How can an adult shut-in with no work experience better themselves?
July 26, 2010 12:48 PM   Subscribe

23-year-old shut-in with no work experience: how can I move to a place with jobs and gain employment?

I'm a 23-year-old shut-in who has a very small amount of work experience. In fact, my work experience is so little that I simply can't count it as being "true" experience; it's days' worth of experience. I've never even held a full-time job before.

My Asperger's Syndrome is what lead me to become the way I am. Anxiety is a co-morbid bi-product of it which has caused me to go outside very little - about once every few months. I don't go out because I'm frightened of the scorn I'd have to face as most people in my area have no understanding of what Asperger's is. People here despise me for not having a job and bully me for it without considering the fact that I have a disability. Everyone in this town knows who I am and the way I live my life. I live in a very conservative hamlet where people aren't in tune with the rest of the world. I can't go out without feeling a great deal of pain. The condescending and harsh way people speak to me makes me sick because I know that I'm not a bad person.

I recently met someone online who I care about a lot which has given me the initiative to change my lifestyle. I want to get a job and become a respectable person of society so that I can form relationships with people and obviously so that I can earn money which will make my life more pleasurable. At this point in my life I feel that I need to change. There's a problem though - I live in a small rural area where the only work available is farm work. A combination of me growing up in a large city/town my entire life has prevented me from being a competent farm-hand. Most of the farmers around here hire teenagers/young adults from other farms to help them as they know how to do the work more effectively than people who come from cities/towns. Even if I was good at farm-work, I still wouldn't want to do this as a job for my entire life as the earnings wouldn't be adequate enough to live a good life.

So here is my plan: I want to somehow save up enough money to be able to move to nearby city where doors will open for me - a place where I'll be able to go outside with ease. In order to earn money to allow me to move I'll have to do something to earn an income, and given that I'm a shut-in, online work would likely be my only feasible option. Do any of you have online work recommendations? The problem is that I honestly don't know how to go about online work. If it would allow me to earn at least $1500 a month, it would allow me to move to a city and start my life. After moving, I'm not sure what type of job I'd look for. I don't want to work at a blue-collar job for the rest of my life and college is out of the question because my grades in high-school were beyond terrible which was primarily due to the severe anxiety, but I'll be willing to try mostly everything out. Any job recommendations for a computers/electronics savvy introvert with poor social skills? I'm skilled in various areas, but computers/electronics are my forté. But I honestly don't know who would hire me which causes me distress. However, I need to stay hopeful.

Now you must be thinking "Why not just ask family to give you money to move?". The problem is that my family likely wouldn't give me money to move to an apartment as they probably can't see me being able to gain employment quickly enough. I wouldn't want them to pay rent for me when I wouldn't be able to find a job - I'd feel as if I let them down. I'd like to be financially grounded on my own before moving, and I hope this will be possible to achieve. If not, I feel I'll be stuck rotting away with my mother forever.

Due to the way I've been living my life for the past few years, I'll likely forever be viewed as being an eccentric, but I don't care. I just want to change and quit caring so much about what people think of me and move on. I just hope to god that it will be possible to change myself. I've spoken to others who live similar lifestyles as myself, but hardly any of them have improved their lives.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this semi-long post. I await your responses.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This nearby city- how near is it? Is there any way you could get a job in the city while still living at home?
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:09 PM on July 26, 2010

You, my friend, seem like someone for whom entry-level IT work would be WONDERFUL. A decent number of people in this industry are "on the spectrum", and the industry as a whole is probably friendlier to Aspies than most.

As far as getting started: I have heard decent things about Alpine Access for work-from-home call center/entry-level troubleshooting gigs (you will not make a fortune, but they are fair). You may also wish to check out Elance for freelance techie gigs.

I wish you all the luck in the world in moving towards independence.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:13 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

To be honest about your prospects for employment, they aren't great - especially if you're looking for something to the tune of $1500 a month that you can do from home. That's a tall order to fill.

