I feel extraordinarily fortunate, granted my Asperger’s diagnosis, that I can honestly say that I have a rewarding career that I enjoy, that I excel at, that pays all of the bills, and which has become an integral part of who I am. Hard work, intelligence, optimism, patience, understanding the importance of accepting delayed gratification, and lots of luck helped get me to where I am, though the road that led me to where I am was not without bumps and detours.
Prior to landing my present day career as an information technology consultant, which I have held for the past 20+ years, I certainly had my share of unappealing, dead end, boring jobs, though thanks to my positive outlook on life and my capacity to learn from my experiences, I can look back at these jobs without regret and recall how they helped me grow. Jobs that I held as a busboy, dishwasher, perfume/cologne salesman, office assistant, and customer support representative were not jobs that I looked forward to or that were rewarding to me, though they taught me what it was like to be expected to work hard in a less than desirable work environment. And so, these jobs strengthened me, made me more patient than I would otherwise be, and gave me insight into the types of work and workplace environments that should be avoided.
One of my pre-career, dead end jobs resulted in me running my own business, a gig that lasted precisely one month! It’s a good thing I signed a month-to-month lease for that office space; otherwise I would have had it coming to me. Lesson learned: do not start a business around selling a product that you do not truly believe in or in which your heart is not invested. This lesson, maybe more than any other that I have learned, helped me decide which job was worth pursuing as a long-term career. I found information technology to be so exciting to work with, so innovative and exceptionally effective at enabling our customers to achieve remarkable accomplishments, that it became a no-brainer what to center my career ambitions around. Furthermore, the ever-evolving nature of this technology would come to mean that my chosen career would never get boring and would remain interesting and rewarding. I can still say that about information technology consulting more than 20 years after I took my first job in this field.
Another valuable lesson I learned: surround yourself with good, hard-working successful people who take pride in their work. The importance of this dawned on me while working for a company at which such people were absent! The manager of this company contradicted himself one day when he admitted to me that he would hire “anybody who can breathe” when the turnover rate peaked and sales took a nosedive. All the while, he would say to all of the new hires (just as he had said to me when I was new) how important it is to be working with motivated, successful people and that these are the kind of people you’ll work with at his company.
You know that you have landed the wrong job when the boss betrays his own principals and continues to tell the new hires only what they want to hear and only what he wants them to believe. Because my ex-boss functioned this way, he and too many of my co-workers fell short of my vision of the kind of co-worker with whom I would want to associate. Not surprisingly, most of my co-workers saw their sales numbers suffer before long and then chose to leave. My sales numbers, and my morale, hit rock bottom early on as well. Too much negative energy and too many people from top to bottom who didn’t believe in what they were doing resulted in me coming and going within just a few months, and in retrospect, it is remarkable that I lasted that long. What goes around always ends up coming around!
So, if there is one takeaway that you extract from this blog post, make sure it is this: the people you work with will either make or break your job. Put another way, everybody in the workplace is inevitably connected. If your goal is to settle into a long-term career that will bring you happiness and prosperity, it is not enough to merely enjoy and be proud of the work you are doing. In addition, be sure to associate yourself with motivated people with whom you work well and who also take pride in the work they are doing.
From the day in 1995 that I started my first job in information technology and throughout my career in this field, the vast majority of the people I have worked with have lived up to my vision of the kind of people with whom I would want to associate. And so for me, the “career success formula” boiled down to “the people” aspect of my career experiences plus the passion I have always felt for my career-related work and for the technology with which I have worked.
The results that have come from the fulfillment of my “career success formula” have been nothing short of remarkable, granted my Asperger’s diagnosis: the feeling of belonging to a team of people without any weak links that always functions like a well-oiled machine; the completion of many multi-hundred thousand and million dollar projects for our clients; the feeling of self-worth in helping our higher education, scientific research, and healthcare customers accomplish goals that make substantive differences in people’s’ lives; the pride I feel in knowing that I am an expert in my field and how that feeling has enriched my sense of self-esteem. The list of results could continue on and on . . .
P.S. The experiences and success that I have enjoyed in my career empowered me to write an article entitled “Tips from an Aspie for Success in the Workplace.” This article can be found on the Employment page of the AANE website, right here. Should you choose to read the article, I sincerely hope that you find value in one or more of my tips such that your actual work situation may change for the better.