Autism Spectrum

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Experiences + Lessons Learned In The Media Industry

I wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome until I was an adult, however, upon reflection, I realise it has impacted many aspects of my life, including work, both positively and negatively.

by Brendan A. 

I have always enjoyed writing stories and had an interest in sports journalism, so when I was 18 I chose journalism as my degree of choice for university.

While I was reasonably good student I soon found out after graduating from university how difficult it was to find work in the media industry. There were a lot more graduates than there were jobs available.

I found interviews daunting, especially face to face ones. Since I didn’t have the experience yet and I didn’t appear particularly confident in interviews, the odds were against me in finding paid work in such a competitive industry.

While I was able to do some freelance articles for local newspapers, in order to earn some money I had to be willing to do jobs like telemarketing and some data entry work for my parent’s business.

I did earn some casual money doing news shifts for internet radio however full time work proved elusive.

It wasn’t until 10 years after I left university that I secured my first full time paid gig in radio, in Outback New South Wales. I knew I had to be prepared to ‘go bush’ if I wanted to break into the industry so when I was offered the newsreader role I was happy to accept the position.

It was a bit of a ‘culture shock’ settling into a small town having lived in Sydney most of my life. I was away from my family, who are my support network.

At the radio station I enjoyed the company of fellow staff members and made some good local contacts with members of council and police. However I did not disclose my Asperger’s to the station manager and I did not have a close relationship with him.

I thought I had been fitting well into the work environment however after 10 months on the job the Station Manager told me I should move on because I was not getting a wide enough variety of stories.

Unfortunately this news came just a day after my car had been stolen as well. This was not a great end to first full time job in radio.

It took a while to find the next job but a year later or so I landed a radio job in the Snowy Mountains.

This time I disclosed my Asperger’s to the Manager and he was accepting of me. It was a very demanding job with my shift starting before 4 am each day and lasting till after lunch, I had to do both NSW and Victorian bulletins and on top of this I had to drive 20 minutes or so to work every day dealing with the cold and dodging the local wildlife on the road.

Unfortunately for me the manager who hired me soon retired and the one who took over did not warm to me as much, even though I also disclosed my condition to him.

I did some really good interviews with local members of parliament and the quality of news reading was high, so it came as a shock to me when I was let go after less than six months in the role.

I have learnt from both experiences that it is important for me to have a sympathetic manager and to understand whether the work environment is really suited for me.

One piece of advice I would have for anyone trying to get into not only the media industry but any job is to get an idea of the workplace environment and the staff and whether there is a reasonable level of support available.

While I do like to work independently, in hindsight I may have lasted longer in these jobs if I could have worked within a team instead of essentially being left to my own devices as the only journalist in a country radio station.

I have discovered over time that while I am usually very good at completing tasks and working to deadlines, doing all of this and at the same time having to go out of my way to build relationships with people can be a struggle.

It is easier when they approach me because I am not very skilled at making strong first impressions. I think this is partly related to me having Asperger’s.

I have been able to develop longer lasting relationships and team work in community radio. I have been part of a weekend sports show for several years and while I do not earn money from this it is a fulfilling hobby, giving me the opportunity to chat on air about my favourite sports and also the chance to interview sports stars and commentate local football games.

While I haven’t always had the best experiences in pursuing a media career, I have learnt some valuable life lessons to carry forward with me into the future.

By taking on some quite tough roles, I have exceeded my own expectations as to what I am capable of doing. 

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