I know very little about what it's like to live with your condition, but I will say that you are going to need a college education if you are not interested in blue-collar type work. The good news is that your bad grades in high school will not preclude you from higher education; you simply need to perform well in a community college first. Find a CC in your area, have your family help you out (they'll see this as a positive step, no?) or at the very least have them help you find financial aid opportunities.

Community College would also be a great way to reintroduce yourself to structured social situations.
posted by Think_Long at 1:28 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

I apologize in advance if this is a stupid or otherwise unreasonable response, but if you have some facility with numbers, then online poker might be a way to start building financial reserves. I know of people who do this and nothing else by way of employment. I'm a profitable player, but don't have the patience (& possibly the talent) to make it a job, but it's still a helpful source of income. Of course, you'll need a bit of cash just to begin, and you're unlikely to be successful initially, but if you do have free time and enjoy being on the computer...

Also, for what it's worth, I wish you the best of luck. You sound like a thoughtful person and I'm sure that what you're contemplating isn't easy, but it's neverthless a worthwhile route.
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 1:28 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go to Find good books on Linux, Apache, PhP, MySql...learn them. Start working with a CMS: Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress, etc. Start making a website for yourself, hanging out in IRC web devel chat rooms, participate in code development, and scour the "paid services" section of wantever you chose to develop on. If you are even decent you should start getting telecommuting work. Many talented people in this field lack degrees. I'd say a fair number also have aspergers. It personally took me about 5 months to start making over $1000 a month though, but I still NYC, one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Once you are making decent money you can rent a place and also use that money to pay for a therapist.
posted by melissam at 1:39 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]

My Asperger's Syndrome is what lead me to become the way I am. Anxiety is a co-morbid bi-product of it which has caused me to go outside very little - about once every few months. I don't go out because I'm frightened of the scorn I'd have to face as most people in my area have no understanding of what Asperger's is.

I understand what you're saying and I agree that you probably don't live in the most accepting environment, but it sounds like to some extent you are rationalizing your anxiety. I think that's dangerous because you are convincing yourself that you really should stay inside where you are, and that you would have no problem going out if you lived somewhere else. The fact is that anxiety is fundamentally irrational, and in my opinion you need to treat it as something you have to fight against rather than something you can escape by changing your life circumstances. That's not to say that your plan isn't a good idea, I think that's what I would try to do if I was in your shoes, but realize that anxiety is going to be something you have to deal with no matter what your life is like.

The problem is that my family likely wouldn't give me money to move to an apartment as they probably can't see me being able to gain employment quickly enough. I wouldn't want them to pay rent for me when I wouldn't be able to find a job - I'd feel as if I let them down.

I don't know about your specific family situation and finances and whatnot, but don't assume this if you haven't talked to them about it. It's possible that they know you are having trouble in the rural area where you live and would do whatever they could to help you with a plan to start becoming more productive and supporting yourself.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:48 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

OK, so having read all of this you sound like you are on the right track. I reiterate that you need to internalize that who you are is not what diagnosis you are. It's like cards, just because you get "bad cards" dosen't mean you don't have a responsibility to play them the best way possible. And sometimes Rags will beat Pocket Aces (if you like poker).


1) Have a positive, assertive attitude. Doesn't matter if you are afraid of people face to face, you will have to interact with them at some level. Find your strength. Can you write well? Can you talk over the phone? Find some means to communicate that maximizes your confidence in dealing with other people.

2) Don't focus on money. Yes, you do need to a bit to prove to family and friends that you are an "economically viable" person. But that's all. Don't think that money will make you happy. And don't think that you won't be happy until you have money. When you know what makes you happy you will then know what you need to do to stay happy and make money. If you are lucky, the money will just come.

"at least $1500 a month, it would allow me to move to a city and start my life."

WRONG - your life is stared now. Work from that proposition will be a lot better off.

3) Cities and Doors. Cities are a GREAT idea, but they are also going to be intimidating. How many doors are in your small hamlet? yet you are afraid to knock on those doors. Why? What makes you think the doors in cities will be any easier to knock on? Yes, people are more accepting in cities, but there are also more callous people, because there are just MORE people. The trick is to find people in any circumstance that help and support you, and who you can help and support. That is what will help. I'm not saying you need facebook or to be a social butterfly, but you do need to deal with people, even if it is professionally as customers or managers etc.

