Recently Diagnosed, Unemployed – How to move forward?

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Rocket123
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01 May 2013, 3:53 pm

I have been unemployed for the past year. A significant amount of self reflection led to the discovery that I had Aspergers (I was formerly diagnosed last month).

So, I was fortunate enough to have worked in high technology for the past 26 years in a variety of positions including engineer, business analyst and project manager.

During this time, I have had my share of difficulties. It wasn't smooth sailing (as I had 14 different jobs). These difficulties included being overly-detailed, being overly literal and having issues with peers and authority (as I tended to be very skeptical and question everything).

My work was definitely more enjoyable when I was doing engineering (which was many years ago). Which makes total sense, given the diagnosis. Since then, it has been problematic. Especially the part of working with people.

Prior to my diagnosis, I didn’t understand these “deficits”. While I knew I had social issues (particularly with social gatherings), I felt I was pretty good in the working world. I just figured that I was “normal” (being logical and sensible) and everyone else was screwed up.

However, during my Self Discovery (of learning about Aspergers and going through a formal diagnosis), I recognized how wrong (and deluded) I was. I now realize how the combination of deficiencies in Executive Function and Social Skills made my work life miserable. Had I known then, what I know now, I would have chosen a different path.

At the juncture, I am a pretty confused. With no clue what to do next. I am uncertain what useful skills I possess for today's workplace. I have very limited interests (surprise, surprise). I am terrible at networking. And, my technical skills are 20 years out-of-date.

Fortunately, there is always time to course-correct. Are there other folks out there – who are 50 – who have started second careers? I am just looking for ideas on how to move forward.



Tomas73
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07 May 2013, 4:22 am

Hi Rocket :)

I can certainly identify with this.

I agree it's worth being open minded about your options. I am 40 this year, I started working as a musician when I was 16, and although reasonably accomplished always felt it was an uphill struggle. After, 19 years of that, and other stuff, my I finally "crashed and burned" - divorce struck, I hated my work, I had all sorts of issues, including a drink problem.

It's taken a while to find a new path, but I am just about to complete a BSc Degree in CGI & 3D animation (Architectural Visualisation pathway). This line of work should hopefully, suit my temperament and abilities. I am pleased with my progress.

My best friend (the only person other than my girlfriend whom I can talk deeply with) is 52. I met him on this course. He is the top student by a mile. He is going on to do a Masters, later this year. He has broad interests in CGI work, but is on track to work in VFX.

I find it inspiring and affirming that he has done so well in this new direction, after spending decades in another line of work.

I suspect that the key to a new path would be passion. After all how can we or others expect much of ourselves if aren't "really into it".

I hope you find your way, and I expect you will, it is amazing how many skills we pick up, that we don't even acknowledge, let alone when we put our mind to it.



Tomas73
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07 May 2013, 4:35 am

btw: I toyed with various possibilities and went down a couple of dead ends before settling into CGI. I volunteered in different organizations, and failed miserably in some areas (usually dealing with people) and did very well in the "creative meets techy" stuff.

I also did a term/semester of a Science degree, which I reluctantly quit, because the course was based on the presumption of basic knowledge, which I had failed to acquire in school. It's a shame really because I felt I had an aptitude, but my schooling was a disaster, (hence I resorted to musicianship, which I was passionate about, but it was not a very practical career path for me).



Looneytunes
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08 May 2013, 8:57 pm

Welcome to the world - I have had 69 jobs - one for every woman I took to bed - only to find out that she was not the one for me.

A self revelation came to mind - if you do not like who you are working for, then it is only logical for you to work for yourself!

You know what works and what does not.
Start your own business, hire people to work for you,.
Surround yourself with smart people and let them make you money

Forget about the past
If you had to - go back to school.
Get the educatshun you need to realize your goals!

The world is always looking for more engineers.



Rocket123
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09 May 2013, 1:26 pm

Looneytunes wrote:
A self revelation came to mind - if you do not like who you are working for, then it is only logical for you to work for yourself!

You know what works and what does not.
Start your own business, hire people to work for you,.
Surround yourself with smart people and let them make you money

Forget about the past
If you had to - go back to school.
Get the educatshun you need to realize your goals!

The world is always looking for more engineers.


Looneytunes Thanks for the reply.

