This blog has been kindly written by an anonymous, autistic guest blogger. They have shared their experiences of employment and what they learnt in both their first and second job. This blog is a really honest insight and can hopefully help other autistic adults starting their career.
Years before my Aspergers diagnosis when I was in my early 20’s I got my first job. Up until that point I was in a bubble. I was living at home and my mum was feeling helpless and frustrated. She had a son in his early 20’s who sat around not doing much, who felt lost in life and didn’t know what his ambitions or goals were.
I was applying for jobs but I was never successful. Having no self confidence or no life experience I was stuck in a hole. I finally applied for a job in retail and I was offered the job. It was my first foray in to the real world and It was a harsh reality.
It was pre-diagnosis and although I felt somewhat different I never really knew what the problem was. Just that I was “different” and had difficulties. I thought I was, for lack of a better work, “dumb” so getting this job and going to the interview was terrifying, frightening.
I was interviewed by a lady who turned out to be my manager. She was lovely. I felt nervous but before the interview I read up on the background of the company and I ran through a list of questions I could be asked and I practised Through them. One thing I had learned to become good at was absorbing information, so I used it to my advantage. In the end I got the job. My mum was ecstatic and happy for me. And I was begining my journey into employment.
My First Job and the First Signs of Struggle
Even though I applied for the job it didn’t even occur to me what role I had applied for. I had simply saw the company name and applied not knowing what role I would be filling. To me retail was working on the shop floor. This just showed my naivity and lack of preparedness. The job role was for visual merchandising. Taking stock from downstairs in the basement and filling up shelves on the shop store on the homeware department.
Having had no prior experience in a working environment, lack of communication with work colleagues, and zero self awareness, this wasn’t going to go very well. Looking back at it now I had thrust myself in to an environment that I was ill prepared for.
Lack of Social Awareness and Failure to Understand My Surroundings
My standard of work was very slow. I would start the day by bringing up the stock from the basement to fill up the shelves on the shop floor. If a customer approached me to enquire about where the cutlery was I would walk them to where the items were and just stand there, staring, waiting for the customer to ask another question or until they politely shood me away. It didn’t matter if it was kitchenware, or cutlery, or quilt covers. I would walk the customers over to the items and stand there staring. Looking back now this must have been very unnerving for the customer. Simply pointing them in the right direction would have been sufficient enough but at the time I had no self awareness. This would happen throughout the day whenever a customer approached me. My failure to understand what was going on around me was so bad that I didn’t even realise that I wasn’t getting any work done. I even asked the manager once If I could train for the tills. As good as it is to be eager to learn new skills that wasn’t my job role. But I didn’t seem to grasp that.
If I didn’t understand something I would never ask anybody that worked there. I was too shy and always had my head down.
Being Taken Advantage of and Not Seeing the Signs
I couldn’t differentiate the different departments. All the staff worked on one floor but there were different departments with different staff and a different manager assigned to each one. I just saw them all as one. There was a lady who was working on the department next to mine; Candles and picture frames. If a customer had asked her about a certain item that they didn’t see and wanted she would call me over and ask me to go downstairs to the basement and check for her. She did this more then once in a day. Without even questioning, without even asking her why she can’t do it herself, I would do it. Today, looking back, I’d tell her that I have my own work to do. It’s not my department. I spent so much time in the basement either finding an item for that lady on candles and picture frames or checking for stock that a customer has enquired about. The manager who was in charge of the basement said to me “you should come and work for me. You spend so much time down here”. I didnt understand what she meant. I didn’t know if she was joking. The whole comment was lost on me.
People can take advantage if they can see someone is vulnerable or unaware so it was something that I needed to look out for. Meanwhile; the stock wasn’t being put out. I ended up going home late because I wasn’t finishing my work on time.
The Conclusion of My First Experience in Employment
After a few weeks of not being able to get my work finished and not being up to the job it finally caught up with me. My manager asked to see me in the basement. As we were both walking down I knew what was going to happen. In front of other staff members she screamed and shouted at me. After this embarrassing experience I went off to the toilet, sat there for 15 mins and cried. I was unsure of what to do. I walked out and never went back again.
Looking back today it was not the right thing to do. I should have learnt from my experiences and mistakes and proved them wrong. But I lacked so much experience it was never going to happen.
My New Job: The Turn Around
Experience and Preparedness
After a few months I managed to find another retail job. This time I had some experience behind me. It wasn’t a happy experience but It was something to build on. But I still had a long way to go and I was still scarred from my first experience.
This job had a different atmosphere. It was a lot more busier, had a lot more staff and I felt I could “blend” in a little more. Again, lack of communication and inexperience, came back to plague me. In time I would learn how to improve on my communication a little.
What I Learnt
Communication, Prioritising, Team Work and Learning to be Proactive
I learnt to finally differentiate between the different departments and managers/staff.
I knew what my department was and my role. It wasn’t easy, it took me a few weeks, but I learnt.
I kept to my own department and I’ve had colleagues come to me and say “could you do this” I just explained that I have my work to do. And they were fine with it. If I got my work done I would go to another department and help a colleague and they would help me in return. This was also a way for me to learn how to communicate with other people.
If a customer enquired about a certain department I would point them in the right direction. If I knew that my work would get done and I could see they were lost I would take them there and make my way back, no awkward standing around.
Sometimes if I misunderstood an instruction or a task I simply asked a work colleague. I started to walk with my head high. I also started greeting my work colleagues when I saw them in the mornings.
I would put myself forward for certain jobs such as tills and stock take. It wasn’t easy and it was difficult but in the end I got there. My level of learning is always hampered and slower then average due to being Aspergers but it was a “right of passage” for me.
