent of all tasks would fit well with the skills of people with autism. This could apply to recognition patterns in the medical industry, to accounting, to banks? Unfortunately, there is such an emphasis on being a team player and social skills in the workplace that there is still this resistance. But why do we all have to be like that? There should be room for other kinds of behaviour."

Monday, 18 May 2009

Jobless training courses 'demoralising'

My caseworker on the Flexible Routeways wanted to find a link to Donal MacIntyre's investigating the provider he used to work for. I found and forwarded it.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7982550.stm

People all over the country have complained to the BBC about the compulsory courses, which are run by private companies with contracts from the Department of Work and Pensions. They are part of the New Deal, Labour's flagship policy to get people back into work, which was introduced in 1998. Of particular interest to my caseworker was that people who have been on courses run by the same provider he worked for said their experience was "demoralising" with complaints that there was not enough room for people on the course, classes of 30, only about 18 chairs so people were sitting on the tables.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

So similar ....

Another forum link
http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.html?t=1609497&highlight=asperger

This jobseeker's plight is so similar to mine, in his case he thinks he might have asperger but experiences the same difficulties with interviews etc.

I've just forwarded it by e-mail to the Flexible Routeways guy.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Yet more adverts that sum it up

"Must have excellent inter-personnel skills and have the ability to communicate with a wide range of people in sometimes difficult situations."

"Ability to competently jump from one task to another whilst being in control and work under pressure" - people with Asperger are typically good at starting on a task, focussing on it and seeing it through, but don't feel very "in control" in the situation described above.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Ringaround of employers for Asperger awareness

The guy doing the "Flexible Routeways" had a ringaround of 8 employers of different types about what they would do if they had employed or were about to consider employing someone with Asperger. He's just e-mailed me about his findings, with only 2 of those contacted fully aware of Aspergers. The others were happy to listen and agreed the potential benefits far outweighed the negatives. In some cases, it was thought that extra time which the companies didn’t have would be needed to give help and assistance to a person with Aspergers, after explaining only the normal about of induction time was needed things became clearer, the only main adjustment being to reallocate substantial amounts of face-to-face and telephone contact with customers and suppliers to a colleague with better ability on that count.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Interview feedback - not optimistic

Not optimistic about the interview unfortunately. Before going I felt boosted that I had got the interview as my outgoing letter had already said "I would finally make you aware that I do have a moderate condition of Asperger's Syndrome, so would not be well suited to customer or supplier contact", and I was pleased they were interviewing me in apparent full awareness of this.

However a few questions into the interview I got "How are you at dealing with awkward customers?" I referred back to the letter and the interviewer admitted that she hadn't noticed this part, and didn't know what Asperger was. I was asked because the "small family run business", really is that small, it is just father and daughter and the new person, and on two days of most weeks they would be out of the office a lot leaving the new person to work alone, thus being the lone face and voice of the company.

What got to me most about this is that as jobseekers we are constantly reminded to prepare by finding out about companies so they can ask "What do you know about us?". Yet on this occasion they hadn't prepared as they clearly overlooked that sentence in my letter.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

First interview in six months

Had an e-mail back from a marquee hire company where I'd applied for a position doing admin and invoicing. I have an interview this coming Thursday 9th, its the first one I've had since the electricians' place in October.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Flexible Routeways review played on my mind

Last week’s weekly review conversation on the "Flexible Routeways" has really played on my mind for the past week to the extent that I have felt the need to put together a detailed response to address points that are difficult to address in the meetings due to time constraints etc. It is already appreciated at the provider that the main difficulty I have with job searching is the constantly stated requirements in job specifications for “good/excellent communication skills” when I am only ever at best “reasonable” given my disability of Asperger syndrome and consequentially hesitant, softly toned voice (i.e. not “confident” / “assertive” etc).

The caseworker had often told me to “leave previous employers’ criticisms in the past and tell myself I’m good”, I felt this was inappropriate as besides being easier said than done in principle, the implication is that the onus is on me to take a job with such specification, “tell myself I’m good” and learn to do the communication expected of someone with no disability, without any onus on the employer to make reasonable adjustments. I do realise (though that is no “consolation”) that the economic climate is allowing the employers to be more choosy than usual.
- I cannot simply “leave previous employers’ criticisms in the past”, as I concede:
- it was my fault I hadn’t told two of the employers in question that I had any named disability
- their criticisms, whilst undiplomatic (and may have been put more diplomatically if I had stated my named disability), were truthful in that I clearly do not have a normal “good” standard of communication skills and would not be able to do everything expected of someone who did.

