Apparently there'll be hugging...

You know when you look back over those job interviews where everything you did or said seemed to come out wrong and you may as well have screamed across the table, 'Don't hire me! Are you insane? I would be TERRIBLE at this job!'?

And then the ones where you managed to pass yourself off as the perfect employee, said the right things and knew what they wanted to know? (We won't mention what happened once you started the job and had to repeat all this success on a daily basis).

When it comes to the workplace, most aspies have an eccentric approach to job hunting. The systems in place do not favour those of us who like to say exactly what we mean; they favour people who think first, weigh up the options, know the right phrases.

When a potential employer asks what you'll be bringing to their company, having resisted the urge to tell them you'll be bringing a packed lunch, you also have not to tell them how much better everything will be once you've sorted out their staff rota (not even colour-coded!), purged their outdated, paper-based filing system and transferred their database into those boxy things sitting in the corner that Gladys has been using for her spider plant collection.

The correct answer is something along the lines of how their company is just fab, that your amazing skills are a great fit because this is how you'll improve perfection by helping them become even more brilliant. And so on.

And when they ask you if you've faced any challenges, they don't want to know, not really. Unless you happen to have a triumphant story of your struggle to re-emerge from the Australian bush two holidays ago, they want some clever-sounding monologue on how work was kind of challenging but you overcame it by being a genius (just not as much of a genius as they are).

This silliness is something I've learned over the years. I can go into most job interviews and be who they expect and often who they want (I should offer training courses in this). Getting the job is a fun challenge, like The Crystal Maze without the death traps. It's keeping the job I find nigh on impossible.

But readers, soften your hearts for a moment, because now RT Teen is looking for a job and things are far worse for him. As if it wasn't bad enough before, now the interviews he will face are all about showing the real you by doing activities, group games (I'm starting to hyperventilate), team-building (...) and, oh, I'm sorry, I have to tell you - hugging.

Yes, apparently there'll be hugging.

Hugging?? Is this not some kind of abuse?

You go to a job interview to show them you can do the job and find out what sort of company they are and they make you hug each other? Cats are for hugging, not other job seekers! People are only for hugging if you love them, or it's the only alternative to listening to their problems. Or small children, they like hugging, but they don't know enough about people to have been warned off it yet.

Your competition, though? People who are fighting you for a job? What if you don't want to hug them or they smell or they look like they bite? What if they hug too long, for heaven's sake? Do they get a polite tap on the shoulder like a dance competition and then have to leave the floor?

Whatever it is, it seems to have very little to do with stocking shelves in a supermarket. For what it's worth, I have a feeling an OCD, non-hugging, efficiency freak may be more useful in keeping a shop floor tidy and running smoothly than someone who hugs strangers and can dance in front of a room full of people who aren't also dancing.

I have nothing against companies using new methods to find out if people are who they want, but really, is this the way? Perhaps if job hunters hadn't needed to fit into a pre-shaped box in the first place then everyone would have told the truth and been themselves to begin with and none of this would be necessary.

You know what, though? It isn't necessary. Just take those aspies who don't pass the standardised tests and who fail at social handling and put them on the other side of the interview table. We are the kings and queens of getting to the bottom of things. We will find out who people are and what they really mean and never need to hug anyone. Ever.

Unless you are employing animals, small children or unstoppable extroverts. Then you can get Bob from Accounting to do it.


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I love you, cubicles!

Where would I be without the humble cubicle? Be it toilet or changing cubicle, this simple cuboid with ill-fitting door and essential locking mechanism is often all that stands between me and a screaming exit.

The times I have sat there on the toilet seat, resting my head in my hands as I wonder how on earth I am ever going to be able to unlock the door and go back to the throng. Or in the shop, aware of the brief but blessed interlude to be had from pretending to try on clothes so I can avoid People.

Toilets are always better. You definitely have a lockable door and people don't like to ask why you took so long. Also they are sweetly anonymous so that anyone coming in and out of the main room has no idea who you are, whereas changing rooms tend to be patrolled a little better, in case you are stealing something or have died, mid-pants-leg-change.

Oh toilets, how I love them! Besides their obvious use, they are so full of the promise of solitude, of beneficial and chosen isolation. They have a seat to sit on, a big door, toilet paper in case you need to have a little cry or to finally blow your nose in the way you have been desperate to all day but couldn't because it's rude.

They have a barrier between you and the world outside, even if that world is three feet away and desperate for you to come out so they can go in. They have enough room to move about in case you need to do some restricted star jumps to loosen up or some subtle yoga. They even have running water, in case you are planning a really long break.

Best of all you can go on your phone, once you have recovered a little, and message your real friends on Facebook about how awful it's all been and how you knew you shouldn't have come and how they won't believe what you have been through.

Finally, you do have to leave. The difficult moment when you unlock the door, the pit of your stomach churning up the day-so-far into a metaphor of loneliness in a crowd.

And then you emerge, victorious in your bravery, a little more able to cope than when you went in and with the knowledge that you are strong enough to leave when you need to, and next time by the front door.

Or the fire exit behind the umbrella plant.


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Who needs tact when you have over-sharing?

What is this mysteriously magical pull between my brain and someone I barely know? Why do I feel the need to bridge the gap by telling them something they never expected? And why do I always share things you're supposed to keep to yourself?

Yes, those times when normal chit-chat would do but I fill it with nuggets from my life, hard, gold, treasure-finds that leave people at a loss for words - which then leaves another hole in the conversation for me to fill with something else.

It's as if one piece of information, unasked for but wholly perfect for the moment it pops into my brain, then opens the door for all the others. As if one metaphorical cat, instead of running into the garden, turns round and opens the door wide for the rest of the cats to pour through.

All I had to do was fill in one simple piece of conversational by-the-by. There was no invitation to share (whoever really needed one?), there was no suitable opening only the size and shape of that one share: I could have talked about the weather and it would have been good.

But no! Why talk about the weather when you can open a door into your life and let all the cats out? Wouldn't people rather have this great little conversation-stopper than the same old guff about the cold and the rain?

Personally, I love it when I get gossip instead of guff. People over-share and they are safe with me. If it's too much I say to them, 'That's probably more than you should be telling me!' So then they know they're over-sharing. Also, they're always surprised it's too much information, so at least I know I'm not the only one who finds it confusing.

Unfortunately no one ever seems to say that to me. Rather they listen, trying to fix their face into Not-Surprise so that they can respond when I finally shut my mouth.

So I apologise if this great bit of gossip is over-sharing, or that tidbit about my toilet habits; don't worry if you have no comeback to this as your silence will be taken as rapt interest and I'll just carry on where I left off, if I ever did leave off.

When we have to move on and I realise I did it again, at least you'll know me better than either of us expected. The best of friendships can start this way, you know? And you might feel like over-sharing yourself sometime. I promise to tell you if it's too much, but also I'm full of great advice for that little problem of yours.

See how great over-sharing can be!


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