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6 tips for job seekers on the spectrum from someone who is autistic

This guest post is by Marcelle Ciampi (aka Samantha Craft), M.Ed. who is the CEO of Spectrum Suite LLC, the 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. She can be reached on Twitter at aspergersgirls and at info@myspectrumsuite.com.

I am an autistic job recruiter for a technology company that provides work opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum. What follows are some of my personal tips when looking for work.

1. Establish a Support Network

In the long run a support system can get you through those setbacks and doubts, and provide that much-needed incentive to keep you on track. Online autism support forums, such as Facebook groups, have proved a beneficial resource for thousands of autistics who are turning to peer-mentors for support. Enter “autism” or “Aspergers” in the Facebook search engine to find groups. Other sought out sites include Reddit and Wrong Planet.

2. Gain Work Experience

Work experience doesn’t have to be paid work. Many applications I review list community service, volunteer work, independent study, internship, teacher’s assistant, self-employment, and training courses. Other ideas include: writing a blog or an online article, tutoring, and being a leader in a local support group or online group. Practice skills, take classes, read books, watch online tutorials related to your area of work interest. What’s important is to keep moving toward your goal of finding work.

3. Don’t Limit Yourself to Massive Online Job Boards

Scout out online job boards dedicated to job seekers with neurological differences and/or disabilities. ASTEP provides a great list here. A mother of an autistic person created the Autism Job Board and there is Autism Speaks: The Spectrum Careers. Consider a LinkedIn profile. Let others know you are in search of work. I found my current job through a random Facebook posting in an online aspergers group. Keep in mind when utilizing massive online job boards, you are typically competing against thousands of applicants across the nation. Don’t rule out searching locally in your city center or community workforce center.

4. Read The Job Description

Formulate your resume to match the job description. Don’t send out a generic resume. If you are applying to be a software tester, that fact should be stated in your resume. When reviewing job descriptions, don’t immediately rule yourself out from the application process. Particularly if some descriptors sound ambiguous, e.g., “great” team player. Job qualifications can be open to interpretation. Your skills and background do not have to exactly match. Ask for a second opinion from a trusted professional or family member. Perhaps attend an online class or gain experience through volunteer work. And you have nothing to lose by querying a company to ask if they are considering internships or know of similar companies hiring.

5. List Skills, Aptitudes, and Attributes

Imagine yourself in the workforce and pick five unique words that describe your work ethic and job performance, such as: determined, consistent, reliable, trustworthy, and quick learner. Visualize exact times you have demonstrated these attributes and write them down. Other attributes might include: strong logic skills, fast thinker, strong recall for details, master facts quickly, capacity for sustained concentration, accurate and precise, will stay with a job until it is finished, honest, genuine, and fair.

6. Know Best Interview Practices

Ask the interviewer to repeat a question and or/ask for an example, particularly if it is an abstract query or a long string of questions. Unless you have chosen to disclose your autism and/or the employer is an autism-friendly company, then you may want to pay particular attention to how you present yourself, such as your tone of voice (monotone, over-enthusiastic) and expressions that reflect a lack of interest.  Keep in mind a job seeker wants to avoid coming across as over-confident or self-critical. Ask questions during the interview. A safe number is one to three questions. Best questions to ask involve information about the company and reflect you’ve done your homework. Questions generally best to avoid are related to human resources, such as pay rate, pay raises, and health benefits. Avoid questions that make you sound like you are desperate for a job or those that may be interpreted as suggestions to improve the company. After the interview email the company thanking them for their time. If you don’t obtain the job, still send a note of thanks. Consider asking for feedback on how the interview went and how you could improve. 

Have a story about growing up on the spectrum you want to share for our “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” series? Email us at InOurOwnWords@Autismspeaks.org.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.