Time really does fly fast, although sometimes, it may not seem that it does. This was the thought that crossed my mind after realizing that it has been ten years since I graduated college, which means that I have been part of the work force for a decade now. Finding a job and having a career isn’t easy for anyone, and it is even harder for those who exist on the spectrum or on the higher end of the spectrum, like me. In fact, it took me ten long years to figure out what I really wanted to do as a career and it took me that long as well to create strategies and coping mechanisms to help me cope with the job and career I have now. So, in line with this, I decided to create the “Aspergirl on the Job” category, in which I will impart some tricks, tips and know hows, all the way from strategy tips to some advice on how to choose a career path or the right job for you; and the pros and cons of a freelance versus a full time job. However, before diving into that, I’d like to share my own little story with you, as I’ve gained a lot of experiences over the ten years I’ve been working, with the thirteen jobs I’ve had in my life so far, and the realizations that led me to where I am today.
Job 1: Musical Theater Workshop Instructor
This was my very first paid job right after college. I taught a musical theater workshop to some pre-teens and teenagers at the music academy I was taking Voice Lessons at. At the end of the workshop, we also had a culminating activity- a small musical, which I somehow managed to pull off with a very, very limited budget. As I was fresh out of being part of theater and a musical theater org for my entire college career, it wasn’t so hard for me to do this, although there were a lot of stresses along the way.
Job 2: English Teacher (Call Center Type, Full Time, Shift Schedule)
After that summer, I followed the advice of my parents, and took a full time job for one whole year. I taught English to Europeans in an office that was somewhat like a call-center, with a horrible shift schedule that sort of reversed my body clock as our shifts started in the afternoon and ended late at night, especially during a particular season. It was a good paying stable job, but I did become bored after a while. However, it did give me some interesting new experiences such as going to my first ever company outing. I didn’t really get to rest ever since graduating, so I didn’t really have much time to really think of an actual career, especially since I wasn’t sure who would hire a graduate of Theater Arts. However, after the year was up, I knew that I couldn’t last long in this type of environment, and left after a year. The schedule was also pretty tiring for me.
Job 3: Assistant Pre-School Teacher
While figuring out what to do next, I ended up working for a few months, half days, at a small pre-school. I took it as it gave me some freedom with my time as it was half-day, and at least I’d be able to earn money while waiting and figuring out what my next actual job would be. It was more exhausting than I thought it would be, but it was fun at the same time, as I was mostly around small kids, and did a lot of playing and helping around there.
Job 4: Program Researcher for a local Magazine News Show at a big local channel
Back then, when I got the job offer and when I passed the test and interview, I thought that this was going to be a good stepping stone into working in a more creative or production role for tv. However, I only lasted for a few months. The company’s culture really wasn’t for me, and the demands and tasks we were given sometimes bordered on the impossible, but we somehow managed to pull things off for our respective segments every single time. It was exhausting, stressful, and I would sometimes go home really early in the morning and commute alone, which isn’t really safe at all. I also broke down several times, which was a very big signal that this line of work wasn’t for me at all. (Also, we were very much underpaid, which is no surprise at all.) Here, I also had a hard time adjusting to the people around me, but I mostly stayed quiet and tried to do my job the best that I could. I also hated the office politics that also came into play.
Job 5: Project Clerk, PR Department at an Insurance Company
After leaving my job at that local tv channel, I ended up working at the PR Department at a local insurance company alongside a high school friend. I was only a contractual employee, and my stay was only for eight months. Before starting the job, my maternal grandmother died, and it really did take me some time to adjust to that as well. (I also discovered that everyone has a different way of grieving.) However, the pace of the work was a bit slow for me, and it was also here that I discovered why a lot of people advise that you shouldn’t work with friends. For some people it works, and for some it doesn’t. It didn’t for me.
However, this job did give me a turning point of sorts, as I started to learn more about myself and started the looong process of actually accepting my diagnosis. I also had a hard time adjusting to the many tasks I sometimes had to do, and it would take me long to them, sometimes. I think that to others it might have looked like I was being lazy, but I was actually having a hard time multi-tasking and didn’t really know how to prioritize things well. I also had a hard time adjusting to the people in the office, and never really felt like part of the team. After this, I decided that I wouldn’t do full time jobs anymore, or at least, for the time being.
Job 6: Food Stall Owner
For this one, my family and I decided to try out being food franchise owners, and for around a year or so, we had a food stall of our own, and even joined a school fair. The hardest part for me with this job was keeping the books. I am not very good at math and keeping track of finances and inventory, especially when it came to taking note of daily expenditures. After a year or so, we decided not to continue on with the food stall as the location we had, which we thought was good, wasn’t really working out for us. It was also around this time in which I began to toy with the idea of trying out for law school, because why not? However, I ended up becoming too busy for that.
Job 7: Drama Teacher
After that, I went back to my college roots, and for two years, I taught drama to pre-schoolers, kids and teenagers with someone I do look up to- my former first year high school literature teacher. I actually had a lot of fun going back to my roots and teaching drama, and exploring whether or not I did want to teach drama full time with the goals and objectives that this particular program had. However, while I did enjoy it, I did some soul searching and discovered what I’m really good at and what I knew I wanted a career in- telling stories, in whatever way I can. The job was fun, fulfilling and exhausting, but after a lot of thinking, I realized that as much as I loved doing it, its not something I saw continuing as a career.
