Finding your first job can be exciting, but it can also provoke anxiety if you don’t know how to start the process. For teens on the autism spectrum, navigating the job search and interviewing process can be especially challenging.
Cindy Walker, a Licensed Professional Counselor at Arizona Autism United, offers this advice: “Social settings and new situations usually bring anxiety and stress. But if teens take a few extra steps to prepare, it will help make the experience less anxiety provoking and more successful.”
Here are a few tips for teens to get started:
1. Complete job applications that align with your skills and interests. You will be much more successful if you find a job that you enjoy.
2. When completing an application, every detail makes an impression. Make sure you spell all the words correctly, use correct grammar, follow the directions on the form, don’t leave questions blank if possible, and check to make sure all dates are correct. Consider having a trusted adult proofread your application before submitting.
3. Identify qualities you have that would be important to a potential employer, such as strong work ethic, problem solving skills, communication, ability to follow directions, etc.
4. If you are invited to do an interview, role play answering common questions with a trusted adult. Practice giving examples of when you used the skills above. It is not necessary to disclose that you are on the autism spectrum when applying for a job, but you can share this information if you want to.
5. Come prepared with information about the company and a few questions about the position. Do a little research in advance to show that you know what you’re applying for and believe you are a great candidate for the job.
Remember, applying for jobs can be a job itself. It takes most people months and submitting many applications before they get hired for the right job. If you become discouraged, focus on your goal of finding a job that will bring you joy and fulfilment for many years to come.
As an alternative to paid employment, volunteering is another great way to gain real-life experience. Consider opportunities at a local animal shelter, YMCA’s, nursing homes, hospitals, environmental organizations, etc.
Jamey Zurawski is co-owner of Design Works Gaming, a Scottsdale based company that embraces diversity and employs people with different abilities and talents. Jamey is an AZA United board member and says they have had great success with employees who have ASD.
“Employers need to be open-minded and look past a traditional resume,” says Jamey. “We try our best to make the interview process comfortable. We understand individuals with autism might be more nervous and we want to put them at ease by getting to know them personally.”
Here are some tips for employers:
1. Keep in mind everyone has unique qualifications, personalities and traits.
2. Be up front about the company culture and expectations of the job.
3. Consider transferable skills. For example, gaming skills from individuals who play Minecraft or Roblox can mean they are good problem solvers, have the ability to work together as a team and are creative.
4. ASD job seekers might prefer to do an interview over Zoom. Sometimes being in person can cause their stress or anxiety to rise resulting in sweating, stuttering, etc.
Individuals with autism have so many talents and strengths to offer employers. By having an open mind and thinking creatively about what is most important, teens can gain valuable work experience and employers may just find their next in-house superstar!
AZA United is a community-based nonprofit organization that provides a wide variety of direct services and supports for individuals with autism, their families, and the community. Programs include speech therapy, ABA behavioral intervention, habilitation and respite care, counseling, and parent training. To learn more about AZA United, visit www.AZAunited.org
To learn more about Design Game Works, visit: https://designworksgaming.com/