Sunday, August 28, 2011

Are you a stalwart?

The Harvard Business Review has an article about the types of employees in an organization. Rather than your standard 2x2 grid it identifies a fifth group they identify as stalwarts... people who are not motivated by advancement or money but simply want to do a good job. They form the backbone of an organization yet are frequently overlooked by management because they are not 'stars'.

Unfortunately managers often overlook stalwarts primarily because they are not stars. Managers want stars but an organization made up of entirely stars will be mired in politics, backbiting and intrigue as not all stars can be treated equally.

Take a look at their discussion and keep in mind the myths the article debunks. The logic may help you in your next review.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Missing the truth of a position

One time a friend and I interviewed for the same position; it was offered to us both and we both wound up turning it down but for very different reasons. For me the money was not good enough to change jobs. My friend rejected it because he thought it was a horrible job. Turns out he was right and I totally missed that it was not a good job.

In examining why and how I missed that the job was not good I realized that I got trapped into seeking the approval of the interviewers rather than looking at the cold facts of the job. I cannot say whether other ASD folk experience the same thing but I can certainly hypothesize that our shared experiences might drive us to seeking approval and ignoring things that can harm us. And certainly our difficulty in realizing when someone is lying to us or doing a good sales job does not help.

In previous posts I have spoke about red flags to look for when interviewing but I will add a new piece of advice here. See if you can find someone else who interviewed for the same job or a previous holder of the position to see what they think.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Recently out of touch

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. Our house was repaired following the flooding and we have been busy moving back in.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Online training: Ruby on Rails

Jobs in Information Technology are certainly out there and lend themselves to Aspie/Autie style of work... at least better than others. If you are starting from zero or beginner level it is hard to know where to go. One particular language that is en vogue now is Ruby on Rails. To be accurate, Ruby is the language and the Rails part makes it a lot more human friendly.

A friend of mine put me on to an hilarious training system for Ruby on Rails called Rails for Zombies. It is an amazing teaching tool with some serious thought behind it. If you do not know Ruby it points you to a tutorial to start with and then will take you through creating a web application with Ruby on Rails.

At the end of the tutorials you will be in a place to start experimenting yourself with the idea of producing a Rails application that will go into your Career Portfolio and demonstrate your new skill to prospective employers. If you want to see the marketplace for Ruby/Ruby on Rails developers go to Dice or Monster and do a search on jobs with Ruby in the description. You will be amazed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

She’s Geeky: The Performance of Identity among Women Working in IT

Recently my wife and I have been watching NCIS. Neither of us is sure why we are so into the show but it is a guilty pleasure we enjoy. One of the characters on there, Abby Sciuto, is the current media incarnation of 'the hacker girl'. Prior to Abby, another famous one was Chloe on 24. While I understand and even applaud the idea behind showing women in IT/Science oriented roles I have always felt like the reality of the life for a woman in IT and male dominated science fields bows to the Hollywood need to move things to the lowest common denominator.

In a recent article in the International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, Rhiannon Bury takes a look at women in IT from a poststructuralist gender theory point of view. I imagine women on the Autism Spectrum who find themselves in IT face a unique set of challenges where their autism may be an advantage in a field where their gender can be an obstacle. Bury makes a compelling case for defining a feminine role identity... and I imagine it will have little to do with the media representation of women in IT & Science.

Women in IT/Science do not have to look like this

Monday, August 15, 2011

Transferable job skills for non-"job" activities

Here is a post I ran across discussing the transferable job skills you gain while getting a grad school degree. As a straight forward analysis I think it does a good job of translating some of the tasks involved in getting a traditional Graduate degree into phrases that you can use on your resume or cover letter.

In a more abstract sense I think it can be instructive in finding ways to describe your volunteer work, side projects or not so explainable jobs into powerful items for your career portfolio. For instance the table item "You attend a meeting where you devise a plan for future research endeavors with your colleagues" could just as easily be "You attend a meeting where you devise a plan for future project with your co-volunteers" and use the same benefits/phrases as they do on the grid.

The beauty of transferable skills: How grad school prepares you for careers off the beaten path

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Using Reddit for your job search

I have become active on Reddit recently. Sadly my most popular post was a video of a lave lake collapsing... not my original content. Still it has been informative and I have has several mildly popular posts of stuff on my blog. I figured it would be nice to do a post on the Job Hunting resources out on Reddit.

