Does the idea of networking make you feel uncomfortable? You are certainly not alone. Making professional connections is a critical aspect of career-building in most industries. An estimated 70-85% of people find work through networking. For autistic job seekers, however, networking can feel like navigating an endless array of exhausting social practices without much payoff. Finding a way to make it work for you takes some work upfront, but it is well worth it to figure out how to make meaningful professional connections while being yourself.
1. Let your interests guide your connections
Rather than focusing on how many different emails you could get at a networking event, for example, prioritize depth over breadth. Identify one or two people you might like to talk to, and ask them questions about their work. Showing genuine curiosity about what they do can help build the beginnings of a constructive connection. Plus, this 1:1 approach helps limit sensory overload and social exhaustion. Remember also that the ability many autistic people have to focus intently on a special interest can be a significant asset: One well-crafted, in-depth, thoughtful request for an informational interview or coffee chat can be more effective than twenty attempts you’re not so enthusiastic about.
2. Use social scripts to your advantage
Ideally you’ll have the opportunity to communicate in your own way, in your own voice. However, because autistic job seekers are in the minority in most industries, you may come across people who don’t understand the way you naturally communicate. Taking note of and practicing social scripts can be a helpful resource for you to use at your own discretion. A common form of social script for job seekers of all neurotypes is the “elevator pitch.” This is your 30-60 second opportunity to share only the most essential elements of who you are and what you have to offer as a job seeker. Take your time writing out your elevator pitch, practicing it out loud, or asking someone close to you to help you put it together. Using an elevator pitch can feel a little awkward initially, but the more you practice, the more confident you will sound. Here are some examplesto get you started.
3. Take self-care seriously
Seriously: searching for a job can become tiring, frustrating, and demoralizing if you’re not giving yourself enough breaks or pacing yourself in a healthy way. The better you feel physically and mentally, the better a chance you’ll have at showcasing your best self to potential connections. A lot of autistic people grow up feeling that assimilation and masking are necessary 24/7 in order to find and keep a job. It is critically important to remember that you are worthy of a career that feels fulfilling for you, exactly as you are. Making the connections required to build that career may take additional time, adaptations to neurotypical networking skills, and support, and that is absolutely okay.
For many of us, we kick off New Year making New Years resolutions that often include diet and exercise in the hope for renewed health.
Regular exercise is fantastic and can help not only keep you in shape, but increase your mental health and keep your internal organs healthy.
However did you know that exercise can also help autistic individuals self-regulate and manage stress?
Coach Dave Geslak has created exercise programs for people on the autism spectrum using structure and visual supports. The Exercise Connection programmes are proven to improve body image, motor coordination, posture, muscular and cardiovascular fitness. This helps boost confidence, relationships and wellbeing.
We’ve come up with 4 tips to help boost your health in the New Year as an autistic adult!
- Recreational sports
Team sports such as football, hockey and netball can have great health benefits and also help you socialise with likeminded individuals. Research has shown that taking part in sport can decrease the frequency of negative, self-stimulating behaviours common among people with autism, such as body rocking or head nodding. Additionally, team sports can discourage aggressive behaviour. Its also common that team sports meet at the same time at the same place and with the same people, which can really help create a positive routine doing something you love. Many universities have sports clubs you can join and if you live in London, you can benefit from Go Mammoths sports clubs.
Yoga is not only good for your physical body, but it also promotes self-regulation, helps you relax and alleviate stress. Yoga can be done at the comfort of your own home and with little equipment, making it easy to stick to when you first wake up or go to bed. For more ideas on how to implement yoga, have a look at Asanas for Autism and Special Needs. Peaceful Pathways yoga studio has collected a number of articles about yoga and special needs.
For many people with autism, the peace and quiet associated with the natural world is a great stress reliever. Its a great way to exercise and enjoy nature without the pressure of intense social communication. The UK is lucky to have such fantastic walks and parks which makes it easy for anyone to experience the great outdoors. Walking Britain’s ‘walks near me’ is a great resource to find walks on your doorstep. However if you don’t want to walk by yourself you can always try Borrow My Doggy to find a furry friend to accompany you!
Swimming is a great exercise and can be done individually or as a team sport. There are so many pools in the UK that are cheap to use, as well as many swimming clubs. As well as this, lidos and outdoor swimming is becoming increasingly popular, helping people to access the great outdoors and doing something great for your health.
This blog has given you 4 ideas to kickstart your health and fitness goals as an autistic adult. Of course, everyone is different and there are lots of different ways to exercise. Its important to try different things out and find what works for you!