Some job seekers are negotiating this completely on their own, others are getting help from parents, and others have the services of a job coach or other types of assistance from Vocational Rehabilitation. I will not describe Voc Rehab in detail, but if you are in the U.S. and might qualify for their assistance with job seeking, or job training, make sure to apply!
Finding a lead
I think that using online services to find job openings can make things go smoothly. It is really discouraging for any job seeker to keep going into different employers, asking if they have openings, and filling out applications “just in case” they have openings later. This is especially true for those who have not been previously employed, since there are many employers, especially in today’s economy, who may not hire someone without prior work experience. I’m not saying these approaches never pay off, but I suggest trying to get jobs first at places that are known to have openings. In the U.S. – register online with the state’s employment office. In Utah, it is the Department of Workforce Services. The job seeker may need help with the registration process. Once registered, actual job openings within certain geographic areas can be identified – they also list what the next step would be – such as going to the work site or filling out an online application. I also suggest Craig’s list or other online posting services (such as here is Utah there is KSL.com) – however for these listings, the young person will likely need support from a parent to weed out the likely vs. the unlikely options. I think a good plan is for the job seeker and a parent to look at options together on a regularly scheduled basis such as once day, or every 2-3 days, and then decide which ones to pursue further. Another lead to pursue is if parents or close friends know a potential employer personally. Help the young person keep a running list of where they applied and when they applied, so if the employer calls or emails the job seeker has a list he or she can refer to for help. It doesn’t go well to go in for an interview when you can’t remember what the job is!
Choosing the right job
In today’s job market, we may not always only be able to apply for jobs for which we are well suited. But that being said, some young autism spectrum folks may not want to apply for jobs that require a significant amount of customer service. They may feel more comfortable working “behind the scenes” such as stocking shelves, or cleaning, rather than working at a cash register or on the phone. They may be lucky enough to be able to identify a job opportunity that is associated with a special interest, such a job at the zoo for someone who loves animals, or a job at a video rental store (if they have not all gone out of business!)for someone who loves movies.
Getting an interview
Many employers now have applications available online. If so, filling in an online application and submitting it, or downloading one and filling it out at home is a great way to start. If the young person does not have neat handwriting, and the application can’t be filled out on line, then someone with better handwriting can assist with filling it out. Especially at first, it can be very helpful for someone to assist the job seeker with completing applications. Also, I suggest that each job seeker make themselves up a cheat sheet that they can use for filling our applications. Some young autism spectrum folks are not so great at knowing some of the details on the spot – so a parent could assist them with making up their cheat sheet. This is somewhat different from a resume – it would include those facts needed to complete a job application. Some of the items on the cheat sheet might be things we would assume that a NT teen or young adult would know (such as the zipcode) but the young person on the spectrum might not have memorized that detail.
What to put on the cheat sheet
Date of birth
Full address (don’t forget details that could be important such as apartment number or zipcode)
Social Security number (for those in U.S.)
Relevant phone numbers (home, cell)
Email address (make sure it is an appropriate one for business purposes, and not Iwillgladlyeatyourheart@_____).
Prior work or volunteer experience if any – include: official name of the employer or volunteer program, full address, full name of supervisor, phone number, dates when the job seeker was employed there or volunteered there.
Name of current or most recent school or educational program, full address, full name of any important contacts there, phone number, exact years/months the person attended there, degrees or certificates obtained, any special relevant awards or recognition received or special programs in which the person participated. Sometimes the job seeker would need to be reminded this would just be high school, college or other job training programs – we don’t need their details about elementary school or junior high!The only time junior high details would be relevant would be for 14 or 15 year olds applying for a first job.
Full name, email address, address and phone numbers for 2-3 references outside the family. This step can often be difficult for young people on the spectrum who may not have as many “contacts” as their neurotypical peers. They may need help identifying possible references – such as teachers, church members, neighbors, scout leaders, and so forth. They also may need support making sure that the potential references are contacted in advance for permission.
Stay tuned – I will continue with tips about interviewing and for starting and keeping a job.