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Meet Natalie Beanland!

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Hi! My name is Natalie Beanland. I have an Office Administration certificate from Douglas College where I graduated in 2004. I have worked a variety of jobs throughout the years since then. Although I am interested in clerical work, I often find it hard to find a role that utilizes my skills and strengths while allowing me to work around my challenges. However, writing is something I think I do really well. Therefore, I am currently exploring a career in freelance writing, mainly focussing on advocacy for individuals on the autism spectrum like myself.

Some of the greatest barriers to employment I have experienced include:

● Networking effectively

● Performing well in job interviews (answering questions, responding quickly, disclosing autism while “selling myself”, etc.) and getting through them

● Inadequate employment services (staff who are not well-equipped to assist people on the autism spectrum to find gainful employment)

● Negative attitudes on the parts of employers and employment service staff

● Employer expectations, along with the inability or lack of willingness to be accommodating

● Finding the right employment “fit” for my strengths/challenges, skills, and interests

In the past, certain challenges associated with autism limited my employment options and made it hard for me to make a definite career choice since the dilemma I was often faced with was “having some of it, but not all of it”. In other words, doing well in some areas and having difficulty with others. Therefore, I was encouraged to carefully consider (or reconsider) possible options and explore or find alternatives if/when necessary.

A couple of misconceptions about neuro-diverse (specifically, autistic) people I have noticed are that: they are naturally proficient with technology or math and that they have poor “people skills”. In addition to stereotypes or generalizations, I have found that it is quite common for people to make assumptions about the capabilities of individuals who are neuro-diverse (what they “can/can’t” do).

Top 3 pieces of advice I would give an employer seeking to hire and retain neuro-diverse talent:

● Recognize that everyone is different and that employers should be able to adjust according to the individual’s unique needs

● Communicate openly and clearly, avoiding ambiguity.

● Be patient, flexible, and supportive. Demonstrate integrity by promoting a truly positive and welcoming work environment.

Top 3 things I would recommend for neuro-diverse jobseekers when considering career choices:

● Self-awareness - Know and be honest with yourself (and others) about your unique strengths and challenges while seeking out a role that would also be a good fit for your interests.

● Consider signing up with a staffing agency for temporary roles to “try out” different types of jobs, possibly even leading to a permanent position. If one placement turns out not to be a good fit, there may be other options available (along with less likelihood of simply being “let go”).

● Connect with an employment counsellor who is familiar with and has a positive attitude towards neuro-diversities. The ideal counsellor would be supportive, willing to listen and focus on your strengths, while helping you figure out ways to work with/around your challenges. S/he would also consider your interests and be open to exploring different options (such as customized employment or “job-carving”). They should also be encouraging you to regard working together as a “partnership,” where you both do your part and collaborate to find a suitable work placement.

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Unknown member
Jul 31, 2022

Fantastic article. All potential employers/ human resource department personnel should should read this and incorporate your advice into their "how to recognize and recruit the best employees" handbook. Kudos to you Natalie for using your great writing skills and vast experience for shedding a brighter light on the misconceptions and need for education of those who are seeking out long term, dedicated employees.

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