I learnt that I needed to carry on and learn as I go, that to give up on things means I wouldn’t learn anything. And giving up a job is the wrong thing to do, employment is not easy to come by. I stayed in the second job for a very long time.
The term neurodiversity was developed by Judy Singer in 1998. However, as we all know, a lot has changed in the two decades since the first research about neurological differences was published.
The neurodiversity movement has made its way throughout the non-profit sector and is gradually making space for itself within government, research and education.
But why hasn’t neurodiversity made space for itself within workplaces? Or instead, why haven’t workplaces made space for neurodiversity?
This article aims to help further your understanding of neurodiversity, help you start embracing neurodiversity within your workplace and create systemic change.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity refers to the infinite variety of human neurocognitive styles and how everyones brain works differently. While society has often celebrated biodiversity and cultural diversity, neurodiversity and invisible disabilities such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD have often been considered a medical disorder, which the primary objective to ‘solve’ these disabilities and make people better.
The neurodiversity movement focuses on shifting neurodiversity from a medical to a social perspective and aims to help individuals view these natural differences in in the way we think and do as strengths that can truly benefit employers.
Examples of neurodiversity includes:
- Autism and Aspergers Syndrome
- Tourette syndrome
In 2020, the neurodiversity movement is gathering momentum, and is now being used in workplaces to hire and attract talent that have alternative ways of thinking. Neurodivergent individuals can bring a variety of unique strengths to their work – from innovation, creativity, attention to detail, problem-solving and intense focus.
There are now many corporates embracing the neurodiversity movement, from JP Morgan, Microsoft and SAP. All have started programmes aimed at hiring more autistic individuals and realise the exceptional benefits of doing so. However, there is still a long way to go, with many organisations focused on the challenges associated with neurodivergent employees in the workplace rather than their strengths.
What are the reasons causing the neurodiversity movement?
1. Greater awareness of the neurodiverse population
Over the past two decades there has been a greater knowledge of the number of people that are neurodivergent around the world. This has resulted in more people getting diagnosed as well as the production of books, TV series and movies featuring autistic characters. This has highlighted the everyday reality neurodiverse people face as well as educating people about the behaviours and skills they have. UK figures suggest 1 in 10 people are neurodivergent which likely represents a high number of employees, job-seekers and customers.
2. Celebrities have been openly discussing their experiences
Over the past couple of years, many famous people have started openly talking about their neurodivergence. From Greta Thurnberg, Anne Hegarty, Susan Boyle and Richard Branson. In Richard Bransons blog he spoke about his dyslexia and how “dyslexic people can be hugely creative in identifying solutions to problems, and to coming up with new ways to tackle challenges.”… “From my own experience, I know that dyslexic people can achieve great things when they focus on their strengths and get the right support in school.”
3. There has been increased understanding
There has been a key shift from the medical framing of autism, ADHD and other conditions and so now neurodiversity isn’t seen as something to be ‘cured’ but instead celebrated. This has led to an increased appreciation of the unique strengths the neurodiverse population offers but also the challenges posed, when trying to make our neurotypical focused way of life accessible to others.
4. The global search for talent
According to Manpower, 40% of global employers are struggling to find the talent they need. With talent being a much desired but competitive resource, employers are having to diversify their thinking and look outside of their traditional recruitment methods to hire the next generation of talent.
Given the high number of neurodivergent individuals and the high unemployment rates, this represents a huge, untapped talent pool that can really benefit our workforce, bringing new skill sets, innovations and talents.
But how do we embrace neurodiversity in the workplace?
1. Implement reasonable adjustments
We often hear the phrase ‘reasonable adjustments’ floating around when we’re thinking of hiring disabled employees. But what does this actually mean in theory and in practice?
Reasonable adjustments are changes put in place to ensure disabled people can overcome any substantial disadvantages they may have within the recruitment process, doing their job and progressing in work.
Its important to seriously consider making adjustments to ensure you get the best out of each employee and they can utilise their full potential. Most adjustments are simple to make and can even benefit neurotypical employees. These include things like communicating clearly, providing quiet break spaces and considering each persons individual needs.
Examples of reasonable adjustments on the job include:
- Providing them with equipment to support them.
- Giving them a quiet, distraction free area to work so they can focus.
- Altering their working hours so they can avoid stressful rush hours.
- Allowing them to wear noise cancelling earphones or blue light glasses.
- Allowing them to take short, regular breaks to avoid getting overwhelmed or stressed.
- Giving them a clear point of contact or mentor if they need extra support.
- Working together to understand their working style and how a manager can best communicate with them.
2. Make your application process accessible
Making your recruitment processes more accessible is a simple way to attract more neurodiverse candidates. Small changes like making job descriptions structured, clear and concise while avoiding the use of complicated, metaphorical language can make your roles a lot easier to understand. Job descriptions should be split into ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ skill sets.
As well as this, its useful to have a in depth look at your recruitment processes and get neurodiverse individuals to go through the process to provide insight on how accessible it really is. Examples of things you can do include:
- Providing candidates with an easy way to disclose any disability and making them aware of any support they can get from the beginning.
- Making your application process simple to use and follow.
- Enabling accessibility features, such as enlarged font, contrasting colours and underlined links so its easy to navigate.
- Using clear, concise and structured language.
3. Make your interview methods accessible
A huge part of the recruitment process are interviews. Interviews can be a scary experience for neurotypical candidates, but 10x harder for someone neurodiverse.
