This blog is the tenth and final installment of Transitions’ series on Qualities Employers Look for in Job Candidates. Every person has something great to offer a workplace, including young people with autism and learning disabilities. 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 conclusion of this series focuses on something that everyone needs, but can be hard to obtain for a person who struggles with social skills as many young people with autism and learning disabilities do: a strong support network.
Starting a new career and working hard to succeed at a job can be emotionally taxing in the best of circumstances, so everyone needs people around them who offer help, support, companionship and a sympathetic ear when needed. A good support network finds the balance between offering support and advocating for a person when they need it, but not being too hands-on in the workplace. Members of the support network should not be showing up in the workplace, doing the job for the person or speaking to supervisors on the person’s behalf except in emergencies or very special circumstances. Instead, a support network should help a job candidate in the following ways:
- Providing mentorship in the chosen career field
- Offering moral support and advice when the person faces challenges at work
- Making networking connections
- Helping out with unexpected issues that come up, from offering advice on completing job tasks to stepping in to provide rides to work if the person’s transportation plans fall through
- Providing rich social connections that make the person happier and healthier, and therefore a better employee
How You Can Help:
- Help your young adults build a strong network of current and former teachers, peer mentors, counselors, former bosses and coworkers, and job coaches to provide advice and support on work-related issues.
- A support network can also come from any organization or activity a person takes part in, including sports, clubs, religious organizations, extracurricular activities and volunteer programs.
- Keep family bonds strong even as the young adult moves on to live an independent life. Maintain regular communication, be supportive of the young adult’s goals and efforts, and make it clear that you are always there to offer advice or an outlet for venting.
- Encourage the young adult to foster bonds with other people his or her own age and even people who also have learning differences through clubs, organizations, programs and support groups. This network of peers will be a valuable resource to the young adult. It will enable them to look to their peers for help and support as they walk this road to building an independent career together.
A support network can come from anywhere: friends, family, school, the workplace and even organizations in the community. Building and maintaining one can take a lot of time and work, but the payoff of having a strong and present support network will be well worth it throughout one’s life. For more information about Transitions and how its programs help young adults with autism and learning disabilities expand their support network and achieve success after high school in every way, 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.