Tips for autistic job seekers to find the right job
From the Office of Autism Speaks HR DepartmentBy Jacqlyn Brancati Nedvin, Vice President, People and Culture
A fundamental part of Autism Speaks mission is to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, including in the workplace. One way we are doing that is through our Workplace Inclusion NowTM program which helps bring autistic job seekers and employers together to create a more inclusive workforce.
But we also practice what we preach. We are proud to count several autistic individuals as colleagues, including the hosts of our Adulting on the Spectrum podcast, Autism Response Team associate, Tony Hernandez, and Board of Directors member, Dr. Stephen Shore.
With 66 years of combined experience on our human resources team, we have seen a lot of resumes and interviewed a lot of candidates – both autistic and non-autistic. Now we want to share our knowledge with you. Below are our insider tips to help set autistic job seekers on a path to finding the right job, whether with Autism Speaks, or anywhere else.
- Register on TheSpectrumCareers, championed by Autism Speaks. This is a free website designed by and for autistic job seekers to connect with businesses that are looking to hire individuals on the spectrum. There are currently over 400 jobs posted from around the country. After you answer a few questions about yourself, you can begin searching for jobs right away.
- Create a list of your strengths. Write down your skills, what you do best and what you enjoy doing. This will help you narrow down your job search to options that fit your interests.
- 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 interested in learning more about. 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, or a ride share.
- Speak with a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor in your local area about the supports they can provide you. VR services are designed to help those with disabilities to achieve an employment outcome consistent with their strengths, priorities, needs, abilities, and capabilities. Those services may include help with writing a resume, job development and job coaching. Find your state VR agency here.
- More than half of all jobs are found through networking. Make a list of your contacts who could help connect you with opportunities. Your personal “network” includes your family, friends, neighbors and other people who know you well. Reach out to them and inform them of your job goals.
- Consider joining social networking sites and job boards to create profiles in their candidate databases and to expand your contacts list. Check out LinkedIn, Facebook, CareerBuilder, Indeed, ZipRecruiter and others. Join our LinkedIn Autism Employment Network here and our Employment WINS Facebook group here.
- Create or Update your resume. Make sure you include your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. List your education and training experiences. Then list your work history and experience. Make sure you include any non-paid work experiences too, including internships and volunteer activities.
- 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, why you are applying for the job and what makes you the most qualified candidate for the position. It also should invite the employer to contact you for an interview. Include a copy of your resume with your cover letter.
- Fill out several job applications. The application may be the first impression an employer has of you. You can find application templates on TheSpectrumCareers. Some companies have applications on their websites under their Career or Job Posting section which you can fill out and submit online. Or you can go directly to the actual job site to ask for an application. If you do this, be sure to look neat and presentable. 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 in advance. Have a friend or support person help you. Try to make this as realistic as possible. Practice introducing yourself, shaking hands, storytelling, making eye contact, sitting down across a desk from each other, and thanking the interviewer for their time at the end of the interview. Have them ask you practice questions. Remember to focus on your abilities, not your disabilities. Tell them about your strengths, not your weaknesses. Be proud of your accomplishments and share them. Consider taping your interviews so you can listen or watch later and learn from what you did well or where you might need improvement.
- Write a thank you email or note to your interviewer(s). Each person who interviewed you should either receive an email, or a typed or neatly handwritten note. It should be personalized. You should address the person by the name they used to introduce themselves to you. For instance, you might start the letter with "Dear Jackie," or "Dear Ms. Brancati,". Thank them for speaking to you about the specific position on the date of the interview. Try to mention one thing you liked about the job and/or something you talked about in the job interview. End the thank you with how they can contact you.
- Sign up for our Workplace Inclusion NowTM training course, Navigating Your Differences in the Workplace. This course will teach you how to advocate for yourself at work, including for your sensory needs, social communication differences, executive functioning skills, and safety.
- Download the Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit where you can find self-assessments to guide you in finding a job and learn about resources available to you, employment benefits and employment rights.