In this section, you’ll find advice and information about searching for work, what supports are typically available, and who you can talk to about getting help. If you’re autistic and currently in work, read about how you can make your workplace more autism-friendly and about the different coping strategies you can use.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
At the end of the day, finding work is all about you and your needs, no one else’s. You need to find a job where you can be both productive and happy in. When beginning your search for work, it’s important that you’re honest with yourself about your strengths and limits. Dr Temple Grandin has noted that many people on the spectrum may struggle with demands on short-term working memory and that frequent social interaction with strangers can be tough.
Each of us have our own strengths and weaknesses. When seeking out new challenges we need to be fully aware of what we want to achieve and how we can deliver. This means that there are some jobs that will suit autistic individuals brilliantly and some that won’t.
Make a list of what you’re good at and of the skills you know you aren’t so strong in. This will help narrow down your search as well as identify the types of supports on the job you might need.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO?
Every year new kinds of jobs are being created for different tasks. There are careers today that wouldn’t have existed ten or even five years ago. The amount of choice can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve just finished education and are beginning your first serious search for a career. You don’t need to land in your dream job the moment you walk out of school or college. Few of us do and there’s no rule saying you need to have a definitive list of jobs that you can only work in.
A number of strategies you can try to work out where you want to work include:
- Book an appointment with your school’s or college’s careers guidance counselor. These are trained professionals who offer advice and information to help people make realistic choices about what types of courses or jobs that they’d like to do in the future.
- Choose a job where you know you can use your interests to excel. One of autism’s many strengths is that those living with it perform exceptionally well in areas which they passionate about. A visual thinker with an analytical mind, for instance, may do well in a designing or science-based career; or a non-visual thinker might excel in accounting or journalism.
- Look back at past job experiences and analyse where you performed well and not so well in. If you’ve held down work before, part-time or full-time, then it’s good experience to have when making a suitable career choice. Look back at tasks you performed well in and make a list of those strengths. Match them up with another list about areas you didn’t do so well in. Having a physical copy of your strengths and weaknesses will help you when reading through job descriptions and assessing yourself on whether the role suits you.
- Don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. We can only ever develop our skills and understand our limits in practical settings. By trying different jobs, you’ll not only develop a better idea of where you want work, but also have a sense of what kinds of supports you might need in the workplace (NOTE: do this sensibly and with someone who you can rely on for critical feedback, like a family member or teacher).
There are many support organisations which offer advice and support about career options and skills development for jobseekers on the autism spectrum.
CAREERS SERVICE NORTHERN IRELAND
In the Careers Service Northern Ireland, Disablement Employment Advisers (DEAs) help adults with disabilities find suitable employment or training. They can also advise employers about adapting the workplace or supporting disabled people at work. The Service also offers careers advice.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
IRISH ASSOCIATION OF SUPPORTED EMPLOYMENT (IASE)
The IASE supports people looking for work through career advice and training programmes. Applicants are offered opportunities to shadow mentors in their jobs and gain workplace experience. They are also provided with in-work supports by IASE local employment coordinators who inform and work with employers in creating more inclusive working environments.
NATIONAL LEARNING NETWORK (NLA)
A variety of access and training courses and support services are available to people needing specialist support in their search for work and within employment. Many of these courses are vocational and education programmes which can be accessed on a flexible basis. You can view a directory of the NLA’s offered subjects here.
The Transition Action Plan (TAP) is another NLN programme specifically for young autistic people. It aims to ease the transition from school or children’s services to adulthood and a wide range of educational, rehabilitation and vocational opportunities are explored. TAP is only offered in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, presently.
SOLAS provides online learning services in Further Education and Training (FET) courses. The courses are free, and you may be paid a training allowance for the duration of your chosen pathway. SOLAS also offers accredited apprenticeships in different trades, work placements as well as in-work supports.
Specialisterne is a social innovator organisation aimed at upskilling and mentoring autistic people within the Information Technology sector. The company recognises the special skills and unique advantages that autistic individuals can bring to science and technology projects. It works with several major computer and software firms in offices across the world, offering assessments and job coaching for successful applicants to work within the business.