Job searching strategies for people with autism
JOB SEEKERS WITH AUTISM FACE A UNIQUE SET OF CHALLENGES, BUT THESE TIPS CAN HELP THEM LAND THEIR DREAM JOB.
The unemployment rate for individuals with autism is estimated to be as high as 85 percent, according to Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the individuals of the autistic community throughout their lifespan. As of December 2017, the unemployment rate for the general population was just 4.1 percent. As a result, finding a job can seem like a daunting task for an individual on the spectrum.
As vice president of adult services at Autism Speaks, Leslie Long and her team provide resources to help support adults on the spectrum who are looking to enter the workforce. We spoke with her about the best strategies to help job seekers with autism land their dream job.
CB: What are the biggest challenges a job seeker with autism faces in their job search?
LL: One of the biggest challenges for adults on the spectrum can be social and communication skills. For that reason, the interview process can be a real challenge for people on the spectrum. For some, it could be so frightening that they don’t apply for a job because they’re concerned about rejection.
CB: How can job seekers on the spectrum overcome these challenges?
LL: It is [a] very individualized process. But for anyone with autism, we recommend being confident in the skills you have that are applicable to the job tasks. Start by researching the company and what they’re looking for in terms of skills. Highlight the skills you bring to the job, as well as other attributes that meet the company’s needs, focusing particularly on performing repetitive tasks, data analysis and diverse thinking.
In terms of interviewing, it’s important to develop a strategy with someone who knows you well (i.e. a teacher, therapist or family member) and to practice what you’re going to say or write during the interview.
CB: What can a job seeker with autism do to network and make connections in a way that is comfortable for them?
LL: Many job seekers will attend job fairs, but that’s very difficult for someone on the spectrum to negotiate. Prepping ahead of time, knowing what companies will be there and having applications ready is a great way to find success.
There are also other ways to engage in networking. But you shouldn’t be afraid to network with classmates, friends and family members. Many of the champions who are starting programs at companies that are aimed at hiring employees with autism have family members with autism. You can’t be afraid to ask family to get you connected.
CB: What other job search strategies do you recommend?
LL: People with autism are eligible for services through their local vocational rehabilitation offices. They are there for anyone with a disability to help you find a job, or help you if you need training on the job. Also, consider consulting employment agencies that specialize in supporting people with autism and other disabilities.
Autism Speaks also helped champion the Spectrum Careers Portal, which was designed to promote inclusive employment of the autism community by connecting employers, service providers and employees on the spectrum. It is more visual, and allows applicants to upload video resumes to demonstrate their skills and interests to prospective employers instead of writing them down.
CB: How can job seekers on the spectrum customize their resumes to stay competitive in today’s job market?
LL: In general, people on the autism spectrum are looking for a career opportunity. Not just a job. So like any other job seeker, they’re stuck with the reality of how job search engines work. Meaning they need to include keywords that will get their resume noticed by employers. Many applicants with autism have skills like loyalty, but they need to consider how [those skills] transfer to the desired skills listed on a job posting.