Jeanette Purkis author of new title The Wonderful World of Work discusses her own experiences of employment and why she feels its important to help teens and young adults build up their self confidence before entering the workplace.
I have a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome and I’m employed in a full-time, responsible job with the Australian Public Service. My job is unimaginably wonderful: I have great managers, colleagues who I like and respect, I am valued for my unique thinking style and experiences and the work I do is interesting. The pay and conditions are fantastic too. It’s almost like I died and went to work heaven. Naturally, I would love for all people on the Autism spectrum to be as fortunate as I have been in finding such a great job.
My work life hasn’t always been so good. When I left home at the tender age of 17, the only job I could find was in a fast food restaurant. The work was unpleasant and the only benefit I gained from the job was the small wage it paid.
I also spent many years either unemployed or doing jobs which were similar to my first: low-paid, low-skilled and onerous. I was too anxious to do any at all job for many years, but I never gave up. When I was 25, I decided that I was going to gain an education and get a professional job. I enrolled in a university course and set about improving my skills. I gained a Bachelor, then an Honours and finally a Masters degree. I started a small business and worked as a volunteer receptionist in a gallery. Somewhere in all of that I wrote an autobiography, which was published. My confidence in my abilities and my value as a potential employee just kept on growing.
In the last semester of my Masters degree I applied for a number of graduate jobs in the public service. I saw these advertised and thought to myself ‘I could do that.’ After an exhaustive selection process I was offered a graduate job in a big Government department in Australia’s capital, Canberra. I was anxious about moving to a new city where I did not know one single person and starting a job which was unlike anything I’d ever done. Despite my concerns, the job in Canberra was an overwhelmingly positive thing. It was my ticket out of poverty and it meant that I would be using that incredible Aspie brain of mine to its full capacity.
I loved my public service job as soon as I started it. The hierarchy and structure made sense to me and the work was engaging and challenging. Seven years later and I”m still in the Australian Public Service. And I still love it. I’ve now been an adult and part of the workforce (on and off) for 22 years. I’ve learned a lot about how I can use my unique Aspie skills and attributes to my advantage in the world of work.
I wrote ‘The Wonderful World of Work’ to give young people on the Autism spectrum the benefit of all my knowledge and wisdom about the world of employment. A book like this would have been immensely helpful when I was transitioning from school into the workforce. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to a rewarding and engaging job and that people on the Autism spectrum have qualities that can make us exemplary employees.