I appreciate his positive comment that I compared favourably to people he worked with at another training provider where many less intelligent jobseekers were sent by the jobcentre in that I spoke “understandably” to himself, other staff and a visiting trainee nurse, though these were mainly conversations about my disability and the obstacles it causes with job searching where I am speaking from experience. However the employers in question would have had better communicators to compare me to, therefore I concede I did not compare so favourably to these, unlike for the caseworker considering his previous clients.

On the basis of the conversations referred to in the last paragraph he believed that I’d always be fine at one-to-one or small group communication with internal colleagues, I on occasions said “not all the time every time”, and had begun to quote an example from a period with a previous employer only to be cut off with the “that’s in the past leave it there” line. The example in question was that I'd been in a department with many complicated funding rules to learn which in that full role, I had responsibility for re-iterating to relevant staff when they did anything not compliant these rules. This was a “one-to-one communication” but I didn’t always do it perfectly, I couldn’t always get my head round the rules myself let alone explain to someone else. I do believe I am reasonable at internal communication most of the time, but quote the above to highlight not always. The caseworker is keen to contact prospective employers “to find out precise specifications of jobs” to establish whether references to “communication skills” refer to internal (I’d probably be alright but bear the above in mind) or customers and suppliers (definitely not suitable as I’ve already had proven bad experience).

I printed this out in a feedback letter to him, on the reverse of which I have printed a page of the National Autistic Society’s leaflet “Employee Pack - Looking for a Job” which actually cites a few examples of reasonable adjustments that could be applied to someone with Asperger, which may be helpful to him in contact with employers. In a similar situation to the above I feel that the employer would have to make the adjustment of ensuring that if there were similarly complicated issues that had to be regularly explained to internal staff, if I would find this difficult verbally, then the issues should be written down and perhaps re-iterated verbally by a more assertive natured colleague or supervisor.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Asperger Employment Documentary to be made

On one of the asperger forums someone from a film company has posted about how they are working to produce a documentary about adults with Aspergers finding employment, as so many focus only on children or a 'special ability'.

So often the media like to bash unemployed people tarring them all with the "chav" brush, and its time something was made to counter with the plight of those with much intelligence and skills to offer but largely unable to sell themselves in interviews.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Potentially discriminating restaurant design

One well known roadside restaurant chain which I have often used since I have been a driver, has not been doing so well in recent times. Despite this they had a mixture of 4-8 seat tables for families, and two seat ones which I have felt comfortable to use. However, enter a well known TV chef and an appointed designer, the designers decide to have "communal tables" for those on their own, pictured:

This long table appears to have 9 seats each side, 18 in total. I would feel really uncomfortable with this, and my burning question is could this be seen as a discrimination against someone with Aspergers and similar who would feel discomfort at being made to sit at such a table? I'm sure that wasn't deliberately intented but have they really thought how someone with such a condition would find this intimidating? The chain's online news archive

Links to full article on Dezeen.com and the chain's archive, see the 'Big News' dated 28 November 2008.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

"Easing us back in?" You've got to be joking

Today's session at Flexible Routeways was one of the worst for me. They said they were "easing us back in" after the break for Christmas and New Year. Started with a role play exercise where they set us scenarios of us being survivors of a plane which has fallen into the sea and co-ordinate our survival discussing the objects supposedly available to us. I just couldn't contribute at all, everyone else had plenty to say. Then there was the one about the nuclear bunker that's only big enough for 6 people but 12 of us to compete to be allowed to shelter in it. I pretty much sat this one out, they made me play the "god" who decides who can go in, but I couldn't decide anyway. They claimed this was to make the point about making people sell themselves as more deserving to be saved than the others, on a par with selling themselves in an interview as better than other potential applicants for the job.

I've always hated role plays. In the Flexible Routeways leaflet it says "the programme involves personal coaching and confidence building." Many people do think of these role plays as a way of confidence building, but if anything mine has dropped from being given this to do and not doing it well, it isn't the sort of thing that practice is going to make me any better at. Aspergers people often "lack imagination", the very quality most required to contribute to an exercise like that.