Creativity is in most Autistics blood, but there are still barriers to finding employment and entering the work force.
By Aaron Bouma
Living in my home province of New Brunswick, Canada as well as much of the Maritimes, employment is an issue for #ActuallyAutistic people. I’m hoping that this blog will help you and many of us fellow autistic people with the journey of finding decent employment as we are all in this together.
Each of us can recognize struggles we each face in our daily lives.
No autism discussion is more accurate than the perspectives coming from Actually Autistic people who are talking to each other. Our neuro siblings, meaning (Fellow Autistics) face similar problems. The Connect Project, which I was involved in and was co-lead by autistic people, stated 70 percent or maybe even 80 percent of autistic people are unemployed or under employed. This is an amazing figure!
A question I ask is “Why are we excluded or stigmatized in the work force?”
If you are excluded I know how you feel. But the reasons may not be obvious. Here are some reasons.
Most programs in Canada that are available to help autistic adults end at the age of 21. Which comparably is very similar to systems in the majority of countries around the world.
Programs that I’ve been involved with, such as ‘employment’ programs primarily focus on creating a resume and how to respond in a job interview which is good to a point. They teach the importance of such things as:
1. Good Posture
2. Eye contact
3. No Fidgeting
Ok, that might work, but this is asking ‘autistic’ people and others who are neurodiverse to fit into the ‘normal’ neurotypical world. Some would call it, “masking training.” These groups teach you technical aspects of getting employment, and changing your behaviors to fit in a normal neurotypical world.
Our thoughts and feelings about the environment we are entering is not taken into consideration. Some of us, (Maybe this is you), face extreme anxiety and have a very hard time doing something new, and getting out there and or to the job interview may bring on extreme anxiety. Some of us, face anxiety daily, and or have co-morbid conditions along with the autism. But yet we are expected to fit in. Is this fair? No. Can things be changed? Yes, with time.
Developing the confidence in yourself to build your skills is something not taught in employment programs.
Here are some important tips for getting to the point of an interview for a job.
Confidence. This is the number one factor for going through the interview. If no confidence is evident, your interviewer might sense that. Plus, mentally, you might not be showing yourself in the best light. It’s like cutting bread with a dull blade instead of neatly with a sharp blade. But believe me, that’s a hard thing to gain, I know so many of us struggle with this as an everyday occurrence.
Honesty. Be truthful about your strengths, tell the interviewer what you can do. Also be truthful about your limitations if at points you feel overwhelmed or have sensory issues that arise.
Talk about Your Interests. Talk about the things you enjoy, make conversation if you are comfortable, special interest talk can ease anxiety for you if you are anxious about the interview.
Ask Questions. Ask questions about the job, hours, changes over time, what is fully expected of you and ask about the environment around you. Such questions may be about where you might work or what it’s like to work in a certain position.
Cleanliness and Hygiene. Always try to dress appropriately and shower, shave, and look well dressed for an interview. Make sure you smell good by using deodorant. Make sure your hair is clean and combed. Don’t use aftershave or body spray. Strong smells may cause allergy problems or sensitivities that can be a turnoff.
Have A back up plan or a quiet area. If you become overwhelmed and or have sensory issues that become a problem tell them that once in awhile you may need to step into a quiet area for a few minutes. Most employers should understand this. But some still don’t, so do keep that in mind.
Work ethic. Prove to them you can work hard, be creative and innovative.
Creativity is in most Autistics blood.
The work I do I had to build from scratch. (See the post Autistic Model Maker has a mind like a 3-d Printer). I had to get creative, show initiative.
If more of the workforce knew our strengths, focus and work ethic and understood the autistic mind our differences would be viewed as strengths.
Just as well, our population would not have such high unemployment rates. It takes fellow autistic people, you and I, to show them what we have to offer.
You know what you are capable of. You are not alone. There are still many barriers, even if they are not obvious. As the barriers come down we must make sure new ones are not built.
I was born in Woodstock NB Canada, I was diagnosed with Autism at 3 and Aspergers at 12. My business page is on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BOUMAWOODWORKS/ as well as Instagram. https://instagram.com/boumawoodworks?igshid=tmemj7m2l13k
Thanks for this article. As a business consultant with an autistic daughter who turns 18 in a few months, I did not really bring two things together in my head until I read this.
1). Interviews are considered by almost everyone who studies effectiveness and creativity and recruitment to be the WORST possible way to find a suitable candidate. Why? Because we tend to pick people who look like us and sound like us. And because it is relatively easy to fake it for most neurotypical or trained people in a 1 hour interview. That is why the “masking training” appears to make a difference.
2). When my daughter is trying to “fit in” (a hateful phrase!) by looking and sounding like other people, her inherent light does not shine through. If she is forced to surpress herself to get into a job, she will either have to continue to do so, or will eventually leave (provided she has the freedom to do so) because she “is not a team player” or “doesn’t follow the rules” or …
By teaching people who are valuable PRECISELY BECAUSE THEY ARE DIFFERENT to hide their differences, we do humanity a great disservice. I understand that autistic people need jobs for not only survival, but the self-worth and feeling of contributing it gives. Let’s continue to smooth the road for that to happen, but let’s at the same time start killing this idea that an interview gets you the best candidate for the job by identifying those employers who are not only smart enough to appreciate those differences, but also have good enough leadership to create a safe environment for those differences to be valued.
It should be easy to spot them. They probably already have a loyal and diverse workforce with people of different sexual orientations, cultural and religious backgrounds, economic backgrounds, qualifications. And they are probably making it in the innovate or die commercial world out there.
Thank you for your response. Much appreciated.
Comments are closed.