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Job Hunting on the Spectrum: Part 2

By Dmitri 

Hello once again dear readers, 

How have these wintery months treated you? I’ve had, like I imagine so many others have, some surprising run-ins with the weather this past month from freezing rain to more snow than I could shovel. But let’s move on to an even more dreadful topic than that, the main topic of this week’s blog; job hunting (for retail jobs) on the spectrum. 

Picking up from where we left off last time, I detailed to you my process of finding my first co-op. Interviewing with far-out professors and considering what I really want to eventually do with my degree, big picture things that will all be very important in the long run. But during December when all of this prep stuff was going on? My savings were running low and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to my co-op without some other source of income. This is when I tend to turn to retail positions. 

My general history with working has been somewhat of a messy one, I’d much prefer to tell potential employers about the years I’ve spent volunteering at local pride centers or school research projects than the slew of minimum wage jobs I’ve held for usually no more than 6 months. I’ve never been fired, but generally, my own frustration towards the position and conflicts with school leads me to respectfully put in my 2-weeks notice. 

Being the customer-service-based proletariat of our society isn’t easy for anyone, rude customers, sleazy business practices, and long hours of physical labor would have anyone beat by the end of a shift. But add a neurodivergency such as autism, Tourettes, or ADHD? These jobs can become nightmarish if not impossible. Suddenly not picking up social cues from a customer or being physically unable to perform some tasks become grounds for being reprimanded or even fired. I personally don’t have a solution or even many tips and tricks to get by this (hence my often short-term jobs). But in a short amount of time in these past few months, I’ve managed to just secure another retail job so that’s what I’ll go into detail now. 

It started just after I started looking for co-op jobs, I suggested to my partner that I apply to where he works. He works for a certain retail coffee chain that won’t be named here. This siren-esque chain has been known for its good benefits and alright treatment of its workers, and although my partner hasn’t necessarily had the perfect experience with those ideals, he’s survived thus far. I got into contact with his manager, dropped off my resume in person (they absolutely love that), and had an interview over the phone. I maintained some transparency, letting them know that in the spring I would be shifting focus to my co-op, but left off if I would be able to continue working in the spring or not. At the time I didn’t know, and with so many unknown variables I thought it’d be best if I kept some information to myself. 

I got through the initial hiring process painlessly enough, put on a smile when I needed to, and played by their rulebook. And I was brought on the week between Christmas and New Years’ to do my training. This is when it tends to get more laid back, as co-workers can sympathize with your experiences because they’re also living it. I learned what I needed to know, and now I work the closing shift two or three times a week at your friendly neighborhood coffee shop, which just so happens to drain money from the community and systematically trains their baristas to make ‘customer connections’ while serving you coffee with 3 times the amount of caffeine your Mr. Coffee could ever hope to make. 

Will I stay there after my co-op starts? Who knows! The future is uncertain here and retail is scary. I’m just glad I have the support necessary to feel confident that I can figure it out. 

Till next time dear readers, 

~Dmitri