Finding and maintaining paid employment is one of life’s greatest milestones. It can help you make new friends, develop and build on valuable life skills, contribute to the community and find a purpose.
The employment process requires a number of different considerations
Autistic employees bring a range of strengths and skills to the workforce
There are supports available to help people with autism through their employment journey
Starting the employment journey
From identifying your skills and interests, to putting together a resumé, looking for suitable vacancies, preparing for job interviews and turning up for your first day, the employment process requires a number of steps and considerations.
People with autism often need support throughout this process, but Fiona Sharkie, Chief Executive Officer of Amaze, a peak body for people living with autism in Victoria, says people with autism make great employees.
“The message from Australia’s autistic community is abundantly clear – they want to work, and for employers to give them the same opportunities to enjoy participating in the workforce.”
“Autistic employees can bring a range of strengths, interests and skills to the workforce, often demonstrating exemplary characteristics in visual thinking, attention to detail, honesty, efficiency, precision, consistency and low absenteeism.”
Questions to consider when looking for a job
What are my skills and interests?
How can my current skill set and interests be used to help me apply for a job?
What jobs would best suit me?
Do I require extra training to get a job in the field I am interested in?
Can I get any support or training through a disability service provider specialising in employment for people with disability?
What voluntary work or work experience can I undertake to prepare me for employment?
Workplace support for autism
If you are living with autism, you may need some extra support on the employment journey.
There are a number of barriers that can act as obstacles to employment, including social anxiety, sensory sensitivities, inflexibility, difficulty handling criticism and a reluctance to share or collaborate with other co-workers. However, with a strong support network and understanding employers, you can find the right job opportunity for you.
You may require some assistance in finding a job, filling in online applications, asking people to be references, preparing for an interview and adjusting to the new environment if you are successful.
More and more employers are recognising the value employees with autism make to their business. Some companies have mentoring, training and neurodiversity programs to help people with autism as they transition into long term, meaningful employment.
Preparing for employment
To help you prepare for employment you could consider contacting a disability service provider specialising in employment support. They can guide you through the whole process, provide you with a number of resources and helpful tips and connect you with potential employers or work opportunities.
When you first start looking for work you will need to create a resumé and cover letter showcasing your current skill set, qualifications and relevant training, previous employment, education and references.
Providing examples of any work you have done previously is a good way to demonstrate your capability for the job.
Someone you trust or your disability service provider can help you draft up these documents and tailor your approach to the particular job you’re applying for.
It is also important you understand expectations in the workplace and volunteer setting including punctuality, behaviour towards other people, appropriate communication and personal presentation.
Getting to and from your job is another routine you will need to get accustomed to. Whether you are driving yourself or taking public transport, learn the best route, find out parking options and get comfortable with the daily commute.
Preparing for a job interview
Congratulations! Getting to the stage of the job interview is a great achievement as the organisation wants to know more about you and find out how you will fit within their company. It can be a nerve-wracking time as you are essentially ‘selling’ yourself to your potential employers so preparation is key.
Firstly, if you haven’t already, do some research on the organisation, what they do and who works there. The interviewer may ask you what you can offer to the business so have a think about how you can make the company even better by being a part of the team.
Practising for a job interview on a friend, family member or support worker is a good way to prepare. You should also practice speaking on the phone to people you don’t know as this may be a part of your future employment.
Questions you may be asked in a job interview:
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
What work have you done in the past and how does this job align with your previous employment, volunteering or work experience history?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why do you want this job?
What can you bring to the company?
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
How do you like to be managed? (lots of feedback, left to your own devices etc)
What is your salary expectations?
Questions you may ask in a job interview
How accessible are the office facilities (including entry, exit and toilets)?
What are my expected working hours?
What is the sick and annual leave policy?
What would a day generally look like in this position?
What top three skills would the successful candidate have to have?
If you drive is there a company carpark?
What are the environmental factors around the workplace and how can I be supported if I feel overwhelmed?
Your rights to employment
National anti-discrimination laws state that if you are the best person for the job you have the right to be appointed to that position regardless of your background or personal characteristics. The entire application, interviewing and selection process should be open and accessible to you and your employer should make adjustments to support your needs.
You do not need to disclose your disability to a potential employer if you don’t want to. However, if you need your employer to make reasonable adjustments or you require support it is best you highlight this.
For example, if you have a vision impairment and need an audio translator or you are living with a mental illness and require extra days off.
Employers can make adjustments to be more inclusive of employees with autism such as flexible working hours, sensory considerations, providing clarity around roles and expectations, offering direct but sensitive feedback and providing routine.
And as Amaze Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Fiona Sharkie says, “adjustments to create a more autism inclusive workplace often don’t cost anything to implement.”
For more information on your rights as an employee call 1300 656 419 (local call) or 02 9284 9888 or visit the Human Rights Commission website.
You didn't get the job?
Unfortunately, it may take a bit of time to become successful in finding employment. Every application and job interview is good practice on your communication and interpersonal skills. Remember to not give up, your dream job could be just around the corner.
You can always follow up with the company you applied with to see if they are willing to give you feedback about why you weren’t successful to give you an understanding of what you could do differently next time.
You got the job!
Congratulations and well done. Now the fun really begins.
You’ll be required to fill out lots of paperwork including tax and superannuation forms. Your disability service provider or a trusted adult can help you fill these out. Then you can discuss your starting date and hours, organise your ‘work wardrobe’ and prepare for your first day.
What have your experiences been looking for work while living with autism? Tell us in the comments below.