Seeking my dream job with an ASD organization

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greenturtle74
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29 Nov 2009, 11:37 am

I’m going for it! Recently I decided I want to work for an organization serving people affected by autism/Asperger’s.

This would be a dream come true for me. I have 8 years experience in non-profit fundraising and communications (behavioral health), and I’m also a self-diagnosed Aspie with a desire to help others. I feel like my personal and professional experience puts me in a unique position to do that.

I write grants, I write newsletters, I blog, I collect outcomes data, I recruit volunteers, and I am an advocate. (I also do some cartooning on the side.) What I love the most is to interview people and tell their stories. I still have lots to learn about autism/AS, but I'm sure this is my future career path. I am hoping there’s an organization in the greater Philadelphia area that’s doing good work and could use someone like me.

Last week I sent off my first applications to two organizations. I’m excited to take this step but I know it won’t be easy. There are only so many organizations and very few positions like this. I’m open to any advice or leads, and I will post updates here on how my search goes.

If you’d like to talk specifics or find out more about me, please PM. Thanks!



Katie_WPG
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29 Nov 2009, 1:03 pm

I wish you the best. It sounds like it would be a great job.

There is one snag that you might hit, though.

I know that not all non-profit managers are like this, but many have hang-ups regarding the particular clients they serve. Usually this is the case if their child has the disability/disorder/disease that their organization focuses on.

While you may think that having AS is an advantage in this particular case, you still have to consider the idea that the policy makers at any particular charity might have some serious issues with hiring a person that they consider to be "damaged", unless it's in a very token, low responsibility role. Their entire charity is based off the idea that people with AS are "damaged".

So, for them to hire someone, they need to acknowledge that the person they are hiring is "capable". If they believe that people with AS are NOT capable, then they are going to have some serious cognitive dissonance conflicts when posed with the question of whether to hire you or not.

I would suggest checking the websites of these organizations to see if they're on the "up and up". Do they focus more on acheivements/positives, or on disabilities/negatives?

Do they use phrases like "life-long care/support", "requires special ed", "very limited employment opportunities/capabilities" to describe people with Asperger's (NOT classical autism)? If so, you might want to consider not applying, or applying but NOT disclosing.

If possible, you might want to find out if the policy makers are primarily PEOPLE with AS, or NT parents of those with AS.



greenturtle74
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29 Nov 2009, 7:07 pm

Katie_WPG, your point is well-taken. In fact, one of my top criteria is that the organization have a positive, even a progressive view of the autism spectrum. Specifically, that it is a difference, not a disease, and in some ways a gift. I am doing thorough research before I apply. The philosophy of the organization has to be compatible with my own.

I’ve been fortunate to spend the past 8 years with a behavioral health organization that’s a leader in their field and puts the client first in all they do. So trust me, I know what to look for. I certainly don’t see myself as damaged, and anyone who shares my view of the spectrum will see I have strengths and weaknesses just like any employee.



zer0netgain
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29 Nov 2009, 9:15 pm

Sounds like good news. I've seen a lot of places that help the handicapped basically avoid hiring them. It's nice to see one that backs its mission with in-house action.



greenturtle74
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05 Dec 2009, 10:06 pm

This week I’m feeling very ambivalent about my job search. I haven’t applied anywhere new. I’m thinking about it a lot, and continuing to do my research, but not being able to act on it is frustrating.

The idea of change is hard to deal with for me. I like my routines. A new job means a new routine. Probably a much longer commute. Maybe co-workers I won’t like as much. As much as I’d like to get out of the situation I’m in, trading my certainty for uncertainty is not so appealing.

I haven’t gotten any response from the two places I did apply. Not even a form letter, so that is discouraging. I know what a luxury it is to have a job while I’m looking, because to be out of work and waiting for an acknowledgment that never comes would be all the more disappointing.

Just this week, my cartoons are getting me noticed in a way that my resumes and cover letters haven’t. That was never part of the plan, but I’m extremely grateful for the attention even as I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. If this ends up being the thing that opens a door for me, hey, whatever works. The major events in life never happen as planned.

So as hard as it is to do, I have to let go of my own plan a little more, let opportunity find me if that’s what it’s going to do, and make the best decisions I can, in spite of the uncertainty.



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11 Dec 2009, 12:41 am

This is an interesting thread to me because I've done a similar job search to yours, although I don't have as many years of experience as you. I also wanted to work at an organization serving disabled or autistic folks. I found one in San Francisco, Independent Living Resource Center, where they require all job applicants to actually have a disability themselves. My issue was that there are so few of these organizations, and they're underfunded. For instance, I found a job opening at the ILRC that was perfect for me, but then they told me after a few weeks that they weren't going to be hiring anyone.



greenturtle74
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13 Dec 2009, 11:43 am

This week I sent resumes to two more organizations. I got replies back this time. One said they are not hiring at this time; the other said they would be interested if I could find a way to fund my position. That’s very difficult for a small organization, so I don’t see it happening. But it’s good to have interest, at least.

That pretty much does it for my top tier of choices, at least at this stage. Where to go from here? I don’t think it’s worth doing much job-hunting during the holidays; everyone’s busy.

So I think I will take some of the best advice I’ve read, which is to focus on finding people, not jobs. I believe it really is all about who you work with, more than where. I’ve been fortunate to work with visionary, progressive people in the addictions field, and I would settle for no less than to work with visionaries in the autism field.



greenturtle74
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28 Jan 2010, 8:00 pm

I have not worked on my job search in the past 6 weeks, and I really need to. I feel burned out at work and that my career is hopelessly stalled. But it is terribly difficult to maintain my motivation to job search. I am worried that nothing is out there. If I can't be optimistic, I won't make a smart decision. I feel stuck and don't know how to go forward.



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29 Jan 2010, 12:21 am

Good luck with it, whatever you do. As others have said, many "charity" organizations don't hire the people that they help. If you actually get the job then you should be happy though, working to help people.

Sorry to hear that your career isn't going anywhere at the moment.



greenturtle74
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04 May 2011, 7:33 pm

Bump.

I learned today I am being laid off after 9 years of dedicated service. I have kept up my search all this time, so I will simply continue with more urgency. Hopefully this will be the opportunity I have been working toward for so long.



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11 May 2011, 9:16 pm

I'll definitely let you know if I hear of anything that could be a good match. It's such a rough time to be searching in the nonprofit world right now and things are so shakey at a lot of places, including where I am. So, this strikes a bit of a chord ...

Just so I know for future reference, how long of a commute would you be willing to take on?



greenturtle74
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11 May 2011, 9:24 pm

blueroses wrote:
Just so I know for future reference, how long of a commute would you be willing to take on?


Thank you, blueroses. I'm outside the Philadelphia metro area and could probably do up to an hour commute. So that limits me to Philly and its suburbs, South Jersey, Delaware, and about as far west as Lancaster PA.