I have been self employed almost my whole life (I’m 61). I'm slightly autistic, and nobody would ever call me sociable. I don’t enjoy socialising at all. In a group, I feel like an awkward, panicked gooseberry. I’m either the one in the kitchen at parties, or the one in the corner on her phone. Sometimes I want to be around people, but group situations are hard to cope with, so I avoid them. I used to like going to a disco because I could just dance (those were the days), but socialising in a bar would be a nightmare!
If I applied for a job in a corporate estate agent today, I doubt I would get it. I generally flunk interviews even though I could do the job standing on my head. I struggle to process the new information coming at me in a pressured situation; I worry about what is required of me, what they want me to say, and how to present myself. (This started when I was young and I failed a group interview for McDonald’s!)
I am not seen as a good employee or a team player. I wouldn’t be a malleable employeeI can’t be a sheep or a cog in the wheel. If I saw injustice, malpractice, or a better way to do something, I would feel compelled to call it out. Nor would I be a natural manager. I would find it too stressful to handle responsibility to multiple stakeholders, and deal with the dynamics of a group of team members.
But… I'd like to think that I’m a great estate agent (so my husband and clients tell me!) so I have decided that it's a complete misconception that you have to be sociable to be an estate agent.
I have learned over the years that underneath my autistic reactions I am weirdly gregarious. You might say that I have a faulty filter, but I prefer to think of it as an asset – perhaps it’s neurotypicals who have the faulty gene!
I will talk to anyone one to one in a queue at the checkout, or one to one in a work situation, provided that I am confident in my subject and know my worth. Being autistic makes me quite an avid people watcher, hyperanalytical in my relationships, and a good psycholgist (I have a degree in Social Psychology too).
I get intensely involved in anything I do. And I’m intelligent and love to learn. And I’m honest – sometimes brutally so!
These skills are perfect for estate agency. I am not trying to build a friendship or a long term relationship, just an intense, short, honest, open, and supportive relationship with one or two people.
Almost my whole life I’ve assumed that people don’t like me. But I was looking in the wrong places for validation. Now, thanks to estate agency, I feel so much more confident. I describe myself as quirky and I am working on a dress style to match that. I am often open with clients about being autie, so people don’t misread my lack of eye contact or my occasional abrupt/misplaced remark. Clients appreciate my honesty (I find it almost impossible to lie or hold back on my thoughts).
Anyway – I am not bothering to waste money (mine or the NHS's) on a diagnosis, but it has been good to understand myself at last. I hope that hearing my story is helpful if you are in a position where the labels you (or others) have applied to yourself are not serving you.