Tips for Getting Hired on the Spectrum Part 2 – Introspection and Self-Improvement

During job interviews, many employers will try and ask your greatest strengths and weaknesses as they try and get a measure of what you can do. Indeed, one of the most dreaded questions that tend to crop up in every interview is “what is your greatest weakness?”

Of course, nobody wants to talk about their weaknesses, but this is actually a good chance to help give your prospective employer a good idea about what it is you can and cannot do. If you can sell yourself hard on your strengths, it can help to compensate for any weaknesses you may describe. In fact, some employers actually tend to be impressed if you explicitly state that you are unskilled or challenged by certain aspects of work. And it might help you to avoid them in the future if you go into the job and your employer has a knowledge of where you are unskilled or untalented.

And always be sure to highlight your strengths. In fact, people on the spectrum actually tend to be incredibly specialized and talented in their fields of passion. It’s entirely possible that you might be able to counterbalance your weaknesses if you play up your strengths enough. Even if your prospective employer is not the type to be impressed by self-awareness and admissions of your weaknesses, if you play up your strengths enough it may be enough to impress them regardless. So be sure to sell yourself as hard as you can.

How well do you know yourself?

But can you really sell yourself if you don’t fully understand yourself? It’s astonishingly common for people to not fully understand themselves or their own strengths, weaknesses, positions, and principles. Recall the young man who was looking for IT work in the previous blog, but who ended up at a cat shelter. How could anyone not know something as simple as what they like doing? This indicates a severe lack of introspection as a practice in our society.

Introspection is the simple practice of thinking about one’s self. We often call people who “think too much about themselves” things like “conceited” or “self-centered.” I wonder if the aversion to such a thing is the cause for such a lack of self-awareness and introspection in our current culture.

Alas, by failing or even refusing to think about ourselves, we deny ourselves many chances for personal growth. Introspection is not “self-centeredness” in the sense that one is selfish and disregards other people. Introspection is thinking about one’s self in a manner that allows them to better understand their own nature, recognizing their own patterns of behavior and attitudes and beliefs about aspects of their environment and becoming able to predict how they will behave under certain circumstances. It is the study of the self rather than the glorification of the self.

By learning to understand one’s own nature, one can take steps to change one’s behavior. If there is something that you don’t like about yourself and you introspect upon why you might act or think in such a way, you can take measures to change your environment and discourage those behaviors or thought patterns. It also allows you to learn the things you like about yourself and further engage in practices that allow you to highlight and engender growth of these positive aspects of yourself. This allows you to take responsibility for yourself and grow as a person.

How does one introspect? – The Author’s method

There is no single, “correct” way to go about introspection. Surely there are as many ways to go about thinking about the self as there are individuals in the world. However, if you’re having trouble getting started, I will attempt to describe how I began introspecting and further learning about myself.

I do not think I can remember a time when I was not introspective. When I was a very young child I liked to watch movies and cartoons. Things like Winnie the Pooh, The Magic School Bus, and Disney movies like Aladdin were constantly playing on my television screen. When I was little, I often liked to imagine myself in the positions of the characters, asking myself what I would do if I were faced with similar conundrums.

Thus began a lifelong habit as I continued to consume media as I got older. I was constantly putting myself in the shoes of fictional characters. And as I grew older and started watching more complex movies and shows or reading more complex books and stories, the questions started to become more difficult to answer. I started having to answer philosophical questions about right and wrong, the meaning of life, and questions about human society and the nature of the universe.

Answering these questions became harder and harder, and as I tried to answer them, I was also forced to answer questions about myself. As I compared my hypothetical actions to the actions of the characters in my stories I would begin to understand the parts about myself that I didn’t like – the cowardly, opportunistic, selfish parts of myself that I liked to keep buried. I also discovered parts of myself that I did like – the analytical, empathetic, trusting parts of myself that I wanted to engender. As I grew I answered more and more questions for myself. Questions about art, philosophy, politics, and the nature of mankind that always brought me closer and closer to an understanding of myself.

How can you do it?

It might sound silly. The idea that comparing one’s hypothetical actions to those of fictional characters must sound incredibly jejune. But nevertheless, by analyzing the situations I put myself in I was able to learn a great deal about how the world around me worked and was able to broaden my horizons. And by analyzing my own hypothetical actions I was able to learn a great deal about myself and what I both needed to engender and improve upon.

Perhaps, though, you don’t think this sort of thing is for you. You might think it’s too silly to sit and think for long periods of time about what you’d do if you were in the same position as Aladdin. This is understandable, though I would still highly recommend giving it a try with more complex and adult works. In the meantime, though, it is a good idea to continue to place yourself in the shoes of other people and expose yourself to new ideas. I would highly recommend reading some philosophy books, as well as perhaps some self-help books to get a better understanding of how your own mind works.

I would also recommend if you don’t fancy putting yourself in the shoes of fictional characters, that you put yourself in the shoes of your past self. Consider the events of your own life and how, if you could live it over again, you would change things. Consider not only the how of how you would change things but the why. Try and understand why things happened the way they did in the first place and how you could better engender an environment where things might work the way you would have liked them too. Consider how you could have acted better when you acted in ways that you ultimately regretted. Look for patterns of thought and behavior that have led you astray and ones that have served you well.

It can take a while. Sometimes things don’t immediately become clear. It’s especially difficult because in our busy world where we’re not only expected to be working most of the day but we’re also bombarded with media and a 24/7 feed of social media and other internet trivia it can be trying to get a moment alone to simply sit and think. The results, however, are more than worth it.

Self-Improvement is the greatest form of Self-Advocacy

When you manage to become aware of yourself and your own habits of thought and behavior – both good and bad – you can take steps to improve yourself. Head off dangerous thought patterns before they manifest into chronic depression or anxiety. Recognize when a situation is turning sour and steer course before you end up in bad circumstances that might cause you to act in ways you will regret. Or, if a bad situation is unavoidable, recognize your own emotions and practice relaxation or anger management techniques to make sure you keep a cool head. There are limitless ways in which understanding yourself can aid you in your daily life

In time you might find that your more negative emotions, habits, and behaviors have less of a hold over you than they once did. You might find that you are happier as a person and feel more capable of facing new, unfamiliar, or challenging situations.

And in the end, it can tie back into your prospective employment.

Improve yourself and impress others

If you take the time to improve yourself as a person, you can become more impressive to other people. And this includes people who might take an interest in hiring you. If you can get a handle on all of the more negative aspects of yourself and engender the more positive aspects, you can become a more self-confident, understanding, and empathetic person. Somebody who seems to be confident and self-aware of their strengths and flaws is far more attractive to prospective employers than somebody who isn’t aware of the areas they can improve upon, what they can be relied on to do, or even what they want out of a job.

In the end, knowing yourself is the best advantage you can give yourself. There are other things to consider when trying to get hired on the spectrum, and those will be covered in later blogs. But the gift of self-awareness is perhaps the greatest strength you can engender within yourself to help you through life; not just to find a meaningful career, but in every aspect of your existence. So every now and then, consider taking a moment to turn down the lights, light a scented candle, find a comfy chair, and just sit and think about yourself for a while. You may be surprised at what you come up with.

About the author:

William Purdy is a freelance writer and editor who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southwestern University and was diagnosed on the spectrum at the age of 25. 

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