Most interview methods focus on accessing candidates in two key areas: confidence and communication. These two areas can often put neurodiverse candidates at a disadvantage, making it difficult for them to be themselves and communicate their skills needed for the role. This means that neurodiverse candidates often miss out on roles they might have been perfect for.
Some neurodiverse candidates may take questions literally (such as what their weaknesses are), get anxious in an environment they do not know, struggle with eye contact and answering ‘left field’ questions.
To make your interview process more accessible to autistic individuals there are several things you can do. These include:
- Providing them with a quiet area they can take breaks and relax.
- Providing them with pictures of the people they will be interacting with. This could be both the interviewers and the reception staff so they know who they’re going to be meeting.
- Providing clear instructions about accessing buildings and directions.
- Providing them with a clear structure of the day including timings so they know what to expect and how to prepare.
- Avoiding open ended questions.
- Allowing them time to think about the questions and process their thoughts.
- Using interview spaces that are free from distractions, loud noises and bright lights.
4. Create an inclusive culture
Its likely that your workforce employs neurodiverse employees already but you don’t know it. Creating a culture that fosters communication about neurodiversity is essential. It enables employees to be who they are, creates neurodiverse representation which will in turn encourage more individuals to apply for your vacancies.
Other ways you can do this is through employee training to increase their understanding about neurodiversity. This can really help peoples perceptions and ‘demystify’ it, as well as being able to ask any questions.
How you can start a neurodiversity movement in your workplace
Start the conversation
Its really important to simply start the conversation. Speak to HR and Diversity and Inclusion to see what they’re doing to employ more neurodiverse employees and understand the diversity of their workforce.
Look at the data
Have a look at the composition of your workforce and see what percentage of the workforce is disabled and neurodiverse.
Get in touch
Stack helps employers to hire more neurodiverse employees. We continuously support job-seekers and employees to help them find the very best roles and recruit the very best talent.
Take a look at our website or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help.
Corona virus has impacted the way that we are all working. With the majority of companies now working from home to limit the risk of spread, we have all had to adapt to how we work.
It is disputed that a lot more companies will now offer remote working even after Corona virus because of how effective and easy it has been to implement and the opportunity that it offers employees such as seeing their families more and saving money by not having to commute.
While working from home has not been the biggest of challenges for us all it has been and continues to be a difficult transition for autistic employees.
This week’s blog will offer 5 tips to help autistic employees develop a new routine and transition to the new normal of working from home.
1. Keeping your morning routine
The first tip that we recommend is keeping your morning routine the same. What we mean by this is keeping your morning schedule running as normal as possible so, waking up at the same time and following your usual daily actives, like showering and eating breakfast. This is so you don’t have to experience more change than necessary and so that you do not need to alter your daily routines any further.
Although working from home has been hard, its particularly hard for those on the spectrum, and can significantly cause anxiety and impact their mental health.
- Waking up an hour later every day can affect your work productivity. For instance, having a lie in will leave you feeling de-energized for work when you do have to get up to join your Monday morning weekly meeting at 9am.
- Or how consistently getting up later each morning may result in you going to bed later each night. Until one morning you miss your alarm and become late for your work meeting which can could have disastrous consequences for your employment.
- Or even how getting up later could also affect your routine and productivity if you had to work from the office one morning. Resulting in you having to alter your routine to get up earlier to commute in; and by the time you are in your have a very unproductive day because your so tired as you had to get up and leave an hour early to arrive on time.
2. Getting dressed
Our second recommendation is to make sure you are getting dressed. It is easy to just sit in our pyjamas all day and I’m sure it is something we are all guilty of doing at least once!
Choosing to not get dressed when working from home can have consequences for out work. It has been proven that not getting dressed decreases our productivity.
For an autistic employee getting dressed for work is another part of their morning routine and altering this as we have already mentioned can result in more barrier for their day to day activity so we recommend for this reason that you continue to follow this part of your routine and get dressed ready for work.
Another reason we recommend this is because sitting in your pyjamas all day everyday can take a toll on ones mental health. Autistic individuals are more likely that neuro-typical individuals to suffer from mental health conditions.
Sitting in one’s pyjamas all day can make you feel sluggish, depressed and affect your motivation. For somebody autistic these feelings are likely to be amplified and come on faster.
To stop this occurring we recommend that you continue to get dressed ready for work as it will help your state of mind, continue your routine meaning less change and is just the more professional thing to do.
3. Space to work
The third tip we want to advise is that you make sure you have somewhere that you can work. This space should be light, clean, quiet, and organised.
Having your own space equipped with all the things you need and may require will allow you to focus and will help increase your productivity as you won’t have to break momentum to go and grab the highlighter you left in your bag in the hallway.
We also recommend laying your desk out the way it is at your work this will again help you with the change and routine as everything will be in the more familiar layout that you are used to.
If you do not have a spare room or an office that you can call your own space I would recommend finding a nook in one of the rooms you do have that you can make sure own such as the kitchen table. I would advise against working from your bed and this is not good for your posture and is not an ideal space for writing and making notes.
4. Scheduling dates
Working from home will result in using a variety of different methods of communication such as zoom and Microsoft teams calls, WhatsApp voice notes, and Whereby video calls. Using a variety of platforms can get confusing therefore, it is best to have a diary to schedule in daily calls and activities. This will help to keep your work-life organised and keep your focus and productivity up.
There are many ways you may choose to schedule your appointments for example you might find that a wall planner is best for you; as everything gets complied on one sheet. Similarly, a diary is another option, you can view a daily or weekly schedule and there is normally a notes section that you can use throughout the day.
