Work and status

The world of work is not what it was, and maybe with the advances in Artificial Intelligence, humans will soon wonder what to do with themselves!

However, pandemics, Brexit and AI aside, there are a still a few jobs out there, and as most of us do want and need to go to work, what we do and where we do it matters.

While traditional ‘office jobs’ are now anything but, and people are working anywhere, anytime with a myriad of portfolio careers, the status that is tied up with the world of work is alive and well.

For autistic people, the choices can be even more limited and the path even harder to navigate, with many working in areas unrelated to their background or education. While this may be enlightening or fulfilling for some, in others it can bring frustration, underearning and confusion.

Society is riddled with stereotypes about work and many still judge others, and base their identity and self-worth, on what they do to earn money or occupy themselves with

As a society, the hypocrisy surrounding certain jobs leaves many underpaid and/or undervalued. A nurse is not a better human than a banker. A doctor is not more intelligent than a locksmith. While this is not an autistic issue, people on the spectrum struggle in a different way in both the recruitment process and office work environment, and often end up in social care roles – often quite successfully, yet these roles are undervalued and can leave those working in them feeling less worthy.

I made it a policy never to ask anyone ‘what do you do’ as I know how tedious it was to be asked. Yet I now realise that was not only to avoid the mundane and open the conversation into deeper topics, but also because of the problems I had with my own job status.

We are not our labels, but in a society obsessed with them it makes you appear odd or rude to skirt such an obvious one as your job.

Job labels like most labels can be restrictive. People should be able to pursue what they choose without discrimination or feeling ‘left out’

Despite a textbook ‘normal’ education and career trajectory for the first part of my life, at some point I went off-piste. My status was tied up in my job, and my self-esteem took a nosedive. The work I undertook since leaving ‘white collar’ jobs was fun and helpful to others but it is others’ perceptions of what I ‘should’ be doing that affected me.

Why don’t you work in a ‘proper job’ people would ask when I told them I was a personal assistant to the elderly or vulnerable. If proper meant well paid then that is a fair question.

Yet I have learnt more about politics, people and social justice by working in social care and dealing with frontline services than I ever did working in parliament or in large companies, and I have been offered valuable training courses that I would never have received working in office jobs.

While my pay has decreased, my wellbeing and character has improved