If you are not familiar with how it works people post articles, questions etc and then others vote them up or down and/or comment on them. Rather than have all articles all in one massive page they allow people to create subreddits which cluster posts around a specific topic. Some are hugely popular like science (600,000 readers) others have one or two readers. And be warned, some are NSFW or might be considered offensive.

Reddit - Jobs: How to get work and how to leave it. Employment, recruitment, résumés, CVs, interviews.

Reddit - ForHire: for posting open positions or looking for work

Reddit - Freelance: Articles of interest for freelancers and people who want to become one.

Reddit - Resume: A place to post resumes

Reddit - Work: intended to be about life at work, not for people offering or looking jobs. [has specific locations/countries as subreddits]

And this is just a start. There are special subreddits for Sysadmin work, CS work and AskReddit is a catchall for any general question you have. Additionally there are subreddits for Autism and Aspergers that offer additional resources for help beyond work.

Another useful site is Metareddit which attempts to corral the 75,000+ subreddits in a way that you can browse and see what some of the most popular are.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How to start a social enterprise

One of the things that I have always encountered with my jobs is that in some ways they seem meaningless... it matters to only a few people and the company itself may not be helping that many people. Even when they are 'helping' hundreds of thousands of people the benefits are debatable and occasionally lawsuits occur... or major financial meltdowns (i.e. sub-prime crisis).

The many Aspies and ASD folk I have spoken with feel the same way. More than that they see even entrepreneurial efforts as simply a way to make a buck and provide little real meaning. As an alternative I have suggested looking at starting social enterprises... not quite altruistic endeavors but certainly not cash cows either. Dowser has a wonderful article on how to get something like that going and can be found here:

Thinking of going back to school?

Kim at the Autism Blogs Directory requested that I write an article on the issues adult ASD folk face when deciding to go back to school. Check it out here:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How to dispute Credit Report Errors

If you are considered for a job there is a good chance the employer will check your credit report. It is a good idea to scan your reports periodically and challenge anything on there that is incorrect.

The Consumerist has a quick How To here:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Potential connection between Autism and gelotophobia -- the fear of being laughed at

Andrea C. Samson, Oswald Huber and Willibald Ruch in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that 45% of their subjects with Asperger's Syndrome had gelotophobia-- the fear of being laughed at-- as opposed to just 6% of the control group. This is an extraordinarily high percentage and may be an anomaly; the authors are attempting to replicate their findings.

However, presuming it is even half that number, it is worth an examination of the link between Autism and gelotophobia. Before an further comments let me state that it is clear most of us do not like to be laughed at derisively or in a humiliating situation regardless of ASD or NT classification. Gelotophobia is a more extreme reaction to laughter that interferes with the daily activities of the individual including limiting actions, intruding upon thoughts and physiological responses like tension, headaches and sleep disturbances.

The study also found that the AS group had less capability to laugh at themselves and an increase in the ability to laugh derisively at others, a.k.a. katagelasticism, which runs contrary to earlier studies without ASD/NT differentiation showing a link between laughing at yourself and at others.

It would be very premature to speculate if there is a causal relationship (e.g. Autism leads to gelotophobia) so preventative actions are not easy to suggest. In the The Mirror of Laughter p.77, Alexander Kozintsev discusses the processing of humor in the brain in depth including a mention of several studies showing the perception of humor being processed in the emotional centers of the amygdala, a familiar area of study for the Autism spectrum.

So we must turn our attention to aftercare. The Gelotophobia Assessment and Research Association offers several links to online assessments at that can help indicate the level of gelotophobia you may or may not posses. While not the same as a trained professional it is a good starting point to see how aggressively you would want to combat the phobia. Due to  the complex nature and lack of understanding on causality it may be that a symptom by symptom approach would work best such as addressing social anxiety through medication, therapy and social exercises or body awareness work for the Pinocchio syndrome (Ruch, 2009).


Kosinzstev, A. Trans: Martin, R. The Mirror of Laughter. Published June 2011.

