As a spectrum condition, autism can affect people in a range of different ways, meaning there are autistic people with varying characteristics in all areas of society and all sectors of the working world. But with a job market designed for and by neurotypical people, job-seeking can sometimes be uniquely difficult for people with autism – no matter how qualified they are.
The 29th March until the 4th April is World Autism Awareness Week – an event which aims to make the world friendlier to those with autism by improving people’s understanding of the disorder. While no one phrase will ever accurately describe the wide range of characteristics that an autistic person might have, many individuals with autism will share certain experiences and values that will allow them to excel in some roles. For example, some autistic people will be particularly strong in areas like retention, logical reasoning and attention to detail.
The advice in this article is intended to help people with autism who are currently looking for a new job, but it’s also worth reading if you are an employer as it may provide some insight into the challenges your potential employee may face so that you can begin to make your organisation more accessible. More information on the subject can be found in our book, The Essential Guide to Autism.
Looking for Employment
A range of services and resources are available for autistic people who are looking for work, as this is a task which many find particularly stressful. For instance, some autistic people will be unsuccessful in their job search at first as the social and preferential differences that characterise autism can make the application process a struggle. This is unfair, as there are a large number of roles and sectors in which people with autism are likely to excel – once they’re given the opportunity to do so. For example, many people with autism will have great focus and pay a lot of attention to fine details. This can lead some to excel in administrative roles.
Online Courses for Finding Work
If it’s your first time looking for a job, or you’ve been out of the job market for a while and are feeling rusty, an online course can be a good way to get yourself into the mindset for job-hunting. Courses and modules are available that provide information on reasonable adjustments, career planning, job searching, applications and much more.
- National Autistic Society: Finding Employment Module.
- The Open University: Conversations and Interviews.
- The University of Sheffield: How to Succeed at Interviews.
Local Careers Services
For advice and guidance on career choices and job seeking, you can contact your local careers service. They will be able to help you make decisions about work, education and training and can provide lots of great guidance, resources and advice.
Career advisers at The National Careers Service can provide personalised help to job hunters in England including advice on choosing or changing your career and skills tests. The charity Ambitious about Autism also has a useful page on work experience and employment.
Scottish job hunters can get help with their search or with making career decisions from Skills Development Scotland. Autism Network Scotland are currently working on creating an Employability Network, so it’s worth following updates on their progress. Additional flexible support is also available via Moving Forward from National Autistic Society Scotland. Support available includes meetings to discuss and identify goals, practical work experience and application support.
Job hunters in Wales can get advice about learning, career options and jobs from Careers Wales. Support is also available from Autism Wales, who have a handy searching for work tool. The tool is designed to make searching and applying for work more manageable by providing a structured approach.
Northern Irish job hunters can find training and employment through Careers Service Northern Ireland. This organisation also provides guidance to potential employers on supporting autistic people at work and adapting the workplace to make it more accessible. Careers advice is also available.
Autism NI has outlined a number of supported employment options that autistic adults in NI can access. Further information is available from the Family Support Department, who you can call at 028 9040 1729.
Disclosing Your Diagnosis
When applying for work, it can be hard to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of disclosing your autism diagnosis. It’s difficult to know whether or not your potential employer and future colleagues will react positively and understand what your condition means. Your manager and coworkers may be more understanding of your needs. Although the attitudes and reactions of a person’s colleagues and employers will have a major impact on their long-term success and experiences in employment, very little research has been carried out on how disclosing an autism diagnosis affects an individual’s standing with their peers.
Notably, however, one of the few studies that have been done on the subject suggests that disclosure may make the formation of social bonds easier. The benefits of disclosing your autism diagnosis to a potential employer include the provision of reasonable adjustments and support (a legal obligation for employers), better understanding and a reduced need to mask certain characteristics.
At the same time, however, those who disclose may face a refusal of adjustments and concerns around prejudice and exclusion by your potential employer and colleagues.
If disclosing your diagnosis goes well, it may allow you to feel more comfortable in the workplace as you can start being open about your autism.
Deciding What to Do
Everyone will have a different approach to the diagnosis disclosure question. Writing a list of the potential benefits and drawbacks might help you to come to a decision. It can also be helpful to come into the discussion with a list of your strengths and potential difficulties, which you can draw up with the help of an adviser or friend. This will help you discuss the adjustments that could be made to support you, and identify what information you do and don’t need to share.