On the first of August this year I will have been in the workforce for exactly twenty years, nearly all of it full time. I have worked in five different countries. I have moved between the southern and northern hemispheres eight times (not counting episodes less than six months).
When I was at university, they talked a lot about mentors. A mentor helped you, offered guidance and support. I would read about mentors in the newspaper. People who had got ahead in business usually thanked one or more mentors. A new novelist would thank several well-known writers in their foreword.
Once I started work, I generally got on with my seniors. Somehow, though, it was always someone else they looked out for, always someone else they pushed ahead. I worked harder, stayed later, took on more, but nothing made a difference. No one seemed to have any criticisms of me, so it was hard to figure out what to improve. But I was never quite part of the team.
One of the realities of professional life is the constant round of exams, of form-filling, of box-ticking. Filling in my paperwork was always less important than completing everyone else’s. My emails would go unanswered, or be ‘lost’. Promises of assistance battling officialdom were made and then broken.
If you ever wonder why intelligent, capable auties don’t have successful careers, this is why. We don’t know how to cultivate the people who can help us. Even if we did, our essential weirdness means we are always at the bottom of the list when help is offered. Mentors help people like themselves, who are outgoing and sociable, who make eye contact, who know how to keep a conversation going. They prefer their mentee to have a normal life – that is, a partner, a mortgage and all the associated trappings.
However good you are at passing, it is pretty much impossible to maintain if you are employed long-term in one place. I don’t have any clever answers, except that auties should look out for other auties, in just the way NTs do. But it seems to me to be a huge waste of skill if we can’t succeed simply because those who could help us instead put us in the basket labelled weird.