Finding a job in today’s modern workplace is hard enough at the best of times. The constant need for growth and development means that the competition for professional jobs is always intense, and the bar continues to be raised in terms of the minimum requirements for a position. These challenges are only exacerbated for autistic people who have to fight an additional set of barriers when they job hunt.
The reality of finding a professional job with autism is that it’s a largely fruitless task when undertaken on their own. Some of the common barriers facing autistic people looking for professional work include:
Biased interview practices - many autistic candidates fail before they’re even offered a position through no fault of their own. Most companies do not have inclusive hiring practices, and the typical face-to-face interview process heavily favors neurotypical job candidates who better understand social cues and can think quickly and flexibly in the heat of the moment.
Unfriendly work environments - even if they are able to navigate the biased interview process, autistic employees are often alienated by workplaces that are not autism-friendly. These can be environmental challenges that provide too much stimulation to finding that the role has not been adapted to meet the skills and talents of the autistic worker. This may not be intentional on behalf of the hiring company, but shows a lack of forethought about their hiring practice.
Societal stereotypes - a final barrier that many autistic people face when trying to find a professional job are the negative stereotypes that have been made common through social media and news sites about autism. The old adage goes that once you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. In the workplace, this means that the fact that a worker has been diagnosed with autism doesn’t allow anyone to prejudge them or their abilities. Companies who are trying to recruit a more neurodiverse workforce will also need to work on educating their existing staff and breaking down some of these negative stereotypes.
It’s easy to see that most of these barriers are out of the control of the autistic job seeker. While this doesn’t make things easier, it does soften the blow of rejection a little.
Given that there are many pieces of the employment jigsaw that are out of their control, it can feel like a lost cause for autistic job hunters before they’ve even started. However, there are some steps they can take to help find a professional job with autism:
Seek out autism-friendly employers - more and more organizations are setting themselves up to become more autism friendly and will advertise themselves as such. They will also advertise in places more likely to be seen by autistic people such as local autism charities and on autism support forums. These companies are more likely to have application and interview processes that level the playing field and will have more experience in how to adapt job roles for autistic employees.
Workplace training - many autistic people have the goal of professional work, but may have limited experiences of it through their schooling and can be unprepared for the realities of the workplace. Finding local non-profits who provide workplace training in skills such as organization and self-advocacy will go a long way in showing potential employers that they are ready to work. These organizations tend to have connections with local autism-friendly companies too, so it can be beneficial to explore the full range of packages that they offer.
Skills analysis - finally, autistic job seekers should find someone to help them complete a skills analysis. This will help them to make sure that they are applying for professional jobs for which they are suited and will be capable of doing successfully. This requires someone outside of their usual social circle who can be honest and objective, and who will be able to point them to further training and resources to help round out their applications.
These small steps will help increase the chances of a successful job hunt for many autistic workers, as they wait for the wider business world to change to make the most of this untapped talent pool.
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