Skip to main content
WIN A CAR!Buy Tickets

Job search strategies for autistic adults

May 23rd, 2024

Aly Laube

For Autistic adults

Starting a new job can be daunting for anyone, but for autistic adults, the uncertainty of workplace routines, interactions, and accommodations can amplify the challenges. This uncertainty often makes the job application process intimidating, raising questions about what to look for in a workplace that supports neurodiversity.  

In this article, we aim to provide a comprehensive guide for autistic adults, offering strategies to navigate the job market successfully while advocating for your needs and leveraging your strengths.  

Whether you’re considering freelancing, or exploring entrepreneurship, or seeking full-time employment, our goal is to empower you with practical insights to make informed decisions about your chosen career path. 

Create a personalized job search plan 

Start by setting aside time and energy to consider your needs and preferences. This is also an ideal time to start thinking about what kind of employer you want to work for.  

What does an ideal work situation look like for you? What do you anticipate you will struggle with the most during the application and interview process, and how can you get support on that journey? Do you want a job that allows you to engage with a special interest 

Think about what you want, plan to achieve it, and measure your success however feels best. As you go, identify what did and didn’t work and consider logging your findings so you can remember it and experiment differently next time. 

When sending applications, consider tracking your progress using a spreadsheet or app and setting realistic goals for the number of applications you want to make every week, month, or year. This can help you manage your expectations, keep important information, and meet deadlines during your job search. 

A "help wanted" sign on a window. (Pexels/Tim Mossholder)
A “help wanted” sign on a window. (Pexels/Tim Mossholder)

Apply to accessible employers 

Apply to businesses committed to creating accessible employment opportunities, such as those listed through Accessible Employers and Ready, Willing, and Able. Some companies, like Microsoft, have even implemented innovative approaches like using Minecraft during the interview process as part of its Neurodiversity Hiring Program. 

Look for organizations that promote diversity, inclusion, and neurodiversity, and check websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to learn about the culture and employee experiences. The more you know, the more likely you can go into an interview feeling prepared. 

Brush up on your skills/knowledge 

If you have the time and energy for it, participating in free professional development opportunities designed for disabled people can help you level up your resume and cover letter and go to work with more confidence.  

There’s employment readiness training that supports autistic people and disabled folks through providers like Employment Works. Or try SkillingUp which empowers disabled Canadians by expanding their technology skills and unlocking opportunities in tech-enabled careers through free online learning. Building a diverse skill set can open up more job opportunities and increase confidence. 

Practice answering common interview questions so you’re less likely to be caught off guard during an interview. You can also start thinking about what you’d like to wear that could be both professional and comfortable. 

Looking for more general help? Neil Squire has many programs on topics ranging from creative employment to computer training. Vocational rehabilitation services offered through government agencies or nonprofits can also provide job coaching, skills assessment, and support in finding jobs. 

Organizations like Community Futures have tools like a business planning template, startup checklist, loan calculator, and more, and Rise supports people with mental health issues in realizing their business ideas. Not sure where you stand on starting a business? Assess your entrepreneurial potential. 

Share training with uneducated employers 

The more employers train their staff in how to provide neuroaffirming care to people with disabilities, the more they’ll be able to collaborate in a meaningful way. Focus Disability Network and Accessible Employers are two groups offering this kind of service. This autism-specific resource is particularly relevant to AutismBC’s community. 

AutismBC has also created tips for employers who want to be more accessible to autistic adults, and we encourage you to share our resources widely. 

If you’re noticing certain professional teams could benefit from learning more about accessibility, feel free to send them a resource package. This is something you’d be doing with intent to help and create a safer environment for all people in the workplace, but there’s never any pressure to do so, especially if you feel unsafe bringing it up.  

Get assistance with income support 

If you’re only able to work part-time or freelance hours and you’re designated a Person with a Disability (PWD), there are people who can assist you to get income support and other benefits. That way, even if you’re unable to work at all, you have a security net to cover necessities. Disability Allowance BC does this as well as helping with tax issues. 

Two people talking over coffee and laptops. (Cliff Booth/Pexels)
Two people talking over coffee and laptops. (Cliff Booth/Pexels)

Ask for accommodations  

Autistic people deserve to have their workplace accommodations respected. Whatever you need to feel comfortable, write it down or ask someone to help you communicate with your managers. If they’re trained in providing neuroaffirming care, they should do everything possible to accommodate you. However, that’s not always the case. Whether you share your diagnosis is up to you.  

That said, using adaptive tools at work like augmented and alternative communication devices can make the process easier. If you want to learn more about using assistive technology, consider attending a webinar by Neil Squire. They occur every Wednesday afternoon. 

Exploring alternative job formats such as freelancing, part-time work, and contract positions can offer more freedom and autonomy. If you struggle to manage your workload in a traditional environment, working remotely from home or on flexible hours can be quieter and more controlled. 

Clearly communicating your needs and strengths can help employers understand how to best support you. While it can be challenging, self-advocacy in the workplace can also lead to you feeling safer and more comfortable at work.  

Seek mentorship and community 

Networking doesn’t come naturally to many autistic adults, but research has proven we’re often better at communicating with each other than with non-autistic folks. If you look for neurodivergent mentors who have found professional success, they may be able to provide valuable insights, connections, and support.  

Online communities like our Getting Together on the Spectrum, whose members meet on Zoom weekly and message through Discord regularly, can enrich your life and help you learn from people with similar experiences. 

Prioritize self-care 

Workplaces can cause sensory overload and stressful social interactions, but everyone has different coping strategies that work for them. Make time to determine which sensory regulation tools, self-care strategies, and accessibility aids soothe you when you’re dysregulated. Anticipate that there will be times when you’ll need to care for yourself at work to continue to be productive and communicate that to your coworkers and broader support system if you feel comfortable doing so. 

While there may be barriers along the way, if you’re given an equitable opportunity to thrive, your unique perspective and talents can contribute positively to any workplace. Research has shown that it’s discrimination, not autism, that holds autistic people back from professional success. You deserve to feel respected and accommodated in all areas of your life, including work. 

By following these strategies and embracing your strengths, you’ll increase your chances of finding fulfilling opportunities that align with your goals and aspirations.  

Skip to content