Updated: Jun 9
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.