I am a uni student in life sciences at a top UK university, top student in my class, straight As, won a few awards. I have extensive customer service experience, and some limited experience in life sciences research but I don't think any of my references would speak particularly highly of me. Due to my Asperger's syndrome, I find social interaction and practical tasks hard and struggle in the workplace despite my qualifications on paper making me look like an excellent candidate. I get extremely anxious and low when things go wrong, even when it's not my fault, to the point of planning my own suicide whilst in some jobs. Other jobs I have coped slightly better, but I still do not enjoy them and do not excel at them, and they do not give me the 'space' to improve my mental health.
I want input from others with autism/or with experience with autistic people on what I should do in terms of a job for the future after graduation? The natural career progression for me now is to do a PhD, but I'm not sure if I'll get in due to a lack of networking skills. Even if I do, I might struggle and become very stressed if I can't pick up the technique, or things don't go to plan. A research job would follow this. I'm also very motivated by money, and although I would accept the minimum wage for the good of my health, I'd at least like the possibility of making more. I will give a list of my characteristics below and see if anyone has any suggestions for jobs that might be suitable for me after graduation.
Also comes with comprehensive training
I was the same except with a specialisation in the physical sciences. After over two decades of training and study and several university degrees including a PhD, my career has been cut short by colleagues who just could not tolerate my condition. It has been a continuous struggle where my achievements have been ignored or even attributed to someone else, and my mistakes (mostly in the social realm) have been completely blown out of proportion to the extent that they, rather than my work ethic and potential, define my work for some people.
I don't want to tell you that there's no hope for you because of what happened to me, but I think you really need to consider letting potential PhD advisors, and later potential employers, know about your condition, and, ideally, seek one out who is also on the spectrum. Even though I only just found out last year that I was on the spectrum myself, as I look back, the people in my life who supported me and gave me a real chance were most likely, and in the case of my PhD advisor, almost certainly, on the spectrum. Without them, despite my considerable academic talents, I don't think I would have been able to get even as far as I did.
Because you are already aware of your condition at this stage in your career, you have a distinct advantage over what I had. My advice to you is not to hide your condition. In academic circles, it is possible that your unique talents and way of thinking will be highly valued, but only by those that are highly intelligent, and not those that have small, mediocre minds. I think that if you make your condition and your needs, but also your particular talents and strengths, known right at the beginning, you will give potential supervisors the choice of whether or not they are willing to accept you for who and what you are.
There are many posts on this site agonising about whether to disclose or not, but in the case of an academic career, which requires several years of training and study to build, it is worth disclosing your condition, because you will have a h*** of a lot more to lose than someone who works in a grocery store, for example, if your boss and/or one or more of your colleagues decides after a few months that your quirks are just too annoying. What I am saying is that when you go for an interview, for example, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If you have the least bit of reservation about whether they will be able to work with someone on the spectrum, don't accept the position. As I said before, if possible, try to work for someone who is on the spectrum themselves. That is very difficult to determine on first meeting someone, I realise, but I honestly believe it means the difference between a long, fulfilling and successful career, and the complete train wreck that my own life has become.
I wish someone had given me that advice when I was starting out. Hopefully you can benefit from my experience. I truly wish you the best and don't let what someone else thinks or feels about your condition hold you back. You deserve just as much of a chance as anyone else, and don't accept anything less than that.
Thank you so much for this response!! It's super useful to me. I have been thinking, would it be appropriate to bring up my autism (it's benefits and problems) at interview in an academic setting? None of my family or friends are academics, so I couldn't figure out if it would be appropriate or not. So the fact you brought that up without me even mentioning it in my post is really amazing. I think I will apply for PhDs in September anyway, even if I might not end up going down that route, and this is the approach I'll take at interview. If they're not willing to make little adjustments for me, then it's not worth me wasting my time and money beginning one. Thanks so much. :)
You sound like you are in a very similar situation to me. I’m used to making a relatively good wage and wouldn’t accept anything less than at least £10,000. a month now. Because, I have realised, I simply can’t work for anybody else ever again, due to the whole workplace scenario thing so if I’m going to work for myself, I’m going to set my own wage and I might as well make it a good one.
However, that’s not to say that it’s not possible for other people to have jobs. I highly recommend you get in touch with Autism Plus - I’m sure there are other organisations that provide this support but my current experience with them is excellent.
They will help you to navigate through this because they see things and know things that we don’t see or know. So in my experience, their input is essential to success and having a partner in our endeavours, is absolutely essential, however they appear.
You’re doing great. Well done.
You’ve got a tremendous start. You know your strengths and weakness and you just need somebody to help you put it altogether to find what the perfect way forward will be for you.
Hi there. You've pointed out a lot of key factors of how you would like your ideal job to be like and what possible difficulties that you may encounter if you do a PhD. I think these are all excellent points. Perhaps you can discuss your concerns with some professors at uni? I'm not sure if you have considered, or if you would like the idea, of doing a Masters degree or a couple years of Research Assistant before doing PhD? I think a Masters / RA jobs would be a lot less stressful compared to a PhD, and there is often a lot more support / structure. You can perhaps get a better idea of what doing graduate level research would be like, have more time to acquire technical skills, and decide whether or not this kind of environment is what you enjoy. And if you like it, you can apply for a PhD next year. There's really no rush, and the extra time you've taken to consider and learn other things may help in the long run. No one really cares about your age during the PhD.