Ruch, W. Fearing humor? Gelotophobia: The fear of being laughed at Introduction and overview. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research; 2009, Vol. 22 Issue 1-2, p1-25

Samson, A., Huber, O. and Ruch, W. Teasing, Ridiculing and the Relation to the Fear of Being Laughed at in Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, April 2011, pp 475 - 483

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to follow-up with slow paying clients

Being a freelance or entrepreneurial Aspie/ASD person can be a nerve wracking process requiring dealing with unfamiliar people and unfamiliar situations on a regular basis  If you are freelancing or have a business that you run getting payment can be an excruciating task requiring a lot of time and causing headaches. For those of us on the Spectrum asking for payment can be difficult, waiting for payment can be anxiety provoking and a failure to adhere to the contractual guidelines may cause a meltdown preventing future business with that person.

First off, keep in mind, things do happen in business and not everyone is a cheapskate trying to screw us over. And even if they are a careful, measured response will help when it comes time to escalate the issue (e.g. small claims court).

Erin Russell at Biz 3.0 wrote a very helpful article on how to deal with such a situation.  It offers very useful advice on how to set up and follow through with clients on payment in such a way that you are in a decent place. I suggest that you use it as the basis for a step-by-step guide that you look at when it comes time to deal with money as it will remind you of the necessary tasks and point you to your previously created resources (e.g. follow-up & termination of service letters).

As an adjunct to that keep up on your state/municipality laws on small claims court and see if someone has created a how to for your specific state.

Update: Link to the Consumerist's Guide to small claims court:

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism: Fit to Work in the UK, but Where?

The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism: Fit to Work in the UK, but Where?: "Rory Patton Most sick benefit seekers ‘are fit enough to work,' the London Evening Standard recently reported..."

5 tips for shaking off job interview anxiety

It has been a while since I posted anything from the Undercover Recruiter which is more about me being busy than their lack of quality. Once again they provide excellent tips for the job search, this time on combatting Interview Anxiety:

Number 5, be open about your nervousness, is an excellent way to let the interviewer know that something about the conversation may seem different without flat-out admitting you have ASD.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Beware the recruiters who don't believe in you

Recently an Aspie friend of mine contacted a major recruiting firm to ask about potential openings. He has some accounting and some technical skills and certifications in his background. He had been working at doing web site design on his own but, being an Aspie, networking was difficult and he needed to find soemthing stable. His skills and experience are a good mix and even in a down market should get some interest. This one said that he would not find a job since he had been 'out of work' for three years and vaguely wonder why he was wasting the recruiters time.

I have a couple of issues with this. The first is the tone of the response. Seriously? That is the best you can do? Not looking for a lot of repeat customers are you. I would write it off as the individual recruiter's style but actually this entire firm is well known for their attitude. They are just as bad when you are the hiring manager as when you are the potential employee. Their entire business model seems to be 'we don't give a bleep about future business; we place bodies'. How it works for them is a mystery to me.

Secondly, running your own business for three years is not the same as 'out of work'... not by a damn site. Many employers look for entrepreneurial types as they show initiative and problem solving ability not casually found in your standard employee. Holding having your own business against you is a sad way to handle a very strong benefit.

So my main point is that even if you do fit the narrow view of employable to some of these meat grinder shops you may want to stay away from them. If the recruiting firm cannot care enough about you to be polite and consider you a potential future customer then their placement is suspect. They are simply looking for bodies to fill out the cannon fodder of the world they see. Not all of them will go to the ends of the earth for you (though I have found a few) but general respect should be a bare minimum. And if they cannot see value in your skills then find someone who can. They should be placing *all* of you in the job; not just one skill they find useful.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Start a company... and sell it for a dollar?!?

Or a Pound, Euro or whatever your local currency might be.

Penelope Trunk has an amazing tip for building your career portfolio. Start a company and sell it for next to nothing. Instead of looking at the company as a way to make money look at it as a way to boost your value to the next person that considers hiring you. I will leave it to her to go into the details but it makes sense in a weird sort of way.

Penelope's Post:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Study shows video modeling improving work performance for ASD individuals

In the August 2010 issue of Education & Treatment of Children, Allen et al, discuss their study showing a marked improvement in four ASD youths/young adults in the performance of a socially challenging job... walking around in a big costume in a store to generate business. While not the best paying jobs (part time; $12 - $20 an hour) it is worth noting that success in a social occupation like this is remarkable for people on the spectrum. And when I thought about it the costume does lend quite a bit of help in that it takes care of the bright, sunny dispositions needed allowing the person inside to concentrate on movement and body language.

