In my last article, I mentioned that for people with autism, getting a job isn’t very easy. I want to share my challenges with job hunting, and what I learned from it because I hope that soon, it’s easier for us to get a job.
Interviews were never easy for me. I remember that in my first few interviews, I was too quiet and took a long time to answer their questions. I feel that my job interview skills have improved somewhat from practicing, but there is still a long way to go.
Interview questions can be vague, and autistic people can misinterpret the questions. Some sample answers don’t seem to make sense. One example is, “What is your weakness?” It’s easy to give an answer that disqualifies you. When someone says he likes to finish his work ahead of time, it sounds more like a person’s strength.
An autistic person can be too honest in answering questions. One example is “how fast are you at working?” How do we know the answer when we don’t have enough experience? If they find out that I don’t work very fast, wouldn’t I be disqualified?
At an interview, I was asked about my education before. I wasn’t sure how to sell myself because my studies seem unrelated to the job. At BCIT, I completed a program called Food Technology. When you first hear the name, it sounds like a cooking class. Much of the program was about producing safe food products, testing food for safety, and testing food for quality. In a few of the courses, we did have some cooking experience.
One thing I learned was that you can frame your answers and still be honest at the same time. I think it would be helpful during job interviews.
I went to employment agencies for support. They help people write resumes and cover letters and answer interview questions. Some agencies even have you answer questionnaires to discover your interests.
Unfortunately, not enough interviewers are trained to detect the skills of autistic people. I think interviewers should test how well autistic people will perform on the job.
Friends and family friends can help autistic people with employment. Sometimes, they introduce me to summer jobs.
Some companies hire autistic people who can be talented in working with computers. Last summer, I was hired as a technical assistant and gained lots of experience with MS Excel.
I have yet to discover how to have a positive first impression. One article says that in an interview, a hiring decision is made in the first five minutes. Some studies suggest that first impressions are formed within a fraction of a second. That means we should be aware of how we present ourselves even before the interview.
Since autism has affected my ability to get a job, I’ve been getting help online and paying more attention to how I act, whether in public or during interviews.
I’ve even attempted to learn to smile in public places the whole time and get feedback from a pocket mirror. In my recent job hunts, I’ve been practicing smiling while handing out resumes to businesses such as retail stores and restaurants. It seemed to make the staff friendlier and happier.
My goal is to be perceived as approachable enough that the interviewer becomes interested and accepting. This should make it easier to get the job, and the autistic applicant less nervous.
In conclusion, I think people should be hired based on what they can offer the company rather than first impressions. After all, how accurate are first impressions alone?