Credit: Jenny Wise, freelance writer
Date: January 21, 2019

Photo by José Alejandro Cuffia on Unsplash

When you live with autism spectrum disorder, it doesn’t have to get in the way of a productive and enjoyable life, and that includes having a career. Employment gives people the freedom and funds to follow their dreams. It helps build self-esteem and gives one a purpose from day to day. Being employed also keeps us connected to other people, and a good job provides benefits and a chance to build our financial future.

But right now, people with ASD are unemployed at a rate nearly 20 times higher than the general population. Between 75 and 85 percent of adults on the spectrum are not employed, including those with college diplomas. According to one expert, it’s time to rethink the way we aim to employ people with autism, doing away with legal subminimum wages and initiatives that focus solely on large corporations. That means bolstering the programs designed to help people with differing abilities find work, as well as adapting to the changing job market. Perhaps most importantly, it involves finding a way to counteract the stigma and perceived incompetence.

Of course, those things are outside of the realm of what an individual with ASD can immediately control. So, while people on the spectrum and their allies continue to fight for big changes on a global level, there are also steps you can take to increase your chances of gaining meaningful employment right now.

Consider Your Strengths
When considering the different career paths available, keep your unique strengths in the forefront of your mind. For instance, those with artistic talents who tend to think visually can find success with building trades; maintenance and repairs; drafting and animation; computer programming and web page design; and as laboratory technicians. On the other hand, those with ASD who have a non-visual thinking style might prefer a job that taps into their math, music, or trivia skills. Library science, banking, accounting, and statistics are all good fields to consider.

Draft a Résumé
A professional résumé provides a great first impression for potential employers, so you want it to be memorable. If you’re unsure about your résumé, a great option is an easy-to-use template you can fill out with your personal information and experience. However, you don’t want it to be overly informative or embellished. A résumé should only be one page long and focus on quality, not quantity. Furthermore, the template you use only needs to contain two or three colors — preferably from the neutrals; think: black, white, blue, or grey. Finally, have someone you trust proofread and edit your résumé, especially if a part of your ASD symptoms includes grammatical language impairment.

Prepare for the Interview
Some people with autism struggle with what is and what is not “appropriate.” But knowing what is appropriate to wear to an interview can be a struggle for both those on and off the autism spectrum. Take these guidelines to heart, but feel free to adjust your outfit as needed to feel comfortable and not trigger any sensory processing issues you have. For more information on appropriate attire for interviews, check out these guides on what men and women should wear respectively.

Practicing for your interview will help dispel any nervousness and give you the confidence you need to nail it. Look up potential interview questions and ask a family member or friend to rehearse with you. It also helps to do as much research about the company as you can beforehand — showing up educated on all aspects of the company tells interviewers you are serious about the position and would be a great addition to their team.

Get Support
If you’re feeling uncertain in your efforts, it may help to network with other people who have autism to get a feel for what to expect when job searching. Networking will help you prepare for the social aspects of having a job with someone who understands the kind of difficulties that come with autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, having a support network when job hunting gives you some much-needed incentive that keeps you on track. Finally, check out the educational information and job listings available through The Spectrum Careers, an employment resource specifically for those with ASD.

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Autism spectrum disorder shouldn’t get in the way of following your dreams. When going after a great job, stand out from the crowd with an eye-catching résumé and show the company how you’d be an asset through a personal cover letter. Finally, be sure to dress the part for an interview — you want to make a great impression.

If you land the job, take stock of what you think worked and apply that effort to your work once you start. Share it with other people with ASD online and in your local community, offer to become a mentor for another job seeker, and provide feedback to the organizations that are working towards a better employment outlook for people on the spectrum.

If you don’t land the job, don’t take it personally. Get back on the horse and keep trying until you get the right job for you. Once you do, you’ll be on your way to building the career of your dreams.