Your suggestion (to work for myself) makes sense. In fact, I have tried to do this for the last several years (via contracting). Unfortunately, I haven’t been too successful. I suck at networking. I suck at selling myself. Unfortunately, my self-esteem is pretty much shot. So, I am not even certain what my marketable/useful skills are.

I thought about going back and doing engineering again. But, it has been almost 20 years since I wrote code. And, even when I did write code, I wasn’t a great engineer (I produced good quality work, but I was a very slow coder).

Anyway, I am thinking about going back to school. But, I am clueless what to do. I thought of working in the non-profit sector. But, again, I am uncertain what skills I bring to the table.



Tomas73
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10 May 2013, 5:37 am

Rocket123 wrote:

Looneytunes Thanks for the reply.



Your welcome - I'm so glad I made the effort.



Rocket123
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10 May 2013, 10:31 am

Tomas73 wrote:
Your welcome - I'm so glad I made the effort.


Tomas73 Thanks for your prior reply as well. LOL. :)

Tomas73 wrote:
I suspect that the key to a new path would be passion. After all how can we or others expect much of ourselves if aren't "really into it".


I totally agree (about the key being a passion). It's odd. I feel passionless about almost everything. Oh - I still read a lot about Aspergers. I am reading one entitled, "Asperger Syndrome and Anxiety". And plan to re-read another entitled, "A Field Guide to Earthlings" (I did not fully understand it the first time).

I continue to help out with housework (as my wife is the sole bread winner now). I continue to write in my journal every day. And, I continue to take my dog for daily walks (as I love walking and thinking). But that's about it. Other than that, I feel like my life is wasting away.

So. How did you find this new passion? Did you discover it via your volunteering activities? If so, what type of volunteer activities did you pursue?

Tomas73 wrote:
I hope you find your way, and I expect you will, it is amazing how many skills we pick up, that we don't even acknowledge, let alone when we put our mind to it.


Thank you.



Tomas73
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10 May 2013, 12:58 pm

:)

btw: I can also recommend "The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome" by Tony Attwood. It's quite easy to get through. It is a little bit child-centric in some parts, but on the whole I think he's done a pretty good job. I think he ought to do separate editions; ("for parents", "for adults" etc.).

' Sounds like you're depressed. It's very common amongst Aspies. I've had a diagnosis of Depression & Anxiety for about 15 years.

If I'd had to choose to do something I liked doing, I'd be choosing the lesser of evils as I pretty much don't enjoy anything. That said, when I have to do something (like find a career) it gives me a focus to distract me from ruminating in a negative spiral. So I didn't ask myself "what do I want to do?", instead I asked "what will give me the most practical chance of sustaining work?" along with the prerequisite that it does not make me more depressed than I already am.

I know I can lose myself in something creative, and I know I can sustain an interest in something that poses technical challenges in the way that CGI does. The pertinent industries to CGI practitioners, are competitive, but if you apply yourself, I think one can expect to find work.

So perhaps it's a case of necessity being the mother of invention, and provider of salvation.

The volunteering was my girlfriend's idea. She was right; it helped. I steered away from what didn't work, and took inspiration from what did. At first I tried to get back into a working environment, and ended up taking phone calls for a charity. Answering phones is a pet hate of mine so... ! I didn't get on with the other staff very well, or cope with the atmosphere there. I knew that I definitely didn't want to do people-centric stuff. I needed to be able to get on, on my own. Working with computers seemed a logical answer to that. I knew that the a local sports association had a communications team that dealt with digital media for their publicity, and ended up offering to help organize their photo library. I did two days a week for 6 months, while thinking of and researching career paths that I would prefer. This activity gave me momentum and purpose, and my mental health is generally a lot more robust, when I am doing something I believe is worthwhile.



kouzoku
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10 May 2013, 1:26 pm

I'm not 50, I'm only 31, but I've had so much frustration regarding career. In Uni, I changed my major several times because I simply couldn't figure out what I could do in the "real world". There is almost no guidance for students in regard to what a degree translates to after graduation and what jobs are actually like. I went from Virology to Chemical Engineering, to Business Admin (which is the degree I eventually went with), back to Biology, to Music Therapy, and now I am determined to finish a Music degree. I got the Business degree as a result of heavy pressure from both my dad and my ex. They were both frustrated with my indecisiveness and convinced me that it was the only degree that would be lucrative. I never even tried to get a degree in things I actually love like Philosophy or Art because I haven't a clue as to what I'd do with them. I tried running a business, but that only lasted a few months b/c of my bad health and it was INCREDIBLY overwhelming. The reason I quit engineering is that the Uni which had the degree was a two hour round trip, and I basically could not handle that every day, plus the workload. I quickly learned that engineering was an 80 hour week and my health took a nose dive. I could not afford to live on campus nor would my situation allow for it (long story).

