Employment, the personal journey

Employment is part of life and is usually what happens when you leave school. Some people join the work force and others leap ahead into tertiary studies. Becoming employed helps towards gaining your independence and everyone’s experiences tends to differ. Some might be able to find a job right after they leave school or others might take a while before they can land what they are searching for. My experience has been interesting and I have worked in many different areas before ending up in my current position, which I call minion otherwise known as sales assistant for a national retailer. Everyone is different and handle events in their lives differently from other people. A job doesn’t mean you have to be paid as unpaid jobs are usually what you call volunteering.

Finding employment was no easy task as I had found. Through school I did have several places I went to for work experience and then completed some TAFE courses as well. I did much the same after I had left school as I wanted work in retail as I did not want to work in hospitality. Retail and hospitality seem to be the two main areas of employment, although I could work on building sites, but I had no idea how to work on one and not where I did want to work. One of the job agencies I joined wasn’t really of much help other than helping me to find work by canvassing and going to interviews. They never provided me with interview skills or what to say during interviews, although I did get this from one of the TAFE courses I did do. One job interview I had been asked what I would like to do in five years’ time and my answer was off the bat being ‘To find a better job’. When I told my case officer he laughed and at the time I didn’t know why. I did learn that were something you shouldn’t say. I did even apply for jobs that I myself couldn’t do like be a store Santa, but putting my name and interest out there wouldn’t hurt at all.

When I first started out with job agencies I didn’t know what was really expected from me and my expectation was they would help you with searching for employment including help with the jobsearch computers through centrelink. All I seemed to do was once a fortnight was to be picked up and canvass shops by handing out my resume. They did expect me to inform them about jobs I applied for so they could include their business card, which I actually never did do. Family were telling me the case officers were not doing the right thing and I just let everything slide. Alarm bells do ring when the case officer tells you while in the car that they have to get you a job or else they wont be getting a certain amount of money. I do think that is actually pretty wrong when they tell you that its basically all about the money. Several case officers did become annoyed when I applied for TAFE courses and also ended up heading south to Victoria for a month to pick fruit. One time when I was working in The Whitsundays the case officer actually fell asleep and forgot to take me to my place of employment and another time he actually became annoyed that I was wanting to hand out my resume on the island as I had another case officer after being sent to the mainland a month after I had been fired from my job. I did ignore his advice and canvassed some of the businesses on the island. A while later after moving back to the Gold Coast I was with a case officer who I later found was not doing the right thing for his clients and all he wanted to do was place me in the building industry instead of where I wanted to look. He did get me some work experience through a supermarket and on the day I was working I had a phone call from Kmart about a job interview for work over Christmas. My case officer was beside me at the same time and I explicitly informed him I was not putting all my eggs into the one basket and he went and told the store manager that I no longer needed to do work experience as I had a job with Kmart. The funny part was that I never got the job with Kmart and weeks later the man was replaced by the job agency for doing things he shouldn’t have been doing. The last job agent I had was one of the better ones and I was able to secure a position within my current job with her help and some work experience.

Interviews I knew were a way of life and part of gaining a job. I have had some really good ones where I have been asked different questions or even something I did that marked me down. One of them was the comment about what I will do in five years time and another happened to be during an interview my mobile phone rang and I answered it. The call was someone asking me how my interview was going. One of the interviews was within a duty free shop and I would be helping to sell perfume. This would be a problem for me since I have no sense of smell and couldn’t explain to a customer what they would be like. Group interviews were not too bad except if you had to do tests like they do for supermarkets like to work out the amount of change. It doesn’t help when you are unsure of your own skills either and sometimes it is hard to remember everything you have researched about the company. As time went I did update my portfolio including what I was involved with. I had an interview with McDonalds where the interviewer looked at the computer courses I had done and spoke to me about them telling me how I would be better off looking for a job within the computer industry. Somehow I think that was a very big hint.

There have been many jobs I have applied for and at the time it did take a while for me to find employment though I did end up with a job on Hamilton Island as a Kitchen Steward otherwise known as a dishwasher. I was let go after around 3 weeks on the job with the reasons for being too slow and too clean. How that happens no one knows, although the case officer I did have on the island didn’t seem to be too bothered by this occurring at the time. He did give some advice that I could stay on the Island for the weekend, but I left knowing if I didn’t I would be charged for staying. I ended up in a job in Cannonvale as a housekeeper near Arlie Beach, so stayed in The Whitsundays for a little while though it did get boring and staying with another person did become strained due to personality clashes. The Housekeeping job didn’t go too well as there were several occasions I did stupid things. One was asking the office girls about if casual people can just quit (I got roasted by my boss and told I should have spoken to her). The other one was throwing laundry over the rails though I had told those below what was coming. A bag of washing landed on the boss’ head and she had said she thought it was only several things coming over. At the time I didn’t realise how lucky I was when I ended up with a medical condition, which needed to be sorted out urgently. One computer shop in Tweed Heads, which no longer exists, I mean the shop not the town. The town is hard to get rid of. I worked with them for several months as work experience with the promise of a job by the end of the financial year. Close to the financial year I found this did not happen when I asked. This did turn out to be really good as I had seen something that occurred, which was not exactly legal and pretty much dodgy. After I had gotten my RSA, which is Responsibility Service of Alcohol through TAFE, I was able to get a look into a local pub. The job agency I was with found a pub that I could do some work for and this was only for several hours. My job did involve being behind the bar pulling beer, talking to customers and taking money. I was stumped with the cash register as it never worked out change and the size of drinks was measured on the register as Ounces. The case officer was told they will take me once I improved my math skills and I had to learn to move more and not stand in one place. At least I tried though and I will talk about my current job later.

