An incredible 80% of British Columbia’s citizens on the autism spectrum are unemployed or underemployed, and those who are employed in Canada earn a median annual salary of just $2,900. To improve these shocking numbers, we at Orbital help workplaces become autism-friendly and autistic individuals become employment-friendly. When these two dynamics meet in the middle, employment outcomes improve for everyone.
Helping someone with ASD to find the right job can seem daunting at first: a lot of stereotyped characteristics of autism seem incompatible with the modern workplace at first glance. However, helping someone with autism find employment is always a case of working out what fields are going to be a good match and finding autism-friendly companies in that field. Important tips for helping someone with ASD find the right job include:
- Have them list their strengths and interests – people with autism often have a negative self-regard due to the preconceived notions that society holds of them. By making them focus on what they can do and what they’re good at, instead of what they can’t do, you can help them narrow potential career paths that would play into those strengths. For example, if they feel that they are very logical, then it might make sense to seek a career in computer programming or logistics. Tip: Effective aptitude assessments that help identify strengths are available through various sources. At Orbital, we use a suite of assessments from Cebir Ld.
- Research jobs that fit the individual’s strengths and interests. The job market is changing so quickly that no one can be expected to know what jobs fit what strengths in all sectors. Research can include online sources, professional associations, and post-secondary course prerequisites.
- Use templates for resumes and cover letters – putting together a resume is a hard task for an individual with autism; the pressure to keep things concise is tricky and mastering the art of presenting how each job and experience will help them in getting a new position requires help and practice. Tip: It may be worth sending out a draft resume to employers, agencies, and employment support services you know to get feedback. We provide this service at Orbital.
- Interview skills – reading social cues in an interview setting and “selling” themselves are often deal-breaker for autistic job seekers. Practicing with someone they know personally ahead of time will give them an idea of what kind of body language, speech patterns and questions to expect in the actual interview. Tip: When arranging an interview, you can ask if the employer provides accommodations, such as a list of the interview questions ahead of time or examples of questions. Orbital and other employment service providers can ask about accommodations on your behalf. Fun Fact: Research supports the notion that interviews have, at best, a neutral outcome on the quality of the hiring decision. In other words, they are not effective. Tip: Orbital discourages autism-friendly employers from interviewing autistic candidates. Instead, we recommend a friendly “meet & greet” to get to know one another, followed by proof of skills and abilities, such as a portfolio or skills assessments.
While it’s certainly true that the world needs employers who are autism-friendly, it’s also the case that not every place of employment will be a good fit for any one individual on the spectrum. Do not be discouraged if it takes a while to find the right employer. Instead, look at every job search experience as a learning opportunity to assist in your search for a “good fit”.
Once you are employed in a job that plays to your strengths, you will likely need ongoing support. Typically, this support is front-loaded and ends after a set period of time; however, in jobs that are non-routine and complex, support needs will vary over time only because the work and the expectations can change. Do not hesitate to request accommodations at any time during your employment. Not-so-Fun Fact: Job Coaching can be centered around the person on the spectrum; however, there are times when the employer needs the coaching. Tip: Orbital provides job retention services that can be ongoing and scheduled or as-needed to both the autistic employee and their employer.