As part of a collaborative project between a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and a local private business, we examined the effects of video modeling to teach vocational skills to four adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Video modeling was used to teach the participants to wear a WalkAround® mascot and entertain customers in a retail setting. Observations were conducted before and after participants watched a video model of the skills performed in both scripted and naturalistic scenes. All participants learned to use the targeted skills after watching the video model and all reported that they enjoyed the work. Implications and vocational applications are discussed.

This article, in addition to the main thrust of the study, presents a potential form of accommodation you may be able to request in your workplace; namely a video of someone else doing the job effectively.  Since AskJan-- the Department of Labor's Accommodation initiative-- suggests alternative methods of communication and training in their discussion of accommodating Aspergers. It is well worth pulling out this study when working with your employer on your labor situation as it shows verifiable results to the effort. A video program like this is more than simple observation as it will stress retention and provide repeated viewing if lessons are confusing or moving too fast. Additionally it is repeatable with future employees.

So consider this the next time you get a review or are interviewing; it may help both sides.

Allen, Keith D; Wallace, Dustin PView Profile; Renes, Diana; Bowen, Scott L; Burke, Ray V.; Use of Video Modeling to Teach Vocational Skills to Adolescents and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders; Education & Treatment of Children, Aug 2010, pp 339-349

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The use of antioxidants along with Omega-3 fatty acids

Previously I wrote on the potential benefits of increasing your Omega-3 fatty acid intake as a means for improving your mood stabilization and neurotransmitter function to combat comorbid conditions of Autism (e.g. depression).  I Just came across an article from BMC Psychiatry (2008 Supplement 1, Vol. 8, Special section p1-3, 3p) by Tsaluchidu, et al regarding the potential need for antioxidants with patients showing many of the comorbid symptoms. Oxidative Stress is increased in people with the various conditions and the addition of antioxidants helps reduce the impact of that stress on brain tissue.

While no specific dosing recommendations are made they do suggest switching to a whole food, plant based diet in order to achieve results. The National Institute for Health (NIH) also suggests using dietary based increases in antioxidants rather than supplements. For specific antioxidants you can cross reference the list on the Wikipedia article here for antioxidants with the NIH list of nutrient values in various foods.

As with many things moderation is key; antioxidants can impair your ability to absorb iron and calcium in your diet.

Tips for Employers: What not to do with Aspergers workers

Don't let the title mislead you, this article is actually aimed at helping people with Aspergers in the workplace. From Psychology Today:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Making small talk is not lying to the other person

I had a client at one point refuse my suggestions on small talk as it felt like lying to the other person; "I don't care about what interests them and it feels false to pretend I do." It made me re-evaluate my suggestion to clarify what small talk meant both for the interview and the workplace.

Before I get into the tip part though I will once again plug the need to connect with people interviewing you or that you work with. It makes hiring smoother and retention easier if the person knows that you see them as a human being. You do not have to suck up with pointless comments or pretend to be interested in something you do not like. Rather you just need to let them know, even once, that you see them beyond the facade we erect at work.

So when interviewing try to Google your interviewers and most certainly the company. Look for a 'human interest' angle that you like and can talk about. Be sure to bring it up. Say you do not know the name of the person you are interviewing with but you found out via Googlebating (or masterGoogling if you prefer) the company that they recently moved to the new office. Even though it is likely that the person you are speaking with is NT, office moves are still sources of stress and humor. Mention the move and let them talk about it for a while. You will find a sympathetic response in yourself that is a surrogate for empathy in that you likely hate that sort of disruption too. That will come across in the interview.

If you are working with people just keep an ear out for their interests and look for news items that tie into that interest and mention it. Certainly you will illicit some sort of response from them and again, choose something you can tolerate. I have had several conversations with plane owners even though I have never actually owned a plane or even have a pilot's license. In fact it was one of the first things that I spoke about with my future father-in-law (got a good review from him too).

Making small talk with co-workers and interviewers is an effort but does not have to be a lie (or painful). Just keep on the look out for something that interests you too. Read blog aggregators, news web sites or some of the Gawker family of sites for general things to speak about.

And keep the stuff non-controversial (i.e. no religion or politics ).