By J Andrews, Graduate, University of Kings College London
1. Find friendly employers
No employer can discriminate against you for having Asperger’s, but some are extra-good at understanding that candidates with Asperger’s may have slightly different needs from other applicants, and the unique skills and work profile people with Asperger’s have – such as very high attention to detail, greater loyalty to employers and less sick days taken. EY (with an Asperger’s network), Reed Smith (who focus heavily on disability at graduate recruitment level) and Goldman Sachs are particularly keen to hear from you, and you can find more ‘Asperger’s confident’ employers via MyPlus Students’ Club.
2. Be cool
For some graduates with Asperger’s, it can feel tempting to rush into applying for as many jobs as possible, but it’s vital you plan ahead first. Making a huge number of applications won’t help if you haven’t taken your time with each. Instead, you should consider which areas you’d like to work in, research the area, and pick out a decent number – between five and ten – jobs to apply for initially. This way you aren’t relying on one application but also have the time to fill each out properly. Once you’ve sent those out, keep applying for more while you wait to hear back.
3. Play to your strengths
Everybody on the autism spectrum is different, so I would stop short of prescribing careers for people with Asperger’s. However, there are certain jobs that are likely to make better use of the skills Asperger’s can bring. Since people with Asperger’s are usually good at spotting patterns, jobs which require a mastery of systems (e.g. IT, librarianship) are a good bet, while jobs that require frequent social interaction (such as front-of-house, HR, or client-facing positions) could possibly be less suitable.
4. Declare Asperger’s as early as possible
As with all disabilities, it’s best to be open as early as possible – this allows you to request adjustments as early as possible into the process. It also makes you come across as someone who is self-aware and confident enough to share this information. You can be open later on in the process however it is more likely that you will be rejected because you haven’t been able to demonstrate your (very real) skills without adjustments.
5. Answer the question
When filling out application forms, it’s vital that you pay close attention to what you are being asked, and also try to ‘read between the lines’ (people with Asperger’s can view things literally, without considering the context). Remember, these questions exist for you to demonstrate key competencies for the job. A beautifully written answer that fails to demonstrate these, and instead goes off on a tangent about interesting but irrelevant things, won’t help. When you read a question, ask yourself “Why are they asking me this?” Always double check that your answer addresses that.
6. Request adjustments
If you need adjustments to perform to your best ability, such as asking for interview questions in advance so you can prepare for them, ask for them as early in the process as possible. Adjustments such as asking for amendments to the online tests, asking for interview questions in advance, or asking interviewers to spell out exactly what they’re looking for in an answer, have been offered before and are the only way you will really demonstrate your strengths.
7. Know how to talk about Asperger’s in an interview
Like any other disability, there are good and bad ways to bring up Asperger’s in an interview. You don’t necessarily have to mention it, of course, but then you won’t be able to address concerns the interviewer might have. If you can, speak about how living with Asperger’s has caused you to develop coping strategies others won’t have picked up, such as how to read body language and the intentions of others – this will demonstrate a level of determination and perseverance. Don’t simply bring it up and list negative qualities, or offer no explanation at all, since this is irrelevant to the selection criteria you’re being assessed against. If nothing has been said about Asperger’s by the end of the interview, consider asking if they have any potential concerns about your ability to do the job as a closing question – you can then answer these concerns.
8. Don’t forget the paperwork
Had a job offer? That’s great – but remember your work doesn’t stop there. Now you need to send off confirmation details within the deadline set. You should also get in touch with any workplace adjustments if you haven’t already; it’s better to get these out in the open now, rather than wait until you start the job.
9. Try to take rejection less personally
Every job hunter experiences knockbacks – and it’s always disappointing. It’s very unlikely you’ll get the first job you apply for, so it’s also important to learn how to deal with this. People with Asperger’s can be perfectionists, who are often distressed by rejections since they take any knock backs very personally. The key is to make the most of the situation. If you’re unsuccessful, ensure that you ask for feedback so you know the areas to work on in future interviews. This will also help to think of feedback less personally. See it as an evaluation of skills you can improve, rather than a personal attack on you as an individual.
10. Always ask for feedback
It is vital for all job seekers to obtain feedback – but it is even more important when you have Asperger’s as it can be very hard to judge how you are coming across to others. When getting in touch with an employer, remember to be polite and respectful, even if you are upset about the result (it will not help your case to attack anyone or come across as hostile). It is also important (although easier said than done) to focus your energy on listening to and applying the feedback to yourself, not arguing with it since this ultimately won’t help you. Be sure to thank the person at the end of the call for taking the time to give feedback, so you leave them with a good impression should your paths cross again.