Another option is an online calendar such as google calendar this may be more effective if you are constantly using different platforms for calls as you can add the links so it takes you directly to the call. It also notifies you 10 minutes before that you have a call due.
5. Taking breaks…
Autistic employees are often described as hard workers and being at home they will work just as hard as they would in their job. One of the struggles for them being at home is that they will get so focused in what they are doing that they will not realise the time and will forget to take their breaks.
It is easy to forget when working from home to take your allotted breaks. Taking breaks will allow you time to rest and recover, to eat and drink and just do something that has no focus or relevance to your work whatsoever. This is important as it can affect your productivity and can re-energize you for the second half of your day. Taking your much-needed breaks also gets you up and about which as previously stated can impact your mental health. It gets you moving which is one of the contributing factors to ill-mental health.
Taking breaks also decreases your chance of burn-out and can affect your physical health too as it forces you to do something other than look at a computer screen all day which can cause headaches.
Thanks for reading this weeks blog, we hope that we have addressed some of the challenges with transitioning to working from home and that you have found our advice and tips useful. We hope that this blog is useful for you not only now during Corona virus but also if the future should you ever be torn between working remotely or from your job site.
For other useful resources visit our blog.
By Jinaka Ugochukwu
According to a 2017 survey carried out by the NAS (National Autistic Society), only 16% of autistic adults are in full time employment and 77% of those unemployed would like to be in employment.
How can we bridge the Autistic employment gap?
It can be especially daunting if you’re a parent and your child is leaving education and thinking about their next steps, including finding a job and becoming an adult.
The following tips are useful to consider if you are a parent or carer of an autistic child and they are starting to look for a job.
1.Help to explore interests and skills
There are many ways to think about interests and skills but the next four activities may give you some inspiration.
Ask the person you are supporting about a typical day (or they can write it down). They/you should note down what activities they do. Then rate each activity on a scale from 1 to 3 (1- I love doing it, 2- I don’t mind doing it, 3- I really dislike it)
This activity can help someone to identify what they may like to do more or less of and perhaps what activities they may like in an ideal job.
Starting with the activities that are rated 1 (I love doing it), use post-it notes to list what skills are involved in completing that activity. This website may help you think about activities from a skills-based perspective.
Use the list of skills and think of a job that requires at least one of the skills. The more skills in the skill list it uses the better.
2. Explore their strengths and weaknesses
Ask the person you are supporting to answer these questions:
- What am I good at?
- What have others complimented me about?
- Which projects and tasks seem to use up my energy?
- What have others had to help me with on more than one occasion?
- What can I spend hours doing without feeling tired or bored?
- When I have free time what do I like to do? Why?
These answers in addition to the answers from Activities 1-3 can start to paint a picture of jobs that might be suitable.
2.Discuss this important question: Independent or supported employment?
Can they work independently or do they need supported employment?
If supported work is needed in the workplace, the government scheme called Access to Work (in the UK) might be useful. It is a scheme which provides grants to support people in the workplace and can help an employer pay for specialist equipment or any other adjustments which can help an individual in the workplace.
3. Explore ‘autistic friendly’ organisations together
In theory, every organisation should be an autism friendly workplace but the reality is sometimes different. Theres a few ways to find employers that can really support your child.
Firstly, the disability confident scheme recognises employers that are committed to hiring disabled employees.
Secondly, there are increasingly many schemes in places that recognises employers that are committed to hiring autistic individuals. These include P&G, Siemens, Auticon and Ernest and Young.
Stack only partners with autistic friendly organisations. Register here if you’re looking for employment.
4. Set a good example and share your work experiences
If you are employed it can be really helpful to share your experiences, including talking about what you do, what you do on a daily basis and rituals. Examples of these include making small talk in the mornings, contributing to collections and signing birthday cards and navigating the office lifestyle.
5. Offer guidance on writing CVs and cover letters
Many jobs still require an application form or a CV. Therefore, completing either of these can be really difficult for every job-seeker, not just an adult with autism.
Check out our guide to writing a basic CV so you can be in the best position to support an autistic individual with this task.
You can also email us at email@example.com to get access to our CV and cover letter templates.
6. Offer assistance writing application forms
Did you know that the key to a successful application form is to show competence in a skill?
Bear this in mind when someone asks you for help. The STAR framework is a popular way for people to think about their experiences and demonstrate competence in required skills. This technique can be useful both in applications, cover letters and interviews.
S Situation Where/When/With whom?
T Task Describe what you hoped to achieve
A Action Describe what you did
R Result What did you achieve? What skills did you develop?
‘While I typically like to plan out my work in stages and complete it piece by piece, I can also achieve high-quality work results under tight deadlines. Once, in a previous role, an employee left days before the imminent deadline of one of his tasks. I was asked to assume responsibility for it, with only a few days to learn about it and complete it. I asked other people to help and delegated tasks so we were all able to complete it with a day to spare.’
7. Mock interviews
Great, so your child has got a job interview! This is fantastic news, but can be daunting for an autistic individual.
One way to prepare for this is through role play. A good way to do this is by using the job description and preparing potential interview questions such as:
- Why do you want this role?
- Give me an example of a time where you’ve worked well in a team?
- What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses?
Wearing appropriate clothing can help it feel more realistic and you can even ask someone you know to act as the employer, which may make it feel more formal. This helps your child prepare for the interview and practice in a less formal setting.
8. Brush up on the law
a) If you think the person you’re helping would benefit from adjustments so they they can perform their best at interviews and within the job the law could help.
b) However, an individual doesn’t have to disclose the fact they’re autistic, but could benefit in three key ways:
- Employers have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ within the recruitment process and the job
- If reasonable adjustments are put in place, people are likely to be more successful at work and may find work less stressful.
