Finding a job is hard for everyone. When you are autistic, it can be harder. You might face that extra conundrum of ‘should I tell them I’m autistic?’. There is no right of wrong answer to this. Yet, if you decide to be open about your diagnosis, you could use it to your advantage. In the past, autism was viewed as something to “fix” but now we’re recognizing the assets of those on the spectrum. To emphasise this, large companies, such as Microsoft, actively reach out to hire autistic graduates.
Given this knowledge, would you consider getting hired because of your autistic traits?
Identify your strengths
Everyone has strengths but we’re not always sure what they are. When you have a complex condition, it can be easy to zone in on the things that you can’t do. Thus, it’s important to shift that lens when you’re writing to sell yourself. Your brain is organised in a different way to others but that does not mean it isn’t organised. On this note, look below and you will find a list of strengths noticed in autistic people. Have a look to see if any of them resonate with you.
Strong attention to detail
More empathy towards others
Strong aptitude for a particular field
These are just some of the strengths you might notice in yourself. As you know, every autistic person is different so reflect on what you can do as an individual.
Before you write your cover letter or application, scrutinize the job vacancy. There will often be a document with the list of skills and experiences the employer wants to see in candidates. Sometimes this can be off-putting if you have missed out on a placement or other forms of work experience. Still, you might have developed these skills in alternative ways. Neurodivergence in a neurotypical world can equip you with a certain resiliency. Whether this is navigating social relationships, tackling standardised tests, or other daily challenges.
Now you’ve had a think about what your strengths are. Here are some tips on demonstrating them on your application.
Portray them positively
For the next step, make a list of your skills with examples. If you're applying for a research position and you want to tell them about your lateral thinking skills, you could explain how your ability to link ideas means you work well with academic concepts. To reinforce your point, provide an example of a project you've worked on that demonstrates how your lateral thinking was a benefit. This will show the employer that your skills have a positive impact.
As well as this, try to draw on different strengths. It doesn’t have to be related to your autism but you might have developed a skill indirectly due to it. Helen Cooke, the director and founder of My Plus advises you to use skills developed by different experiences and aim to have only 2 or 3 that are related to your disability.
One final thought
If you feel an employer has some prejudice, consider whether you'd get quality of life working for them. It’s important that you feel accepted and not afraid to ask for what you need to make your job easier. When researching an employer, seeing the disability confidence logo is a good start.
Some links for you
If you want advice on requesting reasonable adjustments, check out this information page and this webinar To Disclose or not to Disclose on My Future.
Next Steps Foundation is a free service that offers employability training to neuro diverse candidates.
National Autistic Society can give you information and advice about looking for work.