After graduation, I worked in an Accounting department for awhile and it ate me alive. It is nothing like you'd imagine - it's highly social. Computers do all the work and tbh you don't need a degree to do the work. This was corporate accounting, btw and the politics involved were horrendous. I never liked business to begin with, but I listened to my dad and also it was an easy degree (required some common sense is all). I went to a private school which made it a bit tough with all the coursework, but the subject itself is not difficult at all. It's more depressing than anything...

I'm not working now due to a myriad of health problems and I don't know what the future has in store. It makes me incredibly depressed sometimes, but I try to be positive. I definitely want to go finish up a music degree for MYSELF. I'd love to have a spot in a small orchestra or ensemble, even if I'm not making much money. My absence from the arts really sucked the life out of me and that's all I know. It's what I'm made to do. I have to do it no matter what happens in the end. At least I have the business degree to fall back on if I get desperate.

If I were you, I'd do what you love. If it means going back to school, then do it. Sometimes as aspies, we analyze things TO DEATH and it's not always a good thing. I don't know about your financial and home situation, therefore I don't know what you are able to do right now in your life, but I really wish you are able to do something that fulfills you. You don't have to be #1 in your class to be a good enough engineer. You might want to research about how the field has changed and what you'd have to learn. Maybe you've already done that.

I wish you the best of luck. This is a struggle many aspies face and you're not alone.



Rocket123
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10 May 2013, 4:27 pm

Tomas73 wrote:
btw: I can also recommend "The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome" by Tony Attwood. It's quite easy to get through. It is a little bit child-centric in some parts, but on the whole I think he's done a pretty good job. I think he ought to do separate editions; ("for parents", "for adults" etc.)


Thanks for the suggestion. This is a great book (it was the second Aspergers book I read after learning about the condition late last year). It took me forever to read, as I was busy highlighting paragraph after paragraph of things that described my behaviors and/or experiences.

Tomas73 wrote:
Sounds like you're depressed. It's very common amongst Aspies. I've had a diagnosis of Depression & Anxiety for about 15 years.


That’s me. The psychologist (who diagnosed me) indicated I have an ongoing, underlying, mild depression that gets worse during periods of stress and change. Then again, I knew that prior to being diagnosed.

Tomas73 wrote:
If I'd had to choose to do something I liked doing, I'd be choosing the lesser of evils as I pretty much don't enjoy anything.


That’s me as well. Though, I have enjoyed learning about Aspergers. I pretty much like researching anything that piques my interest.

Tomas73 wrote:
That said, when I have to do something (like find a career) it gives me a focus to distract me from ruminating in a negative spiral. So I didn't ask myself "what do I want to do?", instead I asked "what will give me the most practical chance of sustaining work?" along with the prerequisite that it does not make me more depressed than I already am.


Very good advice.

Tomas73 wrote:
…This activity gave me momentum and purpose, and my mental health is generally a lot more robust, when I am doing something I believe is worthwhile.


Again, thanks for the advice, Tomas73. I appreciate it.



Rocket123
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10 May 2013, 4:44 pm

kouzoku wrote:
If I were you, I'd do what you love. If it means going back to school, then do it. Sometimes as aspies, we analyze things TO DEATH and it's not always a good thing. I don't know about your financial and home situation, therefore I don't know what you are able to do right now in your life, but I really wish you are able to do something that fulfills you. You don't have to be #1 in your class to be a good enough engineer. You might want to research about how the field has changed and what you'd have to learn. Maybe you've already done that.

I wish you the best of luck. This is a struggle many aspies face and you're not alone.


I think your advice makes a lot of sense (to do what you love).

Your observation (that we aspies analyze things to death) is an accurate assessment (of me, at least). In fact, I was just looking through my diagnosis report and the psychologist (who diagnosed me) wrote that I become paralyzed by “decision indecision”.

And, I am beginning to see how this has tormented my life (both past and present). Yikes. Well, hopefully, I can identify a path forward and get the momentum going. Because this “decision indecision” is tearing me up.

Kouzoku Thanks for the reply and kind words. Also, thanks for sharing your story.