- If colleagues know that someone is autistic, they are likely to be more understanding which can help build better relationships.
9. Collaborate on a safety plan
We really hope everything goes well in the workplace however remember this final tip just in case.
Support them to write a safety plan that they can follow. The plan will remind them about how they want to manage a situation that isn’t going well.
The following questions can help them form this plan:
- How will you know that all isn’t well?
- Who will you tell?
- How would you want them to help you?
Most people find the process of looking for work artificial, stressful and difficult to manage. We hope this article has given you tips and tricks to support your autistic child to make it a more comfortable process.
If your child is looking for work, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can support them on their journey.
By Anna Everts
This blog discusses how you can communicate your needs as an autistic adult within your job and gives you recommendations on how to start the conversation with your manager and colleagues. This blog is written by an autistic writer, for autistic job-seekers.
For a lot of people, working 9-5 is the norm, and you will likely be spending a lot of time within your workplace with your colleagues. This means that it’s essential for the workplace to be a place where you feel appreciated and understood. But the latter poses a problem for many autistic individuals. Being misunderstood is a common problem that autistics face and it can be really frustrating.
Frustrating as it may be, it’s not an unsolvable problem. By using clear communication towards your employer and your co-workers, it’s possible to create an environment where everyone’s needs are met.
But how do you start such a conversation? What can you expect? Here’s a short guide on how to best communicate your needs.
1. Make a plan
If you want the conversation with your employer and/or your co-workers to go smoothly, you need to know what you are going to say to them. It’s important to create a list with the topics you want to discuss. Is your workplace too noisy and are you looking for somewhere more quiet?
Write down why the noise bothers you, what effects it has on you and your work, what you would like to change about the situation and what the outcome would be.
“My autism causes me to be very sensitive to sounds. In the workplace I’ve found myself being distracted by the sounds of people using their keyboard or calling a client. It often becomes overwhelming at the end of the day.
This negatively impacts my work and that’s very unfortunate. That’s why I want to start wearing noise-cancelling headphones to prevent a sensory overload. That way I can do my job effectively.“
“Recently I’ve noticed some friction between me and my colleagues. I’m not able to execute my tasks correctly because I feel like I’m missing information. I struggle explaining this to my colleagues and I don’t want to take up too much of their time by asking a lot of questions every time.
That’s why I suggest making a briefing format that answers all questions at once. I’m more than willing to create this format. That way colleagues can simply fill in the briefing document and mail it to me at the beginning of a task. This prevents having to ask them about the missing information and this saves both parties a lot of time.“
For every problem you face you should write down a possible solution. If you can’t find one, ask your employer or co-workers to think of some solutions with you. The important thing is that you’re showing that you’re taking an effort to solve this. Showing initiative is key.
You can use this plan to make notes for your conversation or actually use it as a script. Do what works best for you and keep in mind that people won’t be able to help you if they don’t know what the problem is. That’s why you need to properly explain the problem. If you struggle putting words on paper, ask someone to help you. Stack Recruitment is able to help you with this and is more than happy to do so!
2. Plan the conversation
Sometimes it’s difficult to pick the right moment to plan a conversation. Especially a conversation like this can be nerve-wracking and therefore takes some courage. It can be hard to read the other person. Are they busy? Are they in the right mood for this?
Once you’ve gathered your nerve, pick a moment to approach the person you want to have a conversation with. When you do this, make sure to check if they have time. If their schedule is full, they might not have time for you or won’t give you the time you need to explain your situation. That’s why you should ask the person in question (something along the lines of) the following:
“There’s something I’d like to discuss with you and it might take up some time. Can we schedule a moment for this conversation?”
By saying this, you inform the other person about your need for a conversation while also giving them time to process it and pick a moment that works for them as well. It ensures that both parties go into the conversation prepared.
If you need help preparing the conversation, Stack offers guidance and advice. That way you’ll be ensured that you’re ready for this big step. We’ll help you find the right people for the conversation and help you with the steps that follow.
3. Have the conversation
Probably the most scary part of all this is the conversation itself. There’s no way of knowing the outcome beforehand and that can be enough to make anyone nervous. So as you’re going into the meeting, keep your notes close and make sure you’ve written down everything you want to say.
Listen to the other person and make sure you show you understand. At the end of the conversation both sides need to be aware of what the other person’s thoughts are about the issue. That’s why it’s important to both communicate clearly and listen carefully.
If you feel like you’re not being listened to, or you feel like you’re being misunderstood, say so. This conversation is meant to help you, not make things worse. Stay polite and try to stay calm. It’s the only way to make sure the conversation goes smoothly.
If you still feel like nothing has changed at the end of the conversation, see if you can talk to someone else, or have someone be with you during the next conversation. Sometimes other people can explain the issue more clearly. There’s no shame in asking for help. Stack Recruitment can help you make this difficult conversation easier. We offer support and guidance throughout the entire process.
After you’ve had the conversation and things have been set in motion to solve the issue, you need to re-evaluate the situation. How are things going now? Are you still facing the same issues? Or is there still room for improvement?
It’s a good idea to schedule another meeting with your employer or co-worker, depending on who you had the first conversation with, and re-evaluate the situation together. Working with others requires teamwork and team effort. That means both parties need to put in the work to make it a success. If you need help re-evaluating or planning another conversation, don’t be afraid to reach out to us!
