My name is Stephen Gaiber. Today I am going to talk about autism and employment. Let me first introduce myself. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 3 years old. Despite my autism, I have maintained independence by graduating college, working for over 12 years, learning to drive a car, becoming financially independent, traveling the world, and I’m almost on the verge of getting my own apartment! I write a travel blog called Stephen Gaiber: The Autistic Traveler.
I currently work at Trader Joe’s and have worked there since March 2012. My duties include collecting shopping carts, cleaning the store, putting products on the shelf, and assisting customers with any questions they may have. This is an excellent entry-level position … especially for those with autism. I am the only adult there who doesn’t work the cash register. The register can be a problem for those on the autism spectrum because there might be too many rules that one has to follow and you can occasionally get a difficult customer.
DRESSING FOR A JOB INTERVIEW
When preparing for a job interview, that can be tricky. It really depends on the job you are applying for. The bare minimum is to wear a nice button-down colored shirt and some black pants. It doesn’t matter what type of job it’s for, at least do that. Personally, I like to wear black pants, a suit and a tie. It makes one look more professional, even if a tie is not required. The more the job pays, the better you should dress is a basic rule of thumb.
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT CUSTOMERS
When dealing with difficult customers, I would recommend having one of your managers (Mates) intervene so that one on the spectrum doesn’t get too overwhelmed. The manager will know how to deal with the customers when you may be unsure what to do.
DEALING WITH CHANGE
One of the most difficult challenges I’ve had at Trader Joe’s is dealing with change. One of the biggest pros about working at Trader Joe’s is building a bond with co-workers and managers. A requirement is that every few years, you are required to go to different stores. Also, your co-workers at times move to different places across the country or want to move closer to home. For someone with autism, these types of changes can be devastating. Change is difficult for me because when I build a relationship with someone I don’t want it to end.
When something doesn’t go according to plan, it can really devastate everything. If something isn’t there like a person at a place, it can cause problems for those with autism not to function. I need things to be a certain way because it makes my life easier. I like knowing what is going to happen and not figuring out what I need to do.
FINDING A BUDDY CAN HELP WITH CHANGE
Something I can offer those with autism about dealing with change is to find a buddy who will be there for you when you need support. Having a support group at work makes life just a little easier for those with autism. I would recommend anyone who has autism find a support buddy for when they first start a job or when they first start going to school. I can tell you how much having support has helped me in some really bad situations.
Here’s my advice for seeking employment:
The first step in getting a job is to talk to the manager of the place you want to work. The way I got hired at both Trader Joe’s and Regal Entertainment Group is I spoke to the manager first. When I asked the manager if they were hiring at Trader Joe’s they originally said no. However, I kept persisting and asking and eventually they gave me an interview. Within 2 weeks I was hired. If it’s a place you can go into such as a grocery store or a movie theater or store, I recommend to keep inquiring if they are hiring.
Note: it’s at managers discretion because even if you keep going back, they may not hire you if they don’t want to. Parents, it’s okay to help your inexperienced kids or adults get a job, but it’s not appropriate to sit in on the interview with them.
LEARN YOUR JOB
The final thing I would recommend being successful is to take your time to learn your job.
WAYS TO KEEP YOUR JOB
It’s crucial not to get fired from a job. The most basic way to keep your job is simply do your job. I would recommend to be likable, punctual, and being professional. It is important to learn from one’s mistakes because if one gets too many write-ups, it can be grounds for termination. Also, the most important part of any job is to follow the rules.
ADVICE FOR EMPLOYERS
Employers, be there for your employees and push them to be the best they can be. Don’t just give us menial work. It can cause tension and conflicts at work and potential meltdowns and problems.
It is all our jobs to make the world better for those with autism, and it starts by giving us an opportunity.