Neurodiversity refers to natural neurological variations such as Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum, Tourettes Syndrome, and others. Neurodiverse individuals are thought to be “wired differently,” and neurodiversity is a useful framework for the associated differences in learning, thought, and cognition. Neurodiverse job seekers often bring unique skill sets to the job, but may find they can use additional assistance navigating the organizational and social communication tasks needed for the job search.
Here are 5 tips for Neurodiverse job seekers:
#1 - Show and tell
The interview process can feel daunting to any job seeker, and it can feel especially difficult if verbal communication is challenging for you. Make sure you have some samples of your work available during your interview, including previous research papers you wrote, descriptions of projects you completed, letters of recommendation, or copies of your academic transcript or certificates you have earned. Having examples of your work will help you to demonstrate your accomplishments, explain your skills in greater detail, and generate conversation with your interviewer!
#2 - Read between the lines
It can be difficult to know what an employer is looking for by reading their job description. Remember that the job description represents the employer’s “dream candidate”- they will likely interview and eventually hire individuals that don’t match their description perfectly. Review which skills are listed first in the job description and repeated throughout; those represent key qualifications. Don’t ignore postings that request “Good communication skills” or “team player” even if it feels like these phrases aren't good descriptions of you. Applying and interviewing for a position allows you the opportunity to find out more about exactly which skill sets are utilized in the position.
#3 - Practice makes perfect
While preparing for an interview, you’ll want to research the company, their key products and services, and prepare answers to behavioral-based interview questions using the STAR format. Don’t forget to practice interpersonal skills: a strong handshake, ready smile, and some brief small talk will make a strong first impression on your interviewer. Practice interviewing with someone you trust, and ask for feedback on your non-verbal communication, vocal tone and volume, and ability to demonstrate enthusiasm.
#4 - Find what works, and do more. Find what doesn’t work, and do less
Save yourself stress and time by thinking critically about which work environments will suit you. For many job seekers, the right work environment is just as important as the work tasks involved in a position when it comes to finding the right “fit.” In addition to skills used, investigate the anticipated commute and work hours, the pace of work, the corporate culture, and the nature and amount of social interaction. Corporate environments, start-ups, non-profits, public sector positions, and small businesses will all have different cultures: reflect on what works best for you before you launch your job search.
#5 - Manage anxiety
A certain amount of stress and anxiety is to be expected while job searching. As part of your search process you’ll be interacting with people you don’t know, anticipating rejection, practicing new skills for the first time, and dealing with a great deal of ambiguity – and all of this can exacerbate your anxiety. Remember that stress is your body’s natural reaction to help prepare you for an important task. Breaking large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks can often help, as can practicing with people you trust, and soliciting and incorporating feedback.