Top tips for gaining meaningful employment

October 17, 2018

The first step is Transition Planning

  • Start planning for the transition from school at the start of high school
  • Create a support network
  • Make a list of strengths and interests
  • Work out what skills/study is needed to get a starting job in your chosen area
  • Identify potential barriers and think about solutions
  • Seek outside support if needed, including a mentor

Check that all the necessary skills are in place:

  • Learn skills if needed (i.e. specific classes in school, or a course at tertiary level)
  • Make sure you have a morning routine
  • Check your personal hygiene
  • Practice your time management skills (i.e. getting to work on time)
  • Organise transportation to and from work
  • Get used to following instructions
  • If you suffer from stress or anxiety, have a plan in place to deal with this at work
  • Learn about respect for authority/management in the workplace
  • Be able to ask for help
  • Be prepared to handle your finances

Many people with autism have strengths that are valuable to an employer, so make the most of these if they apply to you.

  • Attention to detail
  • Good long-term memory
  • Enjoying repetitive tasks
  • Logical thinking
  • May have a specialised area of expertise
  • Honesty
  • Loyalty

Potential barriers which might hinder employment. Try to be aware of any of these that could affect your role. If so, be prepared with good solutions that could help you e.g. working flexi-hours:

  • Employer’s perceptions and understanding of autism
  • Trouble with social interactions and communication
  • Difficulty processing information or instructions
  • It may take longer to complete a task
  • Difficulties multitasking or switching between tasks
  • Time management skills (prioritising and organising tasks)
  • Sensory issues (bright lights, office noises) which may also mean a need for more breaks
  • Anxiety or other mental health issues

Outside support

There are lots of agencies dedicated to helping people with autism get into employment. Often these can help with everything from a skills assessment and figuring out what type of work may be best for you, to how to apply for jobs, CV and cover letter help and interview strategies.

Applying for a job

CV and cover letter strategies

  • Someone from your support network may be able to help with writing a CV and or cover letter
  • Follow a template for CV and cover letter – there are many available online

Interview strategies

  • Role play the interview
  • Scripts – though try not to rote learn these as the questions you have identified may not be exactly the same as what interviewers ask. Try to phrase the question several different ways
  • Find examples of how you have used your skills in the past
  • Ask if you can take a support person with you if you feel more comfortable with that

Once you have the job

Other things to think about

  • Organise the necessary work equipment (e.g. uniform/lunchbox/suitable shoes)
  • Identify someone in the workplace who can offer help or you can talk to about issues (e.g. human resources)

Useful supports

  • Visual supports – calendars, diaries, to-do lists, flow charts
  • Plan your daily route
  • You may want to ask if you can record any conversations to help you (with permission)
  • Noise cancelling headphones can be useful – check if this is appropriate
  • You may request a quite office space (away from others, bright lights and other noises)
  • Working from home can sometimes be an option

Employment Supports      

For a useful list of organisations that provide employment support, go to the Directory on the NZDSN website and select Employment Support from the Services Provided drop-down box.

Autism Training for Employers

Altogether Autism provides free information for employers on autism. We also run a professional development course called Prism which can be tailor-made to your specific workplace. Some agencies may also provide supports and services for your employer.

This article first appeared in Altogether Autism Journal, Issue 2, 2016.


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