In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Autism Speaks is sharing 12 steps to help young adults and adults with autism find employment. Below is adapted from Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit, a guide to help people with autism research, find and keep employment in the current, competitive labor market. Stories, tips and resources were developed from a collaboration of people, including adults with autism, dedicated to increasing the employment participation of adults on the spectrum.
You can find more action steps in each section of the Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit, but use this list as a summary to jump-start your job search process.
Register on TheSpectrumCareers. This is a free website designed by and for job seekers with autism to connect with businesses that are looking to hire individuals on the spectrum. As of Stepember 19, 2017, there are more than 200 companies from around the country who are posting open positions. Only answer a few questions about yourself, and you can begin searching for jobs right away!
You can watch this video as An Introduction for Job Seekers to see how the site works.
- Create a list of your strengths – write down your skills, what you do best and what you enjoy doing.
- Write a list describing what you see yourself doing in the future. Feel free to list your dream job, but also write down other jobs that you would be willing to do and ones that you may be interested in trying. Make note of which ones match up with your strengths.
- Write down the names of businesses that are accessible to you via public transportation, walking distance, etc.
- Speak with a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor about the supports that you can get – that may include help with writing a resume, job development and job coaching.
- Make a list of all of your contacts who could help you get a job. Your personal “network” is an important place to start – your family, friends, neighbors and other people who know you well.
- Consider joining social networking and job search websites to help you expand your contact list – check out LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, CareerBuilder and others.
Create/Update your resume. Make sure you include your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Then list your education and training experiences. And then list your work history and experience. Make sure you include any non-paid work experiences too, such as internships and volunteer activities.
There are tools on TheSpectrumCareers that will help you create a resume if you do not have one. Even better, we have tools that enable you to create a video resume – this allows you to show employers what you are capable of and who you really are!
- Write a cover letter. This will be used to introduce yourself to the people you hope will hire you. It should be concise - simply identify who you are and why you are applying for the job. It also should invite the employer to contact you for an interview. Make sure to include a copy of your resume with your cover letter.
- Fill out several job applications! This is often how the employment process begins, and it may be the first impression an employer has of you. You can do this very easily on TheSpectrumCareers. Or you can go to the actual job site to ask for an application – if so, make sure you wear clothes that are clean and ironed. Be polite and bring a pen and a copy of your resume with you.
- Practice your interviewing skills. Have a friend or support person ask you practice questions. Try to make this as realistic as possible (practice introducing yourself, shaking hands, making appropriate eye contact, and sit down across a desk from each other, etc.). Make sure you arrive at the interview location early (say, 15 minutes before the appointment). And remember to focus on your abilities, not your disabilities – tell them about your strengths, not your weaknesses!
- Consider taping your interviews so you can listen or watch later and learn from what you did well or where you might need improvement.