There are two basic problems that impede autistics who are able to work from obtaining a job, especially one that suits their skills. The first impediment is that employers, i.e. the managers and human resource professionals whose job it is to hire appropriate personnel, are not adequately (or sometimes at all) prepared to assess the employability of an individual with autism. This issue I intend to address as part of my long-term career as a business writer. Other than continuing with advocacy efforts, there’s little the average concerned individual can do to change this situation.
The second impediment is that potential employees are rarely trained to market themselves effectively. This is true for most workers or potential workers. This is, perhaps, especially true for potential workers with autism. The latter is an issue you can address directly, which I can assist with indirectly. And that is the purpose of this post.
What does it mean to “market yourself?”
Simply put, from the point of view of the employer, you are a resource—or a potential resource. Businesses have needs they must fill. Some of these needs are filled by obtaining capital—they turn to investors or lenders to fill this need. Some of the needs are filled by obtaining physical assets—they use funds to buy or lease buildings, equipment, and supplies to fill this need. Some of these needs are filled by obtaining labor—and that’s where you and all the other potential workers come in.
Your task is to convince the employer that you can satisfy their need effectively. Thus, you must market yourself!
Where do you start?
The first thing you need to do is to honestly assess two things:
1) What do you have to offer? In other words, what employer needs can you satisfy?
For example, I am a skilled writer. I have evidence that backs this up in the form of published work and unbiased praise. (This is, of course, not to suggest that there isn’t plenty of room for improvement.) I’m also knowledgeable about business, seeing that I’ve nearly completed my baccalaureate in Business Management with a concentration in Business Administration. My career path is based on these two attributes.
2) What do you require in return for your services? Consider the wages and benefits you demand, of course. But you must also consider the working conditions and other factors as well.
For example, I will not work for an employer who demands I compromise my ethics. I prefer not to work in noisy conditions.
The next thing you need to do is to look at the jobs available in your area and ask yourself:
1) Of these jobs, what category of jobs fits my skills and demands?
2) How are these positions filled?
This step is very important, but also one that is readily skipped over. There are some jobs that are often filled by head-hunters. These are usually professional positions for which the pool of candidates is spread over the entire country or the world. There are other jobs that are filled through ads in papers, online, or at job centers. There are other jobs that are filled through network connections. These jobs are often never advertised. There are jobs that are only advertised with a sign on the proprietor’s door.
Knowing what jobs you’re qualified for and how those positions are filled is an essential component in knowing how to market yourself for the jobs you can get.
How do I market myself?
This step depends a great deal on the steps above.
What if the position I want is filled using head-hunters?
Then, you need to make sure head-hunters have access to your professional portfolio. If you don’t know what that means, then you need the assistance of a professional resume writer. That is beyond the purview of this post.
What if the position I want is filled through a resume/interview/testing combination?
First, do some research about the company. If all you have is their ad, then use that. Ask yourself:
- What are they looking for?
- Am I really qualified?
- How can I communicate that I’m qualified?
The answers to these questions make up your resume. Let’s assume you have a generic resume that has your qualifications, your employment history, and your education on it.
Don’t send that!!!
What you need is to tailor your resume to their needs. Don’t start with an objective; instead, start with a marketing statement. Then, go into your strongest section, which will hopefully be your employment history, but may also be volunteer work. Don’t write out your responsibilities; instead, write out your accomplishments. Don’t tell them what you were assigned to do; tell them what you did do. Not sure how to do that? Consider talking to a professional resume writer or spending some time with resume writing books. Move on from there. Consider this your sell sheet—you are the “product” and you want to describe yourself in such a way that your “customer” knows that you are exactly what he or she needs.
If done right, the resume (and cover letter) will get you the interview. Use the resume to structure your interview. Whenever possible, focus on your accomplishments and your selling points. Practice. Rehearse. Prepare.
The testing would be scheduled around the time of your interview. Do the best you can. Be well rested. Be prepared. Relax.
What if the position I want is filled through network connections?
Then, you need to do the resume stuff, but you also need to talk with people. Let people who might be in a position to help know that you’re looking for work. Ask around. These jobs won’t be advertised, but that doesn’t mean they’re not available.
What if the position I want is filled through an application/interview combination?
Not all jobs require resumes. Some employers won’t even look at them. They want you to fill out their application and that’s all they are really willing to consider.
For these jobs, the resume and portfolio are out. However, you still need to be able to market yourself. You still need to know what need they are trying to fill and how you can satisfy this need.
For example, if you’re applying for a job as a house painter, you might want to talk about your “head for heights” and your attention to detail. You want to give examples of the quality painting jobs you’ve done in the past (if you have any) and how you’re reliable (assuming you are, if not—don’t bring it up). Think about what they need and want, and tell them how you satisfy.
This is just a start. If you have questions, feel free to e-mail me. If there’s enough interest, I can go into more detail in subsequent posts.
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