If you can move to a city do it, but it sounds like you need some family help to get kick started, if so maybe focus on learning what you can learn at home with some relative stability.

4) Jobs/Plan/Etc - Do this. Make something that you value. ANYTHING. Doesn't matter if no one in town values it, doesn't matter if mom and dad don't value it, just make something that YOU value (code, writing, website, art work, invention, electronic gizmo... whatever). Then share that thing online in a community that deals with those things. See what other people say, learn more about the thing, try to make a better thing that you value. Eventually you can show people your value from the things that you have made. This is much better than some "resume" you are so concerned about. Trust me. If you find some job along the way that allow you to continue making or doing what you value GREAT! Take that job.

Either way, don't bother making some grand plan and telling people that's what you are going to do. They won't believe you, they will just try to tell you it is impossible (or worse) that you are not capable (fortunately they are lying or just misinformed).

Instead, just get busy doing something. Have a plan-- or don't have a plan, doesn't matter. If you have a plan people will see it when you get good results. But just because your plan has run into a roadblock does NOT mean that you life has. Keep going.

5) People - I feel that this might help you, but maybe not. Impro by Keith Johnston. It shows how much of a simple game interacting with people is. Even if you still have a hang up, it will give you some tricks and methods that might help.

Remember. Life is only Now. Live it now.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 1:50 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]

I was desperate for a job this summer so here is what I did. It was the least work for a job I have ever done, and the job itself requires almost no social skills to do.

Go to craigslist, look in the manufacturing section, look for a temporary staffing agency that is hiring for some sort of clean/safe form of manufacturing (you could also just start calling staffing agencies out of the yellow pages if you don't find anything on CL), go to the staffing agency, fill out their ridiculous forms, talk the HR person and stress your schedule flexibility (you can start work today and work any day of the week on any shift), your ability to show up for work, and your general affability, get hired into a job that will require no more social skills than grunting occasionally to acknowledge that other people have said something, get on with you life.

(Seriously, one of the guys that was working there when I first showed up was somewhere in the very high functioning asperger spectrum. I was sad when he quit.)
posted by 517 at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think you'd really benefit from the insights offered on Wrong Planet. There are resources, forums and it's a lot of fun to boot. Check it out. Good luck.
posted by watercarrier at 1:59 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really debated as to whether or not I should post this, because I don't want to be the solo bitch of the thread. I do think you might want a different perspective. I'm sorry, my post is going to be really harsh, but I have to agree wholeheartedly with DetonatedManiac (on both of his posts). Temple Grandin is a fantastic example of an autistic person overcoming their 'disability' (I won't get into it right now, but I view AS as a different way of looking at the world, not a disability). She was supposed to be institutionalized, and was considered non-functioning. Now she has a PhD and teaches and writes books and gives lectures. She goes out into the world, and the world accepts her for who she is. The only way to remedy poor social skills is to practice. The best way to practice is to get out there.

Everyone has to deal with criticism and people being condescending. It's a fact of life. No amount of hiding or avoidance is going to change this. People don't 'make' other people feel bad. You are the one who chooses how to feel. I agree with Think_Long that community college would be a great way to start out and practice functioning in the world. You have to quit being a shut-in, and I think looking for online work is a bad idea, simply because you have to get out there and try to work within the real world. The only way your things are going to change is if you get out there and do it.

There are a lot of people that don't have AS that are viewed as eccentric. Eccentrics can be interesting and fun, AS or not. You have to play the cards that you are dealt. You say that you want to care less about what other people think. The only way this can be accomplished is by just doing it. There is no magical pill or formula. I like to keep in mind that I am who I am, and that's all I can be. If people don't like it, tough.

Everyone has fears. The way to deal with fear is to suck it up and get over it.

I have worked in a ton of restaurants, and if you think that only "normal" people work there, think again. Get a job doing prep work, or cooking. You will learn a job skill, and have to learn to work with others. Same with farm work (and if you want to work, you can find someone to train you). Find something to start out, and then when you have a skill set, you can find something you like better.

