When you’re someone with Autism, working can sometimes be a hassle. This is especially true if you’re trying to get your first job. Job searching, resume writing, creating a cover letter, finding references, learning and practicing interviewing skills, learning what is and isn’t appropriate for the workplace! It can be extremely confusing and very stressful! Especially if you don’t know what you really want to do. I know that was the case for me when I started off.
It was my sophomore year of high school. I wanted to get a job and start making my own money so I could pay for my Solo and Ensemble competition fee without using my parent’s money (although they graciously offered to pay for it). At the time, my biggest fears were looking for a job that fit my needs and work with my school schedule without overworking myself. Also, I had no idea what I wanted to do or where to start looking. During that time, the special education department at my school was looking to get some money from the Let’s Get To Work grant, a grant encouraging high school students with disabilities to “improve community employment”. My school had put out an ad, and got a call from American Family Insurance that they were looking for help. They told me about it, and I decided to go for it. I was very confused by the paperwork, but I had a great support system in my family and in school to help me with the paperwork. Then came the interview. I went there dressed to the nines. Heels, a pencil skirt, a blazer… I felt so professional! I went in with one special ed teacher, Mrs. W, who gave me some last-minute tips and helped ease my nerves. I went into the interview doing everything she told me to, and I got the job on the spot! $7.25 and hour, but hey! It paid for Solo and Ensemble!
After that, I began my first few weeks at the job. It was kinda awesome/ kinda bad because I got out of school 10 minutes early so I could catch a taxi to get to school, but I ended up always being 20 minutes early for work and missing homework because of it. That was the only thing that sucked though! My boss and coworkers knew my situation from the start and was very supportive and understanding! Mrs. W then became my job coach and helped me learn everything I had to do as well as how important efficiency/time management was. Even after her time with me was up, she would always come in and check on how I was liking my work and how I was doing there. At the time, it was really annoying that she’d always check on me. But looking back, I appreciate it (and her) so much more because she did that. She didn’t have to check up on me, but she did anyways because she genuinely cared about how the job was working out for me. I ended up staying with American Family for 4 years.
I’ve now been in the workforce for 6 years at various job sites. I’ve learned a lot about entering the workforce (i.e. how to write a good resume, resources for finding a job, interviewing skills). The biggest things I’ve learned are to use your resources and EXAMINE YOUR STRENGTHS!!!!!!! This part was hard for me since, in high school, I didn’t have the highest self-esteem. But it’s a really big part of getting a job. You have to be confident in yourself to show that you are a good candidate for the job!
For example, if you’re in school and you always turn in your homework on time (props to you), say that you manage time really well! If you’re in a lot of extra curricular activities, say that you’re adaptable to many different surroundings! If you’re not in school anymore, examine your surroundings! Is your room usually clean and organized? Say you’re organized! Part of a club? Say you’re involved in the community! Do you volunteer? Explain what you do! Are you good at examining situations and coming up with solutions to them? Say you’re a good problem solver! Do you easily notice when something needs to get done or if someone needs help doing something? Say you’re observant! Do you enjoy helping people? Say you’re helpful! If you can’t think of anything, ask your parents, family members, friends, counselors, or teachers! Believe it or not, they DO want to help you in any way that they can!
They are also good resources for helping you find a job. They can help you search on a job site, tell you where to look in stores and/or who to talk to about job openings, help you contact businesses, help answer questions on job applications, and anything else you may need!
Another good reference I like using is the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and the Department of Workforce Development. Depending on where you live, you may have other resources with very similar goals/programs. They helped me write my resume, cover letter, and helped me gain interviewing skills. They also helped me look at what jobs I might enjoy. I was assigned a counselor and she was extremely helpful and even helped me look at different careers through job shadows. She also signed me up for some very helpful workshops about employment. She gave me lots pamphlets to read, a checklist for all the paperwork I’d need, and online resources to look up if I had any other questions.
There’s an endless supply of websites on the internet about companies who are hiring, how to get/keep jobs, interviewing skills, resume writing, etc. We live in the beautiful age of technology where almost everything is digital. With a few keywords and the click of a button, you can find job openings, articles on applying for jobs, resume/cover letter templates, and so much more! While some are very helpful, some can be very repetitive. This is especially true for resume and cover letter outlines. There are lots, and I mean LOTS, of different types of resumes. There’s no one right way to organize one, though. The most important thing is that you have all the information you need on it. If online resume templates aren’t helping, go to your local library or ask someone who has a job about how their resume is organized and what they included in theirs. As I mentioned before, there are lots people who are out there to help you! NEVER PAY FOR ONLINE RESUME TEMPLATES!!!!! In my mind, they are a huge waste of money.
*pant* *pant* Wow. That was a lot. See what I mean about entering the workforce being confusing? I haven’t even talked about what to put in your resume, interview tips, or anything about letting your employer know that you have a disability! But that’s okay. There’s going to be more to come. Believe me, I have a lot to say about having a disability and working!
I’ll try to post my next blog a week from now. So until then, take it easy everyone!