Cold calling is: calling up a person or business and informing them that you are interested in employment. This can sound intimidating, but it can be very effective for opening the doors to the hidden job market.
Cold calling allows you to possibly learn about a job that is not yet posted. For individuals with Aspergers/HFA it could seem very daunting to call a stranger on the phone and ask for a job. Some individuals never will be comfortable with this part of the job search, and that is okay. Other individuals love the initial autonomy of it.
For individuals with Aspergers/HFA here are some tips we utilize to help reduce fears when cold calling:
I have often been asked: What is the hardest part of your job? The majority of the time the answer is discovering what skills my clients have to offer to an employer. As an employment specialist I recognize that prospective employers are talking about hard skills.
So, what are hard skills?
Hard skills are teachable abilities or skill sets that can be quantified.
For example: being able to type so many words per minutes, lifting a certain amount of weight, speaking more than one language, and being able to program computers. Hard skills work in conjunction with the soft skills we briefly addressed in previous posts, and will continue to address through this series.
Throughout my experience, something I have become aware of is: For individuals applying for jobs without a lot of past experience, these hard skills are learned through study, training and practice.
Hard skills can be taught and built upon.
So, where do you go when you have minimal experience, but want to work on your hard skills?
As neurotypicals, disappointments come early in life. We learn quickly that all we desire is not all that is intended for us. We learn, through a trail of unrealized dreams, to be content with our lot or find another pathway toward our goal(s).
Having a child on the autism spectrum redefines the above lesson. Managing your ASD child’s crushing blow of disappointment comes with a different manual altogether. When it comes to disappointment through deceivers and manipulators…those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder are susceptible to exploitation. ASD is, at its core, a disorder of social functioning and cognition. Just saying old phrases like, “That’s life” or “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “That’s how the ball bounces” makes no sense to them and sets them off into further confusion and strife. Their brain is wired differently so their expectations and heightened sense of right and wrong may bring on pain when the expected turns unexpected. Knowing how to help them is first to understand that your autistic child is wired differently and being lied to will take more than standard sayings to overcome. In other words, like everything else in parenting a child on the autism spectrum, it may take a well thought out talk but you can relieve your child’s mind….and yours by a few steps.
Their brain is wired differently so their expectations and heightened sense of right and wrong may bring on pain when the expected turns unexpected.
Manage their Expectations
In looking back on raising a son on the autism spectrum, this was and still is an everyday activity. Managing their expectations takes time, communication and preparation. My part as a parent has waned a bit as our son ages, as I am beginning to see how he attempts to prepare himself for daily potential challenges. This preparation begins with a comforting knowledge of facts. Let me give an simplified example but one that you can plug most any upcoming event into. Remember, this is just about managing the small unknown(s). We will get into the larger scenarios later.
Here is the situation: Church is going to be extra crowded on Sunday because it’s Easter Sunday. We then think of the challenging ramifications that overcrowding may bring and discuss solutions.
The Challenges Discussed:
We may not be able to sit in the same pew/area we usually do
There may be louder sounds with more children in the service
It may take us longer to go eat lunch as crowds are larger during Easter Sunday at restaurants
So we go over the potential challenges and discuss the following choices to avoid disappointment, expectations or meltdowns:
The Solutions Discussed:
Let’s leave extra early to get our usual seating -or- would we take the opportunity to sit elsewhere and see what that is like?
With the onset of more crying babies, would you want to use noise-cancelling headsets? Go to foyer if it gets too loud? Other suggestions?
Since it may take longer to get to a restaurant can you set in your mind it might take 30 minutes longer than usual to eat lunch? Would you rather forego crowded Easter Sunday restaurant crowds and eat at home?
The challenge/solution exercise helps to prepare your child for what disappointments might be just ahead. The less amount of surprises the better for a factual mind. This activity prepared our son throughout his young life and now we are starting to see him work through this for himself as an adult. This practice certainly helps prepare for the unexpected but what happens when they are promised something and it’s never delivered. Or a blatant lie is told to them and they keep trusting the source will do as they say but you realize they never will? In other words, how to you explain to the pure believer that the world is corrupt and sometimes people are going to lie to you. Most deal with this topic when their children are very young, but to the parent of a child with Autism it’s ongoing. You know they take everything literally and hidden meaning or ulterior motives is a concept most difficult to grasp. For the autistic brain it’s confusing, painful and sometimes paralyzing.
