What It's Like Applying for a Job as a Person With Autism
Applying for a new job is a challenge for me for a number of different reasons. Even looking for a potential occupation can be difficult. It is not easy for me to go around town looking for places to work. For the most part, this limits my opportunities to what can be found on the internet. This is not a massive disadvantage, but I think being more able to apply for jobs in person would bring about more opportunities. I find the process of applying for a job creates anxiety in a number of different ways beyond having to talk to potential employers. Filling in application forms and putting together all of the relevant information creates a great deal of stress as well. This is probably the case for most people.
My main challenge occurs when having to submit an application in person. Despite it being difficult, I have done this on a few occasions. Most of my anxiety is created by the combination of an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people. It is also the sort of interaction that does not occur very often. It is fairly easy to force yourself to say hello to someone out of being polite. Asking for an application form or submitting one that has already been filled in has a greater level of complexity. Getting the words out initially is its own challenge.
The main problem I experience afterwards is the inevitable reconsidering of everything I said. For the rest of the day, I go over what happened over and over again, think about whether what I said was the right thing to say, then go through every potential mistake I made. I do this as a result of any kind of interaction, especially if it is important. This is also the main barrier to effective communication for me. The processing of interactions makes me unable to think about anything else for a while, and leaves me feeling tired afterwards.
I consider applying for jobs to be important, and as with a lot of things, it gives me a great sense of achievement when I submit an application. This is especially the case if I have made an inquiry in person. I am glad I can manage the difficulties I have. I know now how I am going to feel afterwards, and can therefore prepare. It is still draining though. As much as I have the will to do these things, applying more regularly would be much more difficult to manage. I still need to work on this going forward.
I always have to consider whether to disclose my autism diagnosis. This is something else that can cause me stress. In one sense I would like to be able to put it down on every form and make it very clear, but I am aware that some people are going to know more about it than others. Putting the diagnosis down on the form is going to mean more to some people than others. It is another area where I can end up feeling a bit out of place.
I would like for everyone to be able to accept and understand how I work, but I know this is not the case. When applying for a job in person, my autism is not going to be immediately apparent. It is difficult to know how to approach these things. I used to think it was better to not mention the diagnosis and hope people did not take any notice. I am now much happier to put it down on application forms. I like to think most employers would have at least some understanding. I also think it helps to explain some of the features of my behavior. In the past I have had people think I dislike them due to my slightly uneven approach to communication. There are times when I can be talkative, and other times when I could appear to be ignoring people. I think this is one of the key reasons why I would like for people to be given a greater understanding.
I still feel that for the most part the process of applying for jobs does not suit me. It is another thing to fight against. There are times where I wish the process could be adapted better, to make it a bit easier. This is not going to happen anytime soon. So it requires a strategy. I recognize finding a job is a difficulty for other people as well.
In terms of strategy to make things easier for other people, there is not a lot I can say, as everyone is going to have different needs. More than anything I hope that this provides an insight into my experiences, and reassures anyone who has been through anything similar.
Getty image by Grinvalds.