If you find yourself struggling with this process or are unsure how to start planning, feel free to contact us. Here at Stack are ready for you to support you and help you get the guidance you need. We’re here for you from step one all the way to step four, and even beyond that.
If you’re looking for a job, its a big thing. It takes time, effort and concentration. Especially if you’re an autistic job-seeker, the effect of this pandemic can have a huge impact and make the whole process scary. We don’t know whats going to happen and the situation changes every day. This poses the question: should you continue your job search? This blog aims to answer this question and support you during your journey!
Yes – Job interviews are being done remotely:
The recent news state that human contact should be kept to a minimum. For this reason, many companies are turning to video call to keep their recruitment processes running.
This can really benefit autistic job-seekers, as you can speak to hiring managers from a comfortable environment, which may reduce some of the anxiety associated with the interview setting. Here are some really good tips on preparing for a virtual interview.
As a jobs board and recruitment agency, we have always focused on flexibility and ensuring everything can be kept virtual, to keep our service accessible for everyone. This is why we are still running our job coaching service virtually, to continuously support our job-seekers.
Yes – More remote opportunities:
More and more companies are choosing to work from home. This is emphasising the need to create a strong, remote workforce both now and in the future.
Research suggests that over the next year, the importance of a remote workforce will significantly increase. This should favour the autistic community, as more opportunities should offer flexible, home working opportunities, making employment more accessible for neuro-diverse employees.
However there will be delays to the recruitment process, as we move from office working to home working, so try and be patient with your search. If you need any extra support, contact us.
Yes – Not every industry will suffer:
Despite the economy being unstable right now, there are industries that will be able to get through this hard time. These include, nonprofits, governmental organisations, cleaners, medical practices and delivery services to name a few.
Some industries and companies may be requiring extra employees and its important to keep an eye out for emerging trends, as they could be great opportunities.
No – The uncertainty:
It is clear the Coronavirus is causing significant levels of uncertainty for employers. Some employers are putting off hiring completely, which will in effect slow down hiring.
On the other hand, this can mean employers may have previously posted a job, but are taking their time to sort out their recruitment processes before making big decisions.
If you’re an autistic job-seeker this could make you feel anxious and unsure about where you’re at. It is so important to put your health a priority and keep yourself safe.
Things you can do instead:
Work on your skills:
Now is a fantastic time to learn new skills. There are lots of free courses, youtube videos and webinars out there to help you learn. Examples of websites to use include: Open University, Coursera, Teachable and Skillshare.
If you want some time away from your computer screen, you could also develop your interests, such as a sport, an art form, website development, coding, music or dance! Remember, interests are a great way to show employers who you are as a person and show them what interests you!
Develop your CV:
Your CV is one of the key tools that helps an employer understand who you are and what experience you have. On average, an employer spends approximately 30 seconds reviewing each CV when someone applies for a role. This is why its so important to have it updated and presentable.
If you need extra support or are not sure where to start, contact Stack and we can help you develop your CV and provide valuable feedback.
Get a Linkedin profile:
If you’ve already got a LinkedIn profile, great! If not, its a really useful tool to have to not only search for jobs, but connect with employers and professionals.
Its very easy to set up, and the search for jobs feature is simple to use. You can even select specific filters, such as distance away from where you live, entry level roles, job types and industry.
Send your CV to Stack Recruitment
Despite all this happening, we are fully operational. If you are an autistic job-seeker, we will help you start your job search through 1-1 virtual weekly meetings.
However, we understand that some people communicate differently, so we are also able to help through emails, phone calls or WhatsApp!
Get in touch today at email@example.com.
Safe say and stay positive!
By Anna Everts
This blog discusses the pros and cons of disclosing autism during a job interview. This blog is written for autistic people, by an autistic person with experience in the subject matter.
So, you’ve landed a job interview. Great! But now there probably are a million questions going through your mind; “What questions will they ask?”, “What should I wear?”, “What information do I want from them?”, and most importantly “Do I inform them about my autism?”.
For most autistic people the latter is a question they ponder about the longest. It’s not surprising, really. It’s an important question that could, unfortunately, affect the outcome of the interview. But for every reason to stay quiet about it, there is also a good reason to inform your possible future employer. Here are all the pros and cons listed for you, so you can make a decision that fits your situation.
Why you should bring up your autism during a job interview
1. Its a part of you
Autism is a part of you and it always will be. Whether or not you like it, it is most likely going to affect the way you interact with colleagues, supervisors and even clients. And that’s okay. Everyone deals with people differently, even those without autism. Some people loathe making phone calls, are a little too hyper around clients, or constantly disagree with their co-workers. No one handles social interactions the same way.
Of course for an autistic person social interactions are often far more difficult, but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to work with. When someone hires you, they hire all of you. That includes your autism. So if someone wouldn’t want you because you’re autistic, you should ask yourself whether or not you want to work there. There will be enough other places that are in fact happy to explore your unique qualities and can give you what you need to be a functioning member of the team.
Pro: Your openness and honesty might be seen as a plus. Also you’ll know if the company is biased or not.
Con: The employer might be thinking in negative stereotypes. However Stack focuses on partnering with inclusive employers. This means that our employers understand autism and know how to support an autistic employee.
2. It prevents unwanted surprises
Sometimes us autistics need a little more help than others; a more thorough briefing, extra time to work on a task, or even a buddy who’s always ready to answer our questions. If you need these things to function properly in a workplace, it’s best to be open about it upfront. If you don’t, your employer will hire you with expectations you can’t meet and then both parties will be disappointed.