For your question about jobs after graduation. I think there are lots of research-related jobs if not staying in academia. Bio-tech companies, pharmaceutical companies, science parks, NHS research. I wonder if you might be interested in autism-related research? Your uni probably has a career service that you could consult with someone about your interests and see if they have any suggestions?
You are very talented. You are currently in a top uni and having good grades. Good luck!
Can I ask what job it is you do that's self-employed?
Unfortunately I can't afford to do a Masters, as there is no financial support for those. I've consulted with my uni service before, but all their suggestions required me to do a second undergrad degree, which again I couldn't afford. Don't you need some post-graduate experience to do a research assistant post?
My degree won't qualify me to work within an NHS post as it's not accredited, and the other options still require a PhD in my field although they are outside academia. Autism research interests me a lot, but I think I would be turned away because my diagnosis might introduce a bias working in that field, and as DragonCat16 has usefully stated, I think I would need to be honest about my condition if I wanted to find the right post for me. Plus, I think my issue is that any of these options would be too stressful or difficult jobs for me to do. My issue is that my good grades don't translate into me being a good employee because of my autism. I'm trying to think of a job that wouldn't be stressful. I was thinking about being a cleaner, but I'm scared of being turned away for being overqualified. I can't really think of any other options. Suggestions along those kind of lines, where there's no pressure or expectations, would be useful.
Hi Aralez, I agree that funding for Masters is often harder to find, but it's not true that there is no financial support. It is possible to do a fully-funded Masters. For example, the Santander Cambridge Scholarship is specifically for Master students, and offers £10,000 to UK students. Actually, if you search on the Cambridge Trust website, and use the key words United Kingdom (I assume you're a UK student) and Masters, there are a few scholarships: https://www.cambridgetrust.org/scholarships/?country=United+Kingdom°ree=Masters&subject=&college=&submit=Search I'm sure other universities will have similar scholarships as well, you just need to search. It is also possible to consider going abroad to other countries where Master degrees are more affordable or if they have better scholarships.I think Research Assistant is a good alternative for a Masters. It often involves related research, but you don't have the pressure of having to write a thesis and you also get paid for doing the job. It is common for people in the United States to spend a couple of years doing an RA before the PhD, to get the experience, learn skills, earn money, and decide whether or not they like research. It could add an advantage when applying for PhDs as you will have more experience. I don't think you need post-graduate experience to do a research assistant post. In my field, "research fellows", "research associates" are often post-PhD, while "research assistant" can be either post-BA degree or post-MA degree, but other fields could use other terms. I think more searching would be required if you would like to find something like this. I've just did a search on some job websites and found a few that only needs an undergraduate degree.
If you're really interested in autism research, I think having Asperger's syndrome could be an advantage. Most jobs and graduate programmes are not allowed to discriminate you because of having a disability, so you would be eligible to apply. You may also provide new insight into the field that other people may not have noticed before. There's a large-scale research on late autism diagnosis in adult females lead by a PhD student that has Asperger's Syndrome. You can read about the news here https://www.anglia.ac.uk/science-and-technology/news/aspergers-student-leads-female-autism-study and here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/women_late_diagnosis_autism (scroll down to the second interview). I can definitely relate to all your concerns. I have the same troubles too. Just wanted to let you know that there is a big world out there with many possibilities, and whatever job you choose, whether it is going into research or being a cleaner, try to find something that makes you happy.
You can get a student loan for a masters degree and a PhD, no problem, I recently made inquiries, and the masters degree and phd in autism studies welcome very much autistic students and in fact the courses are designed around autistic students. NAS also do a university masters course, I think it is, with opportunities for jobs etc which are particularly aimed at autistic individuals. It sounds like your mindset is set to what you can’t do and you seem very certain of what you can’t do. You won’t figure this out by thinking about it, you need some specialist support to help you figure out what it is exactly that excites you and makes you feel good rather than what you can ‘manage’, which sounds very depressing, restrictive and uninspiring. Speak to NAS about what they offer.
A lot of the Masters I was looking at had fees in the £15 - 20k range. Not sure if that's just because of my subject. Also how would I pay for rent, food etc.? I need something that has a living wage or stipend attached, and so far I've only seen PhD programmes with those. There are 1+3 PhD programmes that include a fully funded Masters, and I would consider that. But then of course I am committed to the PhD anyway. Sadly I am not mentally able to go abroad.
I've just had a quick look on Indeed. You're right, they're not asking for PhDs but quite a few are looking for Masters and others are requiring between 1 - 3 years of industrial experience. I don't see any that will take a fresh, inexperienced graduate. Of course this is a problem in every job field, not just science, you have to have experience to get experience! So I'm not sure what I would do about that.
That's very interesting, thank you. It might be worth me doing some reading around research groups in the UK to see if there's anything suitable for my experience. I just want a job that I feel I'm able to cope in and that doesn't make my existence a living hell. I feel pathetic that most work makes me feel this way, and I know the people in my life will be disappointed if I do not use my intellect to forge a career. That and money are the only thing that stop me from just taking a simple job and being content.