I have made it my personal mission to read every (relevant) book on Autism Spectrum Disorder in my local library’s catalogue, especially as I have plans to write my own biography on my personal triumphs and downfalls as an autistic woman. Lucky for me, I came across Getting a Life With Asperger’s, which has definitely had a huge impact on my life, as you are (probably) reading this blog post.
In the theme of learning to adult ─ adult being used as a verb in this context ─ while being what I like to call “autistic as heck,” getting a job is the most important part of one’s adulthood.
Tragically, because High School ─ at least with my four year sentence ─ was entirely college-oriented, there was absolutely no help in the “getting a job” department. Because apparently selling your soul to a four year institution is the only way one can find success in this world.
Soapbox rant aside, it is vital that we have someone to help guide us through this crazy process called job searching. While I personally never wanted anyone to hold my hand and guide me through each tiny step of the experience, I did want someone to give me a few basic steps.
Fortunately for me, I have a very supportive mother. Let’s just call her Mama. Mama made sure that I always look my best, spoke calmly, and thought about my answers when I approached each and every interview I told her about. I can also confirm through her advice (and decades of experience from living on this planet) that she literally said exactly what was in Getting A Life With Asperger’s.
So, to use the points that Jesse A. Saperstein used in the aforementioned novel, here is how my personal experience went down for my latest interview that somehow managed to get me a job at Goodwill.
Show up early. Not on time, but early.
Showing up EARLY completely allowed me to let my potential employers know that I was here and ready for my interview. I believe I showed up about 45 minutes prior to the time of the first interview.
It felt relaxing not to have to rush in late, plus the managers thought it was respectful of me when I showed up early and ready to go. (To clarify, I had an initial interview with the assistant manager, followed by a second interview with the district manager.)
Practice proper grooming and hygiene.
To add to this, I want to say dress appropriately. While you don’t have to dress up looking like a penguin in a three-piece suit and $100 oxfords, I would say that as a rule, “being well-dressed is a form of respect.”
A safe bet will always be a nice shirt and some slacks, but for the Goodwill job, I have gotten away with wearing a more creative outfit ─ pink skinny jeans with a floral print top and black blazer. As a rule, you want to dress to impress. Because your boss will truly notice if you come in looking like you’re ready to work on the job right then and there, verses looking like something the cat dragged in.
Do not make money the focus of the interview.
I walked into the job knowing I was going to be paid minimum wage. When they asked me if minimum wage was an appropriate salary, I immediately said, “yes.” Eleven-fifty an hour isn’t that much to some, but to me, it’s a paycheck. And to me, if I want a more appropriate salary, I’ll work my way up and earn that salary that I think I deserve. (I’ll say this again at some point, but the boss is always right.)
Analyze your performance and ask for feedback after repeated failures.
After every interview, it’s so important to highlight what you felt went well ─ and what you would like to change in the future. Never beat yourself up for admitting you made a mistake or two. How else are you supposed to learn?
Talking out what happened and what you felt might have gone wrong (or definitely did go wrong) with a loving, trusted adult (your Mama figure in your life) can be helpful. Once again, if they’re loving and empathetic, they shouldn’t be any less than respectful of you and your honest mistakes ─ especially because they know you’re autistic.
The best thing I said in my Goodwill interview was my answer to the question, “What would you do if you saw a Goodwill employee yelling at a customer?”
I gave the question some time to marinate ─ which is what I suggest you do with all your questions. Your interviewer shouldn’t mind you taking the time to create thoughtful responses; it shows maturity. I replied back to the interviewer and said,
“I personally would check in with the person before checking in with the boss. You want to tread very carefully and don’t want to come off as a tattletale. You don’t know what the situation is, but you also want to be sure employees are following company policy. I would explain my perspective to the manager, but still keep in mind the employee’s perspective.”
Decide whether to disclose that you’re autistic.
I felt that because of the nature and policies of Goodwill ─ to find disabled people jobs ─ it would be more than okay for me to disclose that I am autistic. They understand that it’s not my disability, but a hurdle I have to overcome. I also explained to the assistant manager that I don’t want to let my autism be my hurdle but a helper.
I then explained to him that the only accommodations that I would need are having instructions written out (so I wouldn’t forget them) and having a fairly structured schedule (because autistic people thrive with balance and a schedule).
Be confident, but not arrogant.
Confidence during the Goodwill interviews personally meant holding my head high, keeping my posture in check, and constantly having a soft smile on my face.
Enthusiasm was also key ─ I wanted to prove that I had the skills and knowledge necessary to be a cashier worthy of representing the Goodwill company. (Wanting to be a proper representative is quite literal, as the cashiers are the first people you see when you walk in.)
You don’t want to act like this job is beneath you ─ you’ll never get anywhere in life with that attitude. But at the same time, being timid or unsure makes you feel like you won’t be able to help a potential customer in the future ─ which is also off-putting to the manager.
Use humor only sparingly, and with extreme caution.
My example of humor that I used is as follows: “In spite of popular opinion, working at a doggy daycare isn’t just petting cute puppies and playing with the dogs all day. Sometimes it’s a matter of separating two massive, hundred-pound dogs from biting each other and making you lose your job.”
Waiting (truly is) the hardest part.
From my tiny job experiences thus far, this is what I have experienced with the process of being called in for a job interview:
- Go into the store, or the company website, and inquire about whether or not they are hiring.
- If they are hiring, ask them if they have an application. Fill it out and return it. (Or fill it out online and go to the store to follow up about the online application.
- Go back to the store. Ask to talk to a manager, and explain that you recently put in an application, or are there to return a physical copy of the application.
- Talk with the manager. See what they have to say. Usually they will either set up an interview appointment or want to inquire about your resume. Always make sure you have a physical copy of your resume when you return to talk to a manager. They’ll be able to see that you’re a worthy candidate right then and there.
- IF YOU GET AN INTERVIEW, make sure you show up at LEAST 30 minutes early. Once again: don’t show up on time, but show up EARLY.
- Try to review some basic interview questions. Google is your friend for this part. For me, my Mama was also my friend, as she gave me advice for how to correctly give answers for a customer service position. (Mama has spent much of her career in an office environment, spending much of her time working directly with the public.)
- Go into the interview feeling confident ─ not cocky.
Yes, finding a job is about as desirable as having to sit through a ten-hour plane ride with a screaming baby on board. But it doesn’t have to be 100% tedious. What made me remember why I wanted to go job hunting in the first place is the reward; a reward of having my own job, making my own money, and slowly becoming independent.
Trust me, the feeling I feel right now as a newly-hired employee of Goodwill is priceless. I will have a new, steady schedule, I’ll have my own money, and quite frankly, being a boss babe is truly inspiring.
Your job is out there, trust me. While I might not be working at my dream job (the library), I am working toward a company I love, I have passion towards, and that makes up a solid chunk of my wardrobe.
Best of luck ─ you’ve got this! (Trust me, if the queen of anxiety can tackle this giant, so can you!)