When you clearly state what you need to be a productive part of the team and also provide a solution for those needs, an employer will see that you are flexible and willing to meet them halfway into accommodating to your needs. And that might just earn you those extra points you need to get hired!
Pro: It prevents stress and miscommunication on both sides.
Con: Some employers might not be willing to meet you halfway. However, Stack Recruitment can assist in getting the employer to better understand your situation. This may just turn them around!
3. It provides an opportunity to highlight your unique skills
Your autism makes you unique. That also means you have qualities that non-autistics don’t have. You can use these qualities to your advantage. For example, during an interview you can tell an employer something along the lines of the following sentence:
“I have autism, which means that I’m really good at picking up on details. This enables me to execute a job with great precision.”
By presenting your autism in a positive light, the employer will think of the positive aspects first before making any assumptions about you. Of course you can mention any skill you think is valuable. Applying for the creative sector? Tell them about how creative autistic people are! Or does your autism make you a good problem solver? Tell them about that! Take some time to make a list with your unique skills and mention them during the interview. That way there’s less room for negative stereotypes.
Pro: It changes the perspective the employer might have on autism.
Con: Employers may still worry about supporting an autistic employee. However there are plenty of organisations and articles out there where they can gain useful advice and help. They just may need to be directed.
Why it might be better not to mention your autism
1. People are prejudiced
This is the sad truth. Many people are uninformed about what autism actually is and most of their knowledge about autism comes from extreme stereotypes. Of course, people can learn, but that doesn’t mean that they will. For this reason it might be better to not tell an employer that you’re autistic. Especially if you really need a job and cannot use another rejection, staying quiet about it might be the best way to go.
Furthermore, if you’ve noticed that people only tend to see your autism and not the rest of you, it might also be a good idea to keep quiet. You can always tell them later. In fact, you can choose not to tell them at first, let them get to know you, and then bring up your autism after a week on the job. That way your first impression isn’t tied to your autism.
Pro: The employer can get to know you without making false assumptions about you.
Con: By not telling the employer that you’re autistic, they won’t be able to provide the extra tools or help you might need. If you do run into problems, Stack can help you sort these out with your employer.
2. Your autism doesn’t affect the qualities needed for the job
Let’s say you struggle with talking to people on the phone or face to face, but talking to someone via text is not an issue at all. And let’s say in this case you’re applying for the webcare part of a servicecenter. You won’t have to talk to people face to face or assist them over the phone, so what’s the issue?
This is just one example of a case in which it might not be needed to mention your autism. If you feel your autism won’t be in the way of the tasks you need to perform at the job you’re applying for, then why bring it up? You don’t always have to tell people that you’re autistic if there’s no reason for them to know. Of course, you can still choose to tell them if you don’t feel comfortable keeping it quiet. It’s all a matter of what you think is best.
Pro: Not mentioning it when it isn’t needed will prevent prejudice.
Con: If problems do arise, you might still have to bring up your autism. But since you’ve already proven your worth, you have to worry less about facing prejudice. Your employer knows what you can do!
Whether or not you should bring up your autism during a job interview completely depends on your own situation. In the end you should do what feels best for you. If you’re very worried about the reaction of the employer and it’s eating you up inside, then don’t sweat it. Focus on the interview itself and don’t mention it just yet.
If you just want to be sure you’re accepted for who you are and don’t mind taking the risk, then go ahead and tell them! Make your own list of pros and cons so you can come to a conclusion that works for you. But no matter what you do, know that you have value. You can bring qualities to the table that others might not have. So never settle for something where your efforts aren’t appreciated.
For more useful tips visit our blog.
Stack’s guide to CV building for autistic adults
By Jinaka Ugochukwu
What is a CV?
A CV is a self-promotional tool. It is a summary of your education, the jobs you have done and the skills that you have acquired. An employer will read it to decide whether you are suitable for the job they have on offer.
What does a CV look like?
There are many templates for CVs. But most CVs will include the sections in the image below.
This article is a step by step guide to creating a basic 1-page CV.
Remember you should update your CV as you get more experience and you will need to adapt parts of your CV to the job that you are applying for. Consider every CV a foundation that you build upon and improve.
Writing a CV can feel like an overwhelming task especially if you are looking for your first job or you are an adult with autism and you are not sure that the workplace will be a welcoming world. Stack Recruitment specialises in offering jobs that are suitable for everyone but especially jobs for autistic adults. This is because we work with employers who are welcoming to people with autism and the jobs require candidates who pay attention to detail, who can apply a framework to a process and who strive to get a job done well.
Let’s get writing
This section is quick and straightforward to complete. Completing this section will get you up and running and feeling confident.
|Firstname Lastname |
01234 555 666
- Your email address should be something sensible. Ideally firstname.lastname@example.org
- Be safe online: A potential employer will call you or send you an email. You do not need to include your full address.
This section is an opportunity to introduce yourself and explain why you are suitable for the role. The paragraph should be short; limit it to about 3 or 4 lines.
You should outline the skills and experience you can offer the company in relation to the role that they have advertised.
This is an archived advert from the jobs section here at Stack Recruitment.
To be successful in this role, you would ideally have experience of working in a similar environment and be able to demonstrate knowledge of processing purchase ledger transactions using a computerised system. You will be comfortable working in a customer focused environment and have a willingness to learn and adapt new skills.
This is an ideal job for an autistic adult who has skills in financial administration, who is computer literate and who is comfortable learning and adapting to the business’ needs.
To write your personal statement
Firstly, highlight the key requirements for the role.
To be successful in this role, you would ideally have experience of working in a similar environment and be able to demonstrate knowledge of processing purchase ledger transactions using a computerised system. You will be comfortable working in a customer focused environment and have a willingness to learn and adapt new skills.
