A job search sometimes feels like a juggling act, and keeping the balls in the air – including job-search tasks, as well as the continuing demands of school/work and day-to-day living – can oftentimes feel like a struggle. For neurodiverse individuals, the thought of embarking on a job search can be overwhelming, as it adds complexity and stress to established routines.

Many parents with neurodiverse twenty-somethings have invested countless years in helping plan and implement experiences that support their child’s development, but may feel at a loss for how to best assist in a job search. These job-seekers not only need guidance through the basic steps of job-searching, they also benefit from having someone who can anticipate which factors in a job-search can be more challenging for neurodiverse individuals and to help scaffold this process.

For this reason, Priority Candidates’ team includes professional, experienced counselors that can share in this responsibility – Janine Rowe and Eric Homburger – whose experience includes supporting job seekers across a range of needs including Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Dyslexia, depression and anxiety. Eric and Janine partner with clients to create a personalized job search strategy that leverages their strengths and minimizes challenges.

So, what are strategies and steps our Neurodiversity Specialists pursue in order to help job-seekers who have specific challenges, and what steps can neurodiverse individuals take to get successfully navigate the job-search process? We outline below the steps our coaches take to help set neurodiverse job-seekers up for success in the job-search process.

Transitioning and The Parent Partnership

Many parents of neurodiverse young people have been actively involved throughout their children’s lives in providing the support they need to be successful. However, as children grow older and enter adulthood, it’s important for these dynamics to change. As Eric Homburger notes, “Young job-seekers are working through a transition from student to professional; while at the same time, their families are working through their own transformation from hands-on advocates for the child to behind the scenes coaches.”

Of course, it’s important for a parent to be involved in the process even if a coach is engaged. Parents have personal insights as to which environments could be a good match for their child. And when a new job is secured, parents are pivotal to helping their young adult children work through the transitional challenges, including how health support plans can work with a new and evolving work schedule. As Janine Rowe puts it, “The role of families is crucial, particularly in situations where the parents work to address related issues such as those involving a work-related relocation; housing, transportation and arranging for therapy with new professionals.”

Career Planning - Before the Search

Before the search begins, we typically consult at length with the client, their parents as well as therapists and other professionals working with the client, to ensure we are fully understanding the range of needs.

One struggle some neurodiverse job-seekers have is determining what industries or roles will set them up to be successful. A Career Assessment can be a valuable tool that helps students/grads plan for the initial job search and/or determine alternate career goals. Our career coaches regularly help students identify right-fit career options by helping job seekers examine multiple factors relating to successful career choice, including prospects for the career of choice, job outlook, and work environment.

When determining what direction to pursue, Eric Homburger suggests that early careerists consciously shift their mindset from, “You can’t do this or that” to “What can you do and where do you want to be doing that type of work?”

Setting a Sourcing and Networking Strategy

Once target roles have been determined, a sourcing strategy is established in partnership with our coaches. These coaches investigate companies that have a track record of recruiting neurodiverse talent and organizations that support people with specific challenges. These may include companies that have programs that specifically provide onboarding and training tailored to neurodiversity factors, or companies that simply have large numbers of roles that play to various talents and strengths. Additionally, our coaches are familiar with a wide variety of valuable resources —they guide job-seekers to use those that will be most beneficial, narrowing their scope to make best use of valuable time.

While the coach can help in the sourcing of opportunities, they will also work to assist the young person in ramping up their networking. Most early job seekers are a bit resistant to spending time on networking at first –Janine points out that she commonly hears, “I need a job, not a network!” – and so coaches work to help clients see the value in building a network, not only for this one search, but to establish support throughout the career journey. Coaches spend considerable time helping neurodiverse job-seekers master tasks of networking, creating communications, getting comfortable with outreach, and identifying people who can uncover hidden opportunities.

Interviewing: Put Your Best Foot Forward

Interview preparation is always tailored to the individual, but when neurodiversity challenges are present, the strategy to build these skills requires expertise. Training the interviewee to see beyond the literal question and deliver an answer that addresses the underlying “question behind the question” – offering context and detail that highlight one’s strengths and abilities to master complex subjects – takes practice.

Coaches also address non-verbal behaviors, including managing eye contact and being prepared for what to expect at each step of the interview. Our coaches work through and discuss every aspect of an interview, including what to do upon arrival at the building, how to deliver a strong handshake, and how to close the meeting with a demonstration of interest in the role and organization. Lesley Mitler, Founder of Priority Candidates, points out that anyone with executive functioning challenges “benefits from a detailed walk-through of what to anticipate with a focus on how to be prepared, from clothing choices to the use of the cell phone.”

We help clients be prepared for the tough parts of the process, including the common lack of response following rounds of applications, and how to handle feedback when given, so that future interviews have better outcomes.

Supporting Success on the Job

While getting a job is a major part of the career launch process, successfully onboarding to a new organization is just as vital and oftentimes requires as much focus. Our coaches work with the newly employed to understand the importance of getting to know colleagues, greeting people on arrival and investing time in learning about them one on one. We help these new employees prepare for the social aspects of the work place that likely include interactions outside the company walls, such as after-hours gatherings, or volunteer work. Planning strategies for how and when to participate in events, versus how to respectfully decline, can be discussed and practiced with a coach or other mentor.

Perhaps the most important part of the job-support process involves helping a new employee understand how to appropriately ask for help or raise a concern. It’s vital for young employees to confront a challenge while they are facing it, and not after the fact. Our coaches debrief with clients to explore how things are going in early days and weeks, and provide support so that feedback from supervisors can be implemented immediately and accurately. Coaches can also help new employees handle the complex decisions regarding disclosing a disability, including requesting accommodations.

The Importance of Partnership

Partnership is essential during a job search: the job seeker, their family, the career coach and other experts who help foster skills and abilities come together to help job-seekers find and secure a right-fit role at a right-fit organization, and foster strong new employee behaviors. By focusing on long-term skill building while looking for an initial role, our coaches set the stage for a lifetime of success. We not only help candidates get hired, we help them master the blend of business and social interactions that is oftentimes a particular challenge for neurodiverse job-seekers. Priority Candidates coaches can lend a hand when addressing challenges initiating tasks, prioritizing how to spend time, organizing the work, along with measuring and monitoring progress. Let us know how we can partner with you.