If you were given the chance to work at a job you were interested in for a few hours to assess your skills and abilities, and to decide if you are comfortable and really enjoy it before starting the application process would you do it?
This is called a work assessment, and it is imperative to future success. Vocational rehabilitation offices offer these kinds of important services for individuals with Asperger’s. A work assessment also work in tandem with the inventory assessments.
Work assessments are very beneficial. They allow an individual to work in a simulated or actual work environment for a few hours to decide if it fits the negotiable and non-negotiable parts of their inventory assessment. It allows an opportunity to observe the individual’s interaction with others, hard and soft skills, physical capabilities.
When I was diagnosed with Aspergers, my parents enrolled me in 48 hours a week of social skills and coping mechanism training. That was 10 years ago. These are 23 friendly suggestions I still find to be true and carry with me today.
My 23 Truths
Never follow advice that you intend to carry out by hurting another living being.
Find what you love and pursue it even if it means working twice as hard in other areas of your life in order to do so. It can be one thing or it can be many. Obsessions and interests can lead to successful careers. Additionally, if you’re interested in a task you’ll do better at it.
Following blind happiness is a better decision than choosing certain unhappiness, as long as you apply appropriate practical skills and common sense (which can be learned in a Google search). No matter where you are and what situation you may be in, this isn’t your parent’s, boss, or teacher’s life, it’s your own. With the accumulation of knowledge and self discovery you can make choices that will shape the life you want. If you want to be a scientist, do what you need to in order to make that happen. That path is not exactly linear, you might have to do things differently than others, but that doesn’t make it bad or wrong to pursue. I had an incredible amount of difficulty socially when I started college in Charleston, SC. It was the weirdest feeling because I had wonderful friends there as well as great education and academic support. It never made sense why I was unhappy there but the moment I moved up to Boston 2 years ago, the unhappiness slipped away. Against the advice of my family, I drove to Boston, found an apartment, and an internship in one weekend, and met the love of my life. This move was all based on the feeling that Boston was the place I needed to be. I fit in well because I could talk to people about quantum physics and current issues, and have people eagerly teach me more than I could possibly understand, rather than think I’m weird.
If one way doesn’t work, don’t linger on the frustration of a broken road. Find a better way.
Study with people who are smarter than you and sit next to the nicest person in class.
A great idea implemented in an effective way will always trump prestige and superficial qualities that seem out of reach for those on the spectrum. Your mind is an asset, and if you use it properly without shame or pride, you can change the world.
The best way to figure out whether someone is manipulating you or helping you is to ask yourself: Do they want something from me? People can only manipulate you if you have something they want. Special educators sometimes neglect the needs of high-functioning autism in order to retain disability funds.
Finding who you are is a continuous journey, not a specific event that happens. It frustrates me how adolescence is deemed a time of searching for identity, because it implies that becoming an adult means you know every aspect of who you are. That’s a bunch of Bologna. I’ve met people of all ages who vary in behavioral patterns and world views. Accept, understand, and utilize your strengths as they are at this moment, and use a growth mindset to improve yourself.
The easiest way to interact with someone who thinks and feel differently then you do is to ask them questions.
In a debate, argument, or conflict, always validate the opposing persons view before stating your own view.
When in doubt, Google. When googling, question the reliability and truth of everything. Look at the people who make claims, and ask yourself if they have a sufficient amount of knowledge to make such a claim. The more proactive you are in your education, the less you have to rely on others for answers. You can find all laws, licenses, addresses, and criminal records within a simple click. This is something you should do in regards to everyone involved in providing accommodations for you such as counselors, doctors, and tutors.
Social media is not a substitute for in person interaction. Social skills like table manners or looking someone in the eye when you shake their hand are invaluable.
Don’t take advice from hypocrites. For example, don’t take relationship and marriage advice from someone whose had 3 marriages end in divorce.
Vaccines do not cause autism. This study was published by a scientist who was jaded by his funding sources, and falsified his data in order to get published. The journal that published his research revoked the paper, and denounced its validity after learning the truth of his research methods.