For two seasons I went fruit picking down in Victoria. What I was picking were pears and the job involved going up and down ladders all day from around 7am to just after 3pm. How I organised picking fruit was by searching on the internet and found a place that I could stay onsite as well. I think I was very lucky to find Turnbull Orchards in Victoria. The first season I wanted extra money and having no idea what to expect I arrived down there. Since I was living on the farm I had to prepare my own meals. I was with people from all nations including Australians who were professional pickers. They knew how to do the job and the backpackers were working as part of their visa requirements. It is funny when you cook a big breakfast and people thing you are English until you explain where you are from. The season usually lasts for around a month and I was picking two bins a day that was around $30, which could change daily. I was a constant worker, which seemed to have gotten the respect from the other pickers as I was not slacking off. I returned the next year as well and stayed in the same room. I did have the thought of following the harvest trail around Australia, but that did not actually happen. The other place that I did go picking was out at Carool near Tweed Heads, where I was picking coffee beans. I loved the job as I had both feet on the ground and did not have to carry a ladder around all day to the next spot. I was picking for $2 a kilo and would get at least 20 or so kilos. By the time I was working the second season I had ended up in a part time job where I now work. The extra money did help though if you cant handle working outside in the sun all day or even amongst other people then it might not be the best place to be working as it is tough work.

How I got into volunteering with the marine rescue was through looking at volunteer lists that a local job agency had. Two caught my attention and they were for SES and Marine Rescue radio operators. It took me a little while and some convincing to actually volunteer as I wasn’t sure if I would be treated badly. I went to an interview and ended up not only being a radio operator, but boat crew as well. I joined in 2003 and 2013 will be my tenth year within the organisation. One of the reasons I joined the marine rescue was so that I would be able to use the fact I am a volunteer to gain paid employment. It did not seem to work that way and I kept myself busy by volunteering most weekends and going out on rescue jobs when needed. What I was actually doing was keeping radio watch for boats that crossed the entrance to the Tweed bar from Point Danger and going out on the rescue boats to tow other vessels back to shore or perform other duties like rescues or even searching for missing people. I volunteer because it is fun and being on a boat is really nice although this is not an obsession of any sort but in my view one way of socialising with others. I havnt actually spoken to them about my having aspergers not that it is a secret of any sort although I know some do know I am different and understand. Still I am happy to be treated like everyone else and get no special treatment especially when I am allowed behind the wheel of the boat to do navigation exercises. I have been asked if I want to expand myself to become a skipper and I have said no as that would mean more responsibility with more work to do in training.

My current job as a sales assistant and shelf stacker came about when I was with a job agency that is located in Palm Beach, Qld. I had been with them for a little while and did have some trouble with one of the case officers, which we later found others had trouble with him as well. Once different officers had been assigned then things did change and I was able to do mock interviews and resume building exercises. We still did the usual job hunting and I was offered work experience for the supermarket. I was dubious about more work experience that wouldn’t pan out, although I was picking coffee at the time as well. After doing some work experience where I was in the cold section the entire time I was offered a position. I accepted and after two years with no problems the case officer of the job agency thought it was best to let me go as I had no problems fitting in and they seen me as a success story. It was pretty good to be thought of as that and they did do a good job as well. So far I have worked in several other departments including as a cleaner. It did take a little while for myself to warm towards the idea of becoming Part Time as I didn’t like the idea of losing money. It was the best decision I had ever made. Several years ago when I was established in my job I decided the time was right to begin studying as I thought this would be a proper use of my time and I couldn’t work in a supermarket all my life. You can, but working my way up to management wasn’t exactly my thing. I sorted everything out myself including sending off paperwork as I was seen as a mature age student and I used my life experience and have not looked back as I am studying by distance through New England in Armidale and recently transferred into Bachelor of Historical Inquiry and practice. This has been no easy walkthrough as I came from a background of no prior academic learning and have learnt how to write essays for a university level from scratch.

No matter the path you take it is the journey that counts. In the past I have had people tell me that they think I can do better than my current job. This maybe so, but I am happy where I am even is some other people look down it. The job so far has helped me spread my wings and travel overseas too far off locations and to purchase several vehicles, well scooters that have gotten me to work on time. The people who doubt you may not be happy with their own employment prospects and are talking about their own experiences, which may be very different to yours. Whatever you want to do go for it and make sure you are not restricted in getting the job in any way. Never take no for an answer and seek help when it is needed. You don’t need to take a direct path to your goal where you have the ultimate job as you can become experienced by having other smaller jobs that will help you and give you that extra push to financial freedom as well. There was a stage where I did look at work visas for other countries, although the ones I did look at meant I could work in the country for a certain amount of time and spend the rest as a holiday, but the age factor was against me. Working has given myself some independence and the ability to travel overseas.

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