For many individuals with autism, finding and keeping a job can be a daunting task. The neurodivergent brain can have unique strengths and challenges that may make traditional employment difficult. However, with the right strategies and accommodations, individuals with autism can thrive in the workplace.
In this article, we want to share our personal experience and tips on how to find and maintain employment as an individual with autism. Whether you're just starting your job search or have been in the workforce for years, we hope our insights can be helpful.
Job Search Strategies
Searching for a job can be overwhelming for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for individuals with autism. Here are some tips that have worked for us:
Find the right job search platform: Many individuals with autism prefer online job boards because they offer a more controlled and predictable environment. However, don't discount in-person networking opportunities. Attend job fairs or other events where you can meet potential employers and make a personal connection.
Identify your strengths: Make a list of your strengths and skills, and think about how they could be applied in the workforce. For example, if you have a talent for visual thinking, you may excel in a job that involves graphic design or data analysis..
Look for job descriptions that align with your strengths: When searching for job openings, look for positions that list specific skills or qualifications that align with your strengths. For example, if you excel at attention to detail, look for positions that require strong organizational skills..
Research the company culture: It's important to find a workplace that values diversity and inclusion. Do some research on the company's mission statement, values, and policies. You may also want to reach out to current or former employees to get a sense of the workplace culture.
Consider disclosing your autism diagnosis: This can be a difficult decision, but disclosing your diagnosis can help employers understand your needs and provide appropriate accommodations. You can disclose during the interview process or after you've been hired.
Preparing for a job interview can be nerve-wracking for anyone, but individuals with autism may face additional challenges. Here are some tips for interview preparation as an individual with autism:
- Practice your interview skills: Practice answering common interview questions with a friend or family member, or record yourself answering questions and watch the recording to identify areas for improvement.
- Request accommodations for the interview: If you need accommodations for the interview, such as a quiet space or additional time to process questions, don't be afraid to ask. It's important to advocate for yourself and communicate your needs.
- Bring a portfolio: Bringing a portfolio of your work or examples of your skills can help you demonstrate your abilities and showcase your strengths to the interviewer.
Once you've secured a job, it's important to communicate your needs to your employer. Here are some accommodations that may be helpful:
Sensory accommodations: Many individuals with autism have sensory sensitivities. Request accommodations such as a quiet workspace, noise-cancelling headphones, or a flexible schedule to help manage sensory overload.
Social accommodations: Socializing with coworkers can be challenging for individuals with autism. Request accommodations such as a mentor or buddy system, clear communication guidelines, or social skills training to help navigate social interactions.
Task accommodations: Individuals with autism may have difficulty with certain tasks or workflows. Request accommodations such as written instructions, visual aids, or additional training to help you perform your job duties effectively.
Time management accommodations: Individuals with autism may struggle with time management and executive functioning. Request accommodations such as a task list or calendar, or a schedule with structured breaks to help manage time effectively.
Q: Should I disclose my autism diagnosis during the job search process?
A: It's a personal decision, but disclosing your diagnosis can help employers understand your needs and provide appropriate accommodations.
Q: What are some common accommodations for individuals with autism in the workplace?
A: Some common accommodations include sensory accommodations (e.g., quiet workspace, noise-cancelling headphones), social accommodations (e.g., mentor or buddy system, social skills training), task accommodations (e.g., written instructions, visual aids), and time management accommodations (e.g., task list, structured breaks).
Q: How can I find a job that aligns with my strengths?
A: Identify your strengths and look for jobs that allow you to use them. Consider taking a career assessment test or speaking with a career counselor to get a better understanding of your strengths and how they can be applied in the workforce. You may also want to look for job descriptions that list specific skills or qualifications that align with your strengths.
Q: How can I communicate my needs to my employer?
A: Communication is key when it comes to workplace accommodations. Schedule a meeting with your employer or HR representative to discuss your needs and any accommodations you may require. Be clear and specific about your needs, and provide suggestions for accommodations that could be helpful. Remember, your employer wants to see you succeed and may be willing to work with you to provide the necessary accommodations.
Q: What if I'm struggling in my job despite accommodations?
A: If you're still struggling despite accommodations, it may be helpful to speak with your employer or HR representative about additional accommodations or adjustments that could be made. It's also important to take care of your mental health and seek support if needed. Consider speaking with a therapist or joining a support group for individuals with autism in the workplace.
Finding and maintaining employment as an individual with autism can be challenging, but it's not impossible. By utilizing job search strategies that align with your strengths and communicating your needs to your employer, you can create a supportive work environment that allows you to thrive. Remember to prioritize your mental health and seek support if needed. With the right strategies and accommodations, individuals with autism can succeed in the workplace and achieve their career goals. Good luck!
What to do next?
Check out our blog post on 19 Things Employers can do to ensure People with Autism Succeed at the Workplace
Also check this book out: Life Skills Workbook for Adults with Autism and Special Needs: Activities to help develop Independence, Self Advocacy and Self Care
Autism doesn't end when you turn 18.
It's important for adults with autism and special needs to develop life skills to live a rich and satisfying life. Life skills teach what the individual needs to know to live on their own
This workbook will help adults to work and develop:
• Practical living skills
• Personal care
• Job skills
• Personal safety
• Social skills
• Safety awareness
• Self-determination and advocacy
• Consolidating independence
• And much more
Grab the book here: Life Skills Workbook for Adults with Autism and Special Needs