This article was produced by Spectrum Suite, LLC (myspectrumsuite.com). This article may be printed for personal use and use with a vocational coach or support person. Do not duplicate or distribute this article without permission from Spectrum Suite LLC. Thank you.
- Ensure your driver’s license or identification card is currently registered in the state you occupy. Sometimes an agency will request a copy of your driver’s license or similar identification and/or proof of residence.
- Before you apply to a company, research. Know the basics, such as when the company was founded, the CEO(s), the President, location, job description, mission statement.
- Search out the company you want to work for on social media. Follow their updates.
- Keep a list or spreadsheet of individuals and companies you have contacted, including the company name, original date of contact, and any follow up.
- Know your skill set, experience, interests, and limitations.
- Be self-aware. Research into your learning style. Take an online personality test. Ask others how they perceive you.
- Post your interest regarding finding a job on an online social platforms (LinkedIn, Autism Support Groups on Facebook, Twitter, Wrong Planet, Reddit) or ask someone you know to post your interest.
- Create an online profile and presence. Start a Twitter account or Facebook account. Join groups with common vocational interests.
- Be patient but persistent. If you send an email of interest, personalize the email inquiry, but keep it professional, precise, and to the point. Keep length of emails to a maximum of a few sentences. After your initial inquiry, be patient. Two to three weeks is a general rule of thumb of when it’s acceptable to send a second brief email about your initial inquiry.
- If a company says they will get back to you in two weeks and it’s been fourteen days, wait a few more days. Personnel is not always literal or exact in their estimations.
- Avoid any tone of impatience, disappointment, or accusation.
- If possible, apply using your own email address and your name, not that of a parent, vocational coach, or the like. This shows independence. You can reference a job coach in a later correspondence. In addition, make sure your email address sounds professional.
- Send a thank you letter, even if your application is rejected. You never know who that employer knows or what other job opportunities might come up with that company in the future.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR RESUME
- Work with someone (a professional, friend, or family member) to develop a polished resumes. Get feedback.
- You do not have to list every job you have ever had. Focus on the jobs that you were at the longest that reflect the skill set an agency is looking for. Avoid listing numerous short term jobs.
- Include volunteer work, studies, and areas of interest, particularly if you have very limited job history.
- Make sure your resume directly addresses the job you are applying to (e.g., the heading, the goal).
- Tailor your resume to the job description.
- If appropriate, include a brief cover letter or note that highlights your skills and interest, and include a short sentence that shows you researched the company.
SEARCH IN MULTIPLE AREAS
- Consider contacting your local governmental workforce agency, a vocational counselor, temp agency, or other employment specialist.
- If you belong to a church group or other community group, consider reaching out to members about your job search.
- Post your work skills on community boards outside colleges, food co-ops, and other venues.
- Search the keywords you are looking for on social network search boxes, such as #softwaretester #job on Twitter. Follow people on social network sites that share common interests.
- Sometimes businesses, like grocery stores and small downtown shops, only post help wanted in their store windows. Walk or drive around town, and take note of where help is wanted. Oftentimes restaurants have a high turnover rate and accept applications from job seekers with little to no experience. Walk in prepared, dressed in clean, not-wrinkled, professional clothes, with a polished resume in hand. Ask for someone’s business card, and better yet, have your own business card handy.
- If you randomly respond to advertisements on large online job boards the chances are you won’t hear anything back. Responses are rare, as companies on large job boards often receive 1000s of inquiries.
- It sometimes takes months, even over a year, for highly-qualified individuals to find a job match in today’s market. You aren’t the only one struggling to find work. With persistence and support, you will find leads.
- You can build toward having your ideal vocation, while taking on another job to make ends meet. Each job will add to your skill set and work experience, and help you understand what works and what doesn’t work for you. You can gain valuable skills by contributing to an establishment that isn’t your dream job. You never know what job might lead to other possibilities. Remember nothing is stagnant and opportunities are easier to find when you are out in the workforce.
- Taking on a low paying job or role that doesn’t suit your interests or match your educational training is justifiable and sometimes a necessity. It might help to remind yourself the job isn’t an end all and doesn’t have to be permanent. Continue a search for another job, while gaining valuable work experience. Remember your supervisor someday might be a reference on your resume or a colleague might recommend you to another person. Sometimes jobs or job roles are stepping stones.
- Take small steps and approach the job search “one day at a time.” As autistics we have a tendency to hyper-focus, which is advantageous, but can also lead to burnout, a sense of overwhelm, and not knowing where to begin. Create a plan to approach the job search in bite-sized chunks. Plan a little for each day and take brakes in between. If you accomplish something, even a minor step forward, reward yourself with a special interest or favorite pastime.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. Your brain processes information in a unique way. Give yourself a break!
- Refer to library books and online resource for resume samples, interview tips, and recruitment process skills.
- Narrow down your area of interest and establish a plan to gain knowledge in that area (online course, videos, community college, night school, independent research).
- If you have a chance to interview, but you aren’t quite sure if the job is a good fit for you, consider interviewing to gain experience with the interview process.
- Consider joining a group like Toast Masters where you can hone your speaking skills and network, or another local organization. Yes, some autistics do belong to Toast Masters!
GAIN WORK EXPERIENCE
- Volunteer in your area of interest. This not only builds upon your experience and enriches your resume, but also provides opportunities that might lead to new job connections.
- Think outside the box. Work experience can mean a variety of things, including job training, working for a neighbor, self-employment, internship, mentorship. Some establishments will only consider paid work experience others might consider alternative work experience.
- Attend autism events or self-advocacy gatherings. You never know what networking might bring you. You could volunteer at autism events to gain work experience. (Recently, at the ANCA World Autism Festival I attended, a friend who volunteered for the event was hired by ANCA that week!)
- Attend events related to your area of interest. Example: If you are interested in working as a teacher’s assistant, attend a school board meeting. (I acquired a teaching job by attending a school board meeting and talking to the principal.)
- Find an autistic mentor to assist and serve as a role model or support. There are many autistics in Facebook groups wanting to lend a hand to other people. (Spectrum Suite Resource Page)
- Find a trusted professional to assist and serve as a role model or support.
- A “rejection” letter doesn’t mean you failed, it means you tried.
- Keep in mind companies grow and expand and company needs change. Reconsider reconnecting after twelve months to see if an organization might have new positions that have opened up.
- The more “feelers” and connections you have out there, the more apt you are to find a job. The more effort you excerpt, the more rewards returned.
About the Author
Samantha Craft (aka Marcelle Ciampi) is the mother of three boys, one adult son who is on the autism spectrum. She is the lead job recruiter for ULTRA Testing, an autism educator, the author of the blog and book Everyday Aspergers, Selection Committee Chair at the ANCA World Autism Festival and is active in autism groups locally and globally. Samantha serves as a guest speaker, workshop presenter, curriculum developer, neurodiversity recruitment specialist, and more. She is working on her second book Autism in a Briefcase, written to provide insight to employers and agencies about the neurodiverse talent pool. A former schoolteacher and advocate for children with special needs, she appreciates the skills and talents of autistics. Diagnosed with Aspergers in 2012, she enjoys the arts, writing, movies, travel, and connecting with others.