Transitioning from College to the Workplace as a Neurodiverse Individual By Katie Corrigan

When I was in the third grade, I was diagnosed with ADD and dyscalculia, the latter meaning that I struggle to comprehend math. While my learning disabilities were a struggle for me in school, I was very fortunate and privileged enough in that both my parents and most of my educators went out of their way to accommodate and support me in any way that they could. One thing that I would say to others with learning disabilities is that from my own personal experience, I find school and work can be very similar in more ways than we realize. 

I have personally found the workplace to be slightly easier and in some ways, more rewarding. I have mainly worked in customer, retail and food service-type jobs, which means that I am often on my feet and frequently moving while I am at work. One reason why I generally tend to enjoy work more than I did school is because if you are like me and you become restless after sitting down in one spot for an extended period of time, this does not have to be the case depending on what kind of job you are working. For many people, the type of jobs that they work after college are related to the major that they studied in college. However, for me this was not the case and that is okay. Like many people, I developed an interest in true crime and eventually I chose my major as Criminal Studies when I was in my junior year at Salem College in North Carolina. Even though my parents and my college advisor were extremely supportive and dedicated to helping me find a job when I graduated from college in 2017, I struggled to find a position in my field and because of that, I have worked in customer service. 

It would take me some time to find a job that made me feel confident and proud. On two separate occasions, I began working at popular chain restaurants doing what most may consider to be “basic” work, from greeting people to helping prepare food. When I first got each of these jobs, I was extremely proud of myself and excited. Unfortunately, I often found myself feeling bad and disappointed in myself because I could not keep up to speed as others. Eventually, I did find another part-time position elsewhere. Although I did struggle a lot in the beginning with this job, as it does take longer for me to catch on to certain things than it is for other people,  I eventually – with the support of my fiance and my coworkers – was able to catch-on and I even got “Employee of the Month” a few months after I began working there, which to this day is one of my proudest moments! 

In addition to struggling to find the right job for me out of college, I also struggled with independence in other ways. Growing up in New York, getting a license was not a priority for me at all, especially while I was trying to navigate college. As a result of this, I delayed getting my driver’s license for years until I finally realized that as long as I was living in North Carolina and if I wanted things to be easier for me in not only getting a job but having a better quality of life, I needed to practice driving so that I could eventually get my driver’s license. Of course, this came with challenges for me as well. It took me three tries and roughly two years to finally get my driver’s license. Part of this was because not only did I struggle to maintain a consistent schedule when it came to practicing driving every day, but I also lacked a lot of confidence in myself, even to the point where I am sure it rubbed off on my instructors at times. However, after my third time taking the actual driving road test, I had finally passed and then this became one of my new proudest moments! 

At the time of me writing this, I have been with this particular company for about four years now. It is a very rewarding feeling to know that after years of self-doubt and uncertainty, I have been able to prove to myself that I am capable of working in a fast-paced environment and being able to hold down a job for an extended period of time! Now that I have been able to prove to myself that I am able to do what I doubted myself for, I am slowly developing the confidence to move forward and continue looking for a job that has more of what I am looking for as I am getting married in April of 2022 and I am looking to move forward and make bigger, more positive changes in my life regarding my career path.