I asked several experts to share their answers to the question –
“From your experience, what’s the best piece of advice you would give to an Autistic student looking for employment?”
We’re very lucky that people gave up their time to help out, and here are their answers:
Daniel Aherne, Director, Adjust Consultancy and Training
“My advice to an Autistic student looking for work is quite similiar to what other students would need to do. I got into the area of work I do through some volunteering I did when I was younger. As a result of that I have a passion for encouraging young people to try and gain some experiences that they will be able to use in the workplace.
It doesn’t have to be part of a whole masterplan or even 100% be in the area that you think you will go into, but getting some work experiences/ volunteering means you will gain workplace skills and also start to build a network. These sort of opportunities may be advertised somewhere in your university/college.”
Daniel is the founder of Adjust, a company that provides orgsanisations with professional advice and training to harness the talents of their staff with Autism and other neurodiverse conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD. To find out more about Adjust, click here. To view Daniel’s LinkedIn profile, click here.
His recent blog about how employers can help neurodiverse employees (including those on the Autism spectrum) to make the most of their skills can be found here.
Chris Barson, Director, Positive about Autism
“Have confidence in your abilities and talents (which are many in autism). They will shine through. It’s good to acknowledge the areas where you will need support, but don’t let them block your progress. Employers need your skills and if you are open and honest about the stuff you are not so good at then you are halfway to helping the potential employer to finding ways to make them not matter so much.”
Chris is the Director of Positive About Autism, a training company providing Workshops on autism that are active, visual and fun and reflects a positive style and positive philosophy. Details of Positive about Autism can be found here, while Chris’ LinkedIn profile can be viewed here.
Catherine Leggett, Employment Pathways Coordinator, The National Autistic Society
“My best advice would be to work with someone on deciding whether you might need to disclose to your employer. Generally, if you need adjustments at the interview stage then you will need to disclose once you have been invited for an interview, when you understand how the interview will be structured and have identified whether any areas might be problematic for you without an adjustment. Autistic people can tend to find it difficult to hypothesise about what adjustments might be useful and so working with a student advisor, or a specialist, or even a trusted friend or family member that knows you well, can be helpful when thinking about whether to need to ask for an adjustment.
Common adjustments for autistic applicants are:
- asking for an alternative to psychometric testing
- adjustments for non-verbal communication
- additional time for processing and responding during an interview
- having the structure and interview questions in advance to prepare
- bringing along support such as an advocate if needed
- a quiet and private place to wait before the interview
- alternative formats such as job trials or web-based testing or interviews”
In her work with the National Autistic Society, Catherine has worked with employers and employees nationwide as a specialist in optimising autistic people’s strengths at work since April 2014 as well as speaking at events to promote the recruitment, retention, progression and advantages of autistic talent in the workforce. Catherine is currently leading on placing autistic talent in digital and cyber roles. Catherine’s LinkedIn profile can be viewed here.
Inarm Osborn, Founder, Centa Co & AutiQuest
“There is now quite a lot of support out there for autistic students looking for employment such as mentors and job coaches who understand autism well. Use the support that is out there. Interviews can be very challenging for anyone but particularly so for autistic people so be prepared for challenges (especially the “tell me about yourself” interview question!) and do plenty of preparation. Whether to declare your autism at job application or interview, if at all, is a personal choice so consider this carefully. You will have some very strong skills that many employers will really value so be confident. Treat any failures at interview as a learning experience, seeking feedback from the interviewers so you can learn from them.”
Inarm is the founder of AutiQuest, which focuses on helping autistic adults achieve more in their lives, particularly in regard to finding employment.
Laura Kerbey, Founder, Positive Autism Support & Training
” Look for work within an area that you have lots of interest and passion. You may have to start at the bottom and work your way up but it’s better to start in an industry where you can see yourself in a few years time. Also – be very honest and open and proud about your autism. More and more organisations are now recognising that employees with autism are fantastic employees – passionate, hardworking and focused. I think it’s important to ask about what support and reasonable adjustments would be made for you too so everything is in place to help you succeed from the beginning.”
Laura is the founder of Positive Autism Support & Training (PAST), an organsation that uses a combination of Positive Behaviour Management, CBT and Applied Behaviour Analysis to create unique behaviour plans for individuals.
- Christian Jameson-Warren