Firm and non-flexible opinions stunt intellectual growth and stifle your own truth. Research all sides of one issue before deciding for yourself.
Make choices that bring you closer to your goals, not based simply on what you feel. Mastering this habit will help you overcome lethargy, anhedonia, and other symptoms of depression and social anxiety associated with Aspergers.
People are just people. No matter what it may seem, the most seemingly superficial or flawless of individuals have imperfections and insecurities. The success of a person is determined by how they deal with their imperfections and insecurities, not the existence of them. Everyone has their weaknesses, some people are just better at hiding it than others.
The energy you put in will be returned to you. Say positive things to yourself and surround yourself with positive people even if you don’t feel it, because it will make your surroundings positive and supportive to who you are. You might have to boot out some psycho family members or close friends if they are creating more negative emotions than positive, but trust me it’s worth it. Be brave, set those boundaries so you and others can be inspired to improve.
The easiest way to affect an individual’s first impression of you is with make up, hair, clothes,and body posture. Changing facial expression, tone, and word choice take a lot more work. Hair and makeup never came naturally to me and I didn’t start learning how to use them until I went to college. Pinterest has lots of simple tutorials. Because of sensory issues, I only wear makeup for special events.
People are not divided into two categories of “weird” and “normal”. Everyone exists on a spectrum.
Go out of your way to figure out what aspects of yourself you can improve on, and which ones you can’t. Love every part of yourself either way.
There is never any need to be mean. Being nice does not equate to being a pushover and you can always present constructive criticism in a respectful manner.
Keep firm boundaries in the work place. Your personal and private life are better left separate. If you don’t believe me, try bringing up your aunt’s kidney stone as a casual conversation and tell me how it goes.
I send all my love and support to all of you reading this post. -Alix
Never forget to pump a handshake three times- not one, and definitely not five.Seen from an autistic perspective, the social, shared, and flexible attributes of the modern shared office can be intimidating. As work and life spill into each other, they clash with coping mechanisms for autism spectrum disorder, in which high-level functioning depends on adherence to routine, scripts, and schedules. Despite this challenge, autistic professionals can have precious attributes, and demand better understanding of the relationship between the workplace and this complicated disorder.
you’ve met one person with Asperger’s syndrome, then you’ve met one person with
Asperger’s syndrome.” In the same circles where this quote is famous, its
author is a bit of a celebrity. Dr. Stephen
Shore is a professor
of Special Education at Adelphi
University who has
devoted his life to teaching and researching autism. He also has Asperger’s
syndrome, a high-functioning subtype of autism spectrum disorder characterized
by obsessive interest and poor social skills. “I
wouldn’t use the phrase ‘Asperger’s sufferer,’ because some of us
enjoy the way our mind works.”
symptom affects how people behave, socialize, and communicate, and its
acceptance in the workplace is “uneven.” Some employers avoid the issue, others
embrace it, and others are seeking out people with ASD because some of their traits make good
business sense. While genius is somewhat rare, a common affinity for routines can
translate well to the work force. “They can be efficient, and have very low
absentee rates.” TV and movies have introduced more savants whose quirky idiosyncrasies suggest autism, but Dr. Shore knows the
reality is often different. “It’s all well and good that organizations are
seeking IT people, but it’s a low percentage. We’re not all geeks with
superpowers in IT.”
A Guide to Understanding High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome
Training employers to better understand those with Autism Spectrum Disorders is always a favorite workshop to me. It’s like helping someone find a hidden treasure they otherwise would have missed or overlooked without navigating via a map. This could be said of parenting workshops however, without the parental bond, it’s simply explaining to a neurotypical “Brain Wiring 101”. You can witness the employers gain of understanding ASD by the end of the workshop! The blog below is a basic reference for any employer, co-worker or interested party, to gain a better understanding for working with (and advancing) those employees diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. At the end of the blog, we’ve included a link to download a tri-fold brochure with all this information on it, a thank you to H-E-B Community for making the brochure possible!