Secondly, address these areas in your personal statement.
I am an experienced administrator who has used Sage extensively to process invoices and reconcile accounts. I’m very good at learning new systems and teaching others how to use them too. I think being efficient and helpful to customers is key and I want to work for a business who thinks the same.
The recruiting manager will then be able to read in an instance whether you are a suitable candidate for the role.
There are many strategies that you can use for writing a personal statement:
The CV library suggests answering these 3 questions:
Here is a bullet point approach by Glassdoor:
Bullet 1: Industry credentials
Bullet 2: What skills you bring
Bullet 3: How you can help the business achieve their objectives,
Bullet 4: A relevant and recent deliverable
And you can find 16 examples of personal statements at Totaljobs.
- Not all CVs include this section. If you include a cover letter with your application you may not consider it necessary.
- Avoid writing a list of adjectives.
- This section should be tailored to each job that you apply for.
Your experiences can include paid work, volunteer work, or skills acquired in other ways. List your most recent role first!
Below is an example of a format you could use and a guide to what you could include for each position.
|Job Title, Company, Location mmm yyyy – ongoing|
Write a summary of your duties and responsibilities. Think about the job you are applying for and highlight the duties and responsibilities that will be most relevant for the job and the employer.
Achievement: Summarise the impact you had on the business, especially if it is quantifiable. Eg I increase sales of Y by X%
- Remember to list your jobs in date order with the most recent at the top.
- Think about the skills and achievements that you want to highlight. Choose skills that can illustrate your suitability for the role that you are applying for.
Most people will list their formal qualifications in this section for example GCSEs, A-Levels, degrees and so on but you can also list other educational achievements. For example, a short course that you have completed such as computer skills, or a coding course or a first aid course.
Relevance and recency are key. What skills and experience does the job require? If you have many options and limited space, choose the qualifications that best represent your ability to do the job.
Qualification, (awarding body) Date
BA Business Administration, (University of London) June 2019
Certificate in First Aid (St John’s ambulance) December 2019
- List your most recent and highest qualifications first.
- If you are a school leaver then you may wish to list all of your GCSEs (or equivalents) and/or your A-levels but if you gain higher qualifications listing each individual GCSE becomes less and less relevant. And you might wish to summarise them (9 GCSEs A-C, including Maths and English) or omit them completely.
- If you don’t have any formal qualifications simply list the dates that you attended any school or college.
List skills that are always relevant and/or that are specifically relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, if you speak another language that is always relevant. If you can juggle that is not so relevant unless the job is for an entertainer.
- This section could be considered optional especially if you are short on space and you have covered your skills elsewhere in the document.
That’s it. That all you need for the first draft of your CV.
- Remember to check for spelling errors.
- Remember to choose a professional font and be consistent throughout the document.
- Remember to choose the correct font size. Size 12 and size 11are typical for a CV. Headings may be a slightly larger size and bolded.
Now you are ready to find a job to apply for. Stack Recruitment has a great selection of jobs or get in touch if you want help with your CV.
Remember don’t get discouraged if at first you don’t succeed. Sometimes people apply for more than 10 jobs before they receive an invitation to interview.
Come back soon for more information on interview techniques and working in a professional environment with autism.
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 practising 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 neuro types 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, practising 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 examples to 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 other useful resources visit our blog.
When searching for autistic-friendly jobs, the physical layout of an office space can also be a critical consideration. Open office plans are common in many workspaces today, even though they are proven to make it harder to be productive. They’re even more challenging for #actuallyautistic people, however. A divider-free layout can easily become a boundary-less sensory minefield. Here are four tactics you can use to avoid sensory overload and make your job autistic-friendly.
1. Re-arrange your workspace
Let’s say you arrive for your very first day of work and your manager shows you to a desk in the middle of a crowded workspace. Think about what types of physical elements help you focused and centered. There’s nothing wrong with bringing in a mini divider or using fabric to create a cubicle effect. Also, take as much ownership over the color scheme and object orientation of your workspace as you can. Some employers put office supplies or other objects out as a default; don’t be afraid to bring in stimming toys, move things around, and make the space yours.
2. Always keep a pair of headphones at your desk
Communication tools like Slack mean that you can get a colleague’s attention without physically going up to them to ask a question. A pair of noise-canceling headphones can make the difference between a productive workday and an exhausting one. You can also try the noise-isolating option, which reduces the amount of sound you hear. If you have regular headphones on you, try playing a type of music that blocks out outside noise without breaking your focus. For some people, that’s classical; for others, it’s music in a different language, movie scores, or techno.
3. Practice setting boundaries with coworkers
If coworkers are frequently interrupting you, encroaching on your workspace, or doing anything else that’s preventing you from being productive, let them know! A polite way to do so is to be clear, calm, and direct in stating your need, e.g. “Would you mind sending me an email? I’m on a roll right now and would love to finish this project.” or “I’d be happy to connect with you about this afternoon – feel free to put some time on my calendar!”
4. Ask HR or your boss for accommodations
When asking for accommodations, especially in companies that don’t have a formal HR department, it’s best to be as specific as possible about what you need. Try asking for adjusted hours if you just can’t focus in an open office and you need to come in earlier to get work done. You can also ask for the use of a backup space, such as a spare office or an area of your workplace that isn’t too crowded.
When looking for autistic friendly jobs, don’t let an open office deter you from doing work you really love! With a little bit of creativity and proactivity, you can make your office space work for you.
For other useful resources visit our blog.
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