Our Internal Communications and Press Intern Toby King recently got a brilliant job at Channel 4 as their Corporate Press and Publicity Assistant. We’re delighted for him and wish him all the best in his new role. He’s written a blog for us about his employment journey and experience volunteering with our charity.
I left university with a master’s degree in 2015 and I couldn’t get a job for half a year. I was nervous about disclosing the fact I had Asperger syndrome to potential employers. My university’s career service told me that, as I was high functioning, it would be better not to put it on applications as it would lower my chances of being hired when compared with neurotypical candidates.
Eventually I took a wholesale job without telling my employer I was autistic. I ended up living in a hotel for three months, injuring my arm in a workplace incident and didn’t get any training or development. I was miserable. I felt ungrounded and unsure, finding things particularly difficult because I didn’t believe I could explain what I was struggling with to my employer.
After six months I decided to leave. But what I did take from the job was that I needed to feel valued, understood and useful in my career. I’m a good salesman but I need my work to have a direct, positive impact on people, and I want to bring my creativity to whatever job I’m in.
I started my internship with The National Autistic Society in November and I suddenly realised that I didn’t have to hide who I was from other people. Working in their press and communications teams, I found that I not only loved my work but that I was good at it. The team accepted me for who I was and allowed me to be myself. I enjoyed being busy and selling stories, working with data and with people while discovering that autism wasn’t a hindrance.
In February I was offered a position on the Press and Publicity team for Channel 4. I felt confident telling them about my disability in my application and they were both incredibly accepting and keen to learn about what Asperger syndrome means for me, as well as make any adjustments.
Autism for me is mostly about feeling settled - knowing where things are in the workplace, advance warning about loud fire alarms, making sure tasks are explained clearly to me. The adjustments I need aren’t particularly big but they would make life easier for any employee, autistic or not.
People on the autism spectrum aren’t problems, they’re assets, and can benefit businesses in a myriad of ways. I shouldn’t have to hide who I am for someone to see my skills in the workplace. I’m great at problem solving, I enjoy meeting new people, I write for theatre and I even smell in colour! I don’t think these are bad things and neither do most employers with a little understanding.