A Glimpse at Asperger Syndrome
Asperger Syndrome is a neurological condition resulting in a group of social and behavioral symptoms. It is part of a category of conditions called Autism Spectrum Disorders, though the revised DSM-V leaves Asperger Syndrome out of it’s manuel and places the symptoms under Autism Spectrum Disorder(s) or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified,” or PDD-NOS. The name, Asperger Syndrome is still used among the community as there has not otherwise been a name to specifically fit the diagnosis. People with Asperger Syndrome usually have normal to above normal intelligence and do not have the language problems typical of autism. It can lead to difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness.
Key Characteristics of High Functioning Autism/Asperger Syndrome are:
• Difficulty with Social Relationships
• Difficulty with Communication
• Special Interests
• Love of Routine
• Poor Concentration/Easily Distracted
A full day of work may be difficult. Areas of challenge may include social cues, sensory and thinking and processing or more. Know that gifts and challenges are unique to the individual with ASD so don’t be afraid to discuss a customized plan if they require one.
Common Workplace Challenges
1) Social Interaction
2) Sensory Issues
3) Thinking and Processing
Let’s look closer at each listed workplace challenge, both the challenges and suggested accommodations.
1) SOCIAL INTERACTION
*Does not know how to engage with coworkers (small talk)
• Unsettled over workplace rules such as breaks, being late,basic expectations
• Difficulty initiating or maintaining eye contact
• Co-workers and managers display frustration and/or bullying to the employee with autism
One of the most important job skills every employee, including those on the autism spectrum, must learn is how to greet a customer properly. If employees learn this valuable skill, they will be way ahead of the pack. Their employer will notice and customers will become life-long evangelists.
Many employees (and business owners!) fail miserably at this simple task, turning customers off forever and losing them to the competition, or to the online marketplace, often without even realizing it.
In my previous life I owned a specialty retail store. I developed an extensive and innovative six-week customer service and sales training program for new employees, where they were introduced to proven techniques and had to pass a test before joining the sales team. The program worked. I watched as confidence – and customer satisfaction and sales – soared. The tenets taught in this first training program provided the basis of my award-winning book Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service.
Starting with that all important smile and friendly greeting at the front door, we took our store from a start-up to a beloved award-winning specialty retail business.
My job is to bring people together—to create an environment where the employee can maximize their potential and an employer can utilize that potential.
As an employment specialist for Compass Resource Group one of my first steps in trying to uncover their potential is to assess the soft and hard skills of the individual. In my experience this seems to be the greatest barrier individuals with Asperger’s face. In the next few entries I plan to discuss the difference between hard and soft skills as they apply to both the search for and maintenance of employment.
What are soft skills? The Oxford Dictionary defines soft skills as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
With regards to soft skills, the greatest questions from job seekers and employers are:
How do I encourage friendly interactions between coworkers and supervisors
How do I create and maintain a comfortable and safe work environment
How do I address the unique logistical concerns of employment such as changing schedules and arranging transportation as they affect individuals with Asperger’s
In the next post I will discuss the different strategies we at Compass Resource employ to foster an environment of mutual respect and understanding between the employee, their coworkers and supervisors in the workplace.
Are you an employer looking to better your practice of hiring persons diagnosed with autism? Or perhaps you are looking for employment yourself but have had difficulty getting past the interview process. We wanted to offer you a powerful resource from a recent webinar titled: Empowerment: Building Success for Employees Diagnosed with Autism. Presenters offer expert advice on common workplace challenges such as sensory, social, and thinking and processing then provide suggested accommodations to maximize performance. Simply hiring those with autism isn’t a win for either party, but looking beyond personality alone and hiring the talent of the person with autism is where companies like H-E-B have discovered the win-win scenario.
Jennifer Hines with Texas Workforce Commission/Vocational Rehabilitation revels how local workforce boards, public universities, and private employers have discovered how to successfully balance the needs of the business’ bottom line with the employment goals of people with Autism.
Jennifer Allen with Aspergers101 offers insight into an employer’s basic understanding of Autism and Asperger Syndrome while discussing the most common workplace challenges experienced by people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and offer specific suggestions for accommodations.
Finally, the Director of Recruiting at H-E-B, Jenn Byron Ross, shares best employer practices and how they are attracting talented people on the Autism spectrum for jobs across the organization—from bagger to software developer.
Aspergers101 would like to offer you the following downloadables for continued information on employing those with Autism or those seeking employment by Dr Temple Grandin.