Autism Employment Tips
Getting a well-paid, meaningful job opens up a whole world of opportunities for autistic adults. It offers a sense of purpose, a chance to practice social skills, and most importantly gives them some financial independence. This last point has ramifications for society at large; given that over 80% of autistic adults in British Columbia are either unemployed or in work that doesn’t match their skills and qualifications, many of them rely on disability benefits to make ends meet. A full-time job pulls them out of welfare and also increases the local and provincial tax base – a win-win situation all around.
However, there are many barriers that face adults on the autistic spectrum who are looking for work. Some of these belong to society, with many negative stereotypes and tropes being portrayed in the media, while some belong to the neurotypical workplace environment which creates a whole host of minefields from overstimulation to abstract language in emails. However, autistic adults can access the workplace successfully, with some tips on finding the right job, applying in the right way, and nailing the interview.
One of the hardest parts of getting work for autistic jobseekers is finding the right jobs to apply for. Some helpful advice for finding the right jobs include:
- Complete a skills analysis – for any job hunter, a successful job will be one that combines existing skills and knowledge with manageable challenges. The same is true of autistic workers, so they should be encouraged to think about their own skills and interests to help them narrow down potential fields of work.
- Make phone calls – not every company will be willing to take on autistic workers, so once you’ve started to find potential fields, you should think about making calls to potential employers to see if they would accept applications from autistic candidates. You can also shortcut this process by signing up with an autism employment program, which will have links to local companies looking for autistic employees, as well as providing a series of pre-work training and post-hiring support to make sure that the autistic employee is retained in their post.
- Look online – the job market is rapidly moving online, with many companies only posting to internet job boards. There are job listing pages solely for autistic job seekers and these make a great place to start as they’ll offer advice on what to look for in a potential employer.
Applying for jobs
Once they’ve found a range of jobs to apply for, the next hurdle is the application. To get them started, try some of these tips:
- Proofreading – for autistic adults who are proficient in writing, it will be helpful to have someone else proofread the application before they send it in. It’s the first opportunity that an employer gets to know them, so full sentences, correct spelling and grammar, and friendly tone are all must-haves.
- Ghostwriting – for those autistic candidates who need more help with writing, having someone ghostwrite their application is a great way of overcoming the inherent neurotypical bias in written applications. Start by talking to them about the job and what interests them about it, and then discuss their skills and how they fit the job specifications. Finally, put it in a letter using their wording verbatim as much as possible.
- Verbal application – in some situations, most likely when a company is actively trying to hire autistic workers, a hiring manager may be willing to accept a verbal application either in person, over Zoom, or via phone. This will also act as a trial interview and give the autistic applicant a chance to sell themselves without the block of pen and paper.
The formal interview process is a relic of the early twentieth century and has been proven time and again not to be a great indicator of success in a job. However, many companies stick with it, so autistic candidates should aim to rehearse a formal interview with trusted adults as often as they can, including bringing some questions of their own. There is no requirement for them to reveal their autism diagnosis, but it’s often beneficial to let the potential employer know so that they can work out what support and accommodations will need to be put in place.
It’s important for autistic job seekers to recognize the scale of the task that they’re undertaking, and be prepared for multiple rounds of rejection before they land their dream job. However, with trusted friends and family supporting them, they will eventually find their true calling.