Job 8: Tutor/Teacher
Around the same time I was a drama teacher, I was also doing some private tutoring and more importantly, a private teacher to two home school students. I really didn’t have much time to think about a lot of things during this time, because I was also juggling being a drama teacher and starting to write online for an entertainment news site at the same time. I think that I took on more than I could handle, and it could be seen in the fact that I sometimes failed to prioritize checking essay questions on time. I had a hard time handling priorities as I had so much going on.
Job 9: Online Entertainment Writer
After quitting being a drama teacher and and a tutor, I worked for around a year or two for an online entertainment news site. I would watch tv shows and write recaps, write reviews, and write entertainment news articles. The only downside to this was that I really didn’t have that much holidays, except for the weekends, and I remember frantically writing in order to make the quota of five articles per day right before family reunions, especially during the Christmas season. I watched a lot of Western tv for this job. I was also offered a promotion, but after trying being an editor, I just ended up getting frustrated after realizing there was no way I would be able to make the quota for edited articles as I had to keep sending them back for writers to re-write them. I also ended up realizing that they’d prefer click baity articles, and would prefer me to recap shows that more people were interested in, but I didn’t find interesting, so when I realized that there was no more room for growth for me, and the virtual office politics were getting out of hand, I decided to leave.
For this job, I found it difficult to stop myself going down the research rabbit hole, which I do tend to do, and I really didn’t know how to use my time wisely at that point. At this point, I was more accepting of my diagnosis, and thought that freelance would be the way for me because of all the limitations that I do have. At least, if I work freelance, I’d be able to go at my own pace.
Job 10: Freelance Researcher
After quitting the ninth job, I had a very brief stint as a freelance researcher. The research topic was interesting, and gathering information from libraries that I have never been too was fun, but it was just a very small gig for me that didn’t really go anywhere. It was fun while it lasted though.
Job 11: Social Media Manager
While I was doing my freelance jobs, I was also helping out my dad’s architectural firm with their social media as a part time social media manager- I basically posted pictures and curated articles for their Facebook page. At this point, while I still wanted to work freelance, it wasn’t just enough to support myself. So, for a few months, I worked as a social media manager for a start up company whose product I thought had a lot of potential. This time around, I was more accepting of my diagnosis and my limitations, and had coping strategies to help myself survive in an office setting. However, the scope of the job was a little bit more than I expected it to be, plus, there were actual issues in terms of poor management. In any case, as soon as I got my first break down, I knew it was a sign for me to leave, which I did. After I left, that’s when I was finally able to rest a little bit more, and started this blog- The Asian Aspergirl.
Job 12: Freelance Writer
After leaving that start up, I rested for a while, and then tried to really succeed at being a freelance writer. I was on all the freelance work and freelance writing sites you know of. I got some interesting gigs, but it was still not really enough for me. Later on, I realized that in order to really make bank, you really have to put out a lot of effort for little pay first, and then as you build your name and yourself up, then it can be better. However, although I used to freelance life at this time, I felt that it wasn’t enough. There was still a sense of no ownership over my efforts for the output that I gave out. I liked the freedom that I had, but sometimes, it didn’t feel as freeing as I wanted it to be.
Job 13: Marketing Manager
I finally came on board full time working at my dad’s company last year. In a sense, I had been working for them for years already as a part-time social media manager, but when my sister came on board as the COO, I decided that it was time for me to join as well. Now, I run a very small marketing department (we are only two people), and we handle the company’s Marketing & PR efforts. While I still have a lot to learn in my role, and I do make a lot of mistakes, although I always try my best, I know am armed with more coping strategies to be able to safely navigate life in the office, running a small department, and navigating life as well. And, for the first time, I felt like I was truly in the right place, like everything that I experienced over the course of a decade helped me learn things that would be very much valuable for my role. Aside from that, it is very fulfilling that I can help this company grow, as it’s been in my life ever since I was young. It’s also quite comforting that I know that this will be my very last job, and I know that I’m happy to continue on growing in my role as we continue to expand.
BONUS: Passion Projects-My Two Blogs
At a certain point, I really did think that I wanted to earn money through my blogs, and while I am also still working on them as my passion projects, these are not my main sources of income. However, I do love working on them, and I hope that I will not stop doing them, even though I do have some lengthy hiatuses from them from time to time.
During my ten years of working in thirteen different jobs, there were many moments in which I felt lost and frustrated, and many times in which I thought I was in the right career path. However, as it turned out, all the jobs that I had helped me to acquire the skills that I have today; and even in my role as marketing manager, I am able to capitalize on what I have been doing best ever since I was a kid- telling stories. Interestingly enough, my actual final place of work was something that was right under my nose for a long time, but one that I refused to pay attention to until I finally gave it a chance.
Also, along the way, I discovered more about myself, accepted my diagnosis, accepted my limitations and strengths and used all of that to create strategies and coping mechanisms for myself, especially on the days that are extremely hard for me.
I hope that my little story not only gives you an insight as to what I have gone through over the past ten years, but I hope that this can give hope as well to those who are like me out there who may feel that finding a job or a good career that they can thrive in is impossible, goodness knows that I needed stories like that back when I was also lost and feeling a bit hopeless as well.
Also, have you ever been in the same position as I was and have you ever felt the same way I felt as I searched for myself and my own career path? How did you figure it out and how did you cope? Let me know your experiences as well in the comments below!