How to help your young adult with a learning difference stand out as a competitive job candidate.
Every person has something great to offer a workplace, including young people with autism and learning disabilities. Sometimes these young people just need a little extra support to learn the skills and mindset needed to be an ideal job candidate. Transitions, a postsecondary program that supports young adults as they attend college, learn to live on their own and enter the workforce, offers many classes, programs, camps and other supports to teach young adults the skills and techniques to become the type of employee any organization would want. But people don’t always need to attend a program to learn how to be a great job candidate.
There are certain universal qualities that all top employees possess, regardless of their industry or job level. This series will present a few of those qualities and the ways in which you as a parent, teacher or service provider can help teach them to the young adult in your life with autism or other learning disabilities. The first topic is one that daunts many young people who have never really worked before: experience.
Ideally, employers want candidates who have worked in their industry before in a relevant position, but this is not always possible for a job candidate who is seeking employment for the first time. Even if your young adult has never had a job before, there are still ways they can cultivate the qualities employers look for in experienced candidates, such as:
- Learning basic job skills, including typing, writing clearly, proficiency on computers, ability to count money and more. These can be learned by taking classes, doing research, watching tutorials, practicing at home and mentorship from professionals of all kinds.
- Establishing familiarity with the field through independent research, tours of work sites and speaking to professionals who currently work in that field.
- Cultivating contacts and networking experience by attending job fairs, making connections with the colleagues of friends and family, or reaching out to those who currently work in the chosen field.
- Demonstrating ability to maintain a work schedule and succeed on the job, which is achieved through hard work, good attitude and strong organizational skills.
How You Can Help:
- Research internship opportunities in the field the person is interested in and help them apply.
- Encourage the young adult to volunteer as often as possible, even if it’s not in an area relevant to their career field. Volunteering will get the person used to following directions, seeing tasks through to completion and working on a team. Depending on the task, it might also teach them valuable job skills as well.
- Look into touring workplaces in a variety of industries and speaking to real employees and supervisors at those work sites. This will give the person a sense for what it would be like to work for such a company and what they expect from their employees.
- Seek out chances to attend speeches, lectures, workshops, meet and greets, and other networking opportunities featuring professionals from the young adult’s chosen career path. This might not only teach them important skills and insights about the industry, but also put them in touch with peers and mentors who could help them in their future career.
- Encourage the young adult to explore different career paths and research in-depth the ones that appeal to them using the Internet, library and other resources. Learning as much as possible about various careers will better equip them to choose the one that’s best for them, and it will help prepare them for job interviews down the road.
- Teach the young adult basic job searching skills, such as how to format a resume, write a cover letter and nail a job interview. Impress upon them the importance of professional behavior and presentation. Image is everything, and helping them make the best possible first impression will be invaluable to the young adult during their job hunting process.
Your young adult with autism or learning disabilities might not have any work history, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cultivate experience that will be valuable to future employers. For more information about Transitions and how its programs help young adults with autism and learning disabilities develop experience and leverage their strengths into job opportunities, contact us at (518) 775-5384.
About the Author:
Gina Warsaw teaches Career Success courses at Transitions, which cover professional presentation, preparing resumes and cover letters, job searching, basic job skills, interacting professionally in the workplace and more. She has almost 30 years of experience supporting people with disabilities to reach their life goals, including more than 10 years focused on helping people transition into integrated community employment opportunities. Gina is currently the Director of Day Supports at The Arc Lexington.