Good luck, be brave, and get out there and try. You have to be in charge of your life.
posted by bolognius maximus at 2:25 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

The problem is that my family likely wouldn't give me money to move to an apartment as they probably can't see me being able to gain employment quickly enough

This stands out, for two reasons.

First, you are assuming much. They "likely" wouldn't? They "probably" can't? Stop wasting your time assuming the worst of your family, and go talk to them instead. You can even say "Hey, here's what I'd love to do to turn my life around, but it requires borrowing money from you. Can you help me figure out alternative ways that wouldn't involve borrowing money from you?" In short, try to view them as allies, then reach out for help (financially and otherwise.) If they say no, then okay, you can look into other options.

Second, "quickly enough" is a red flag for me, in that you shouldn't be thinking of this as something with a fixed timeframe, where your performance is being judged. Instead, it is a process of discreet steps for you to follow, one by one, and if it takes a day or a week or a month to achieve the next step, so be it -- the important thing is that you're proceeding.

Also, you say the money from farm work wouldn't be enough "for a good life" -- how are you making that judgment of what a good life is? There are people in the world who live on very little, and have far more satisfying lives than those who have much, much more. You should take a step back and decide what "a good life" really entails. For instance, what if you could have the exact same scenario you have right now, but when you walked out your front door, people would treat you kindly? You could have all the money in the world and not have that -- but you could also move to another community (that doesn't know your history) and have a farm job that paid just enough to live, and find you're happy because people treat you well.
posted by davejay at 3:31 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

@ julthumbscrew and melissam

are right on. There are plenty of people that are in computers without the degree, and lots of them have Aspergers. Really, once you have the skills and a portfolio of work, no one cares about a piece of paper. This doesn't mean that the piece of paper (diploma) won't open doors, but you can accomplish plenty without it. Especially if you are only aiming for 1500 a month. The one thing is that if you can stand a little longer with your family while you accumulate the skills you need to make it on your own, that would be a good idea. If you have the drive that i have seen in many of those with Aspergers (I myself am flirting with the edge of the spectrum), you will have a good skill set quite quickly. Also, something that will set you up for the future is to work your way through a good intro programming course from beginning to end. The skills and best practices that you pick up by actually learning some fundamental computer science principles will make you a better coder forever.

Open source projects are a fantastic place to get started once you have a few basic skills. Love Firefox? Head over to and see how you can get involved. Even low-level programmers can be part of a team working on a module or problem. The open source community is, in general, quite supportive of beginners, and I promise you will find plenty of Asperger's compatriots there too. the other great thing about learning while working on real software is that it is a fantastic thing to put on one's resume when you are then looking for paid work.

Finally, melissam mentioned therapy. Really, a fantastic idea.

Best of luck!
posted by rockindata at 7:32 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your family is supporting (or enabling) your current situation. Only you know for sure, and only if you ask, but I suspect they would support your move (financially) if you present them with specific plans and a time line to make it or return. From their standpoint, it would be cheaper to pay for a year of an apartment of say $2,000 per month ($24k per year) than have to figure out a way to support you long term.

As for ways to make $1500 per month, I happen to agree with the poker suggestion. If you spend a few months reading up and practicing and then gradually build your confidence and stake, you can make a living at it. I know two people who make $1,000 per day.. They started real small. Making $100 per day in beginning was a big deal.

Don't worry what anyone else thinks about you or your lifestyle. Strive to make yourself happy. Don't settle, but reach for your goals.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:38 PM on July 26, 2010

I think you need to look at this as a series of steps, not an all-or-nothing proposition. The first step toward moving into the city is getting a job, not an apartment. Apply everywhere, and try to get the support of your family for rides into the city for interviews, doors to knock on, etc. You should also ask your family if they know of any jobs, or people that might be hiring. Once you get the job, you can 1) commute from home for the first few weeks (if feasible) 2) Try to get a loan from your parents after you are hired or 3) worst case scenario, investigate various less-than-optimal loans. Good luck!
posted by fermezporte at 7:53 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

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