Hey! I’m Harvey, I’m a second year marketing student at Kent who was diagnosed with Autism in 2019. Prior to coming to university at 21 I was in the world of work, unknowingly autistic so I thought I could share some tips with you about work and job hunting, whether you’re autistic or have another disability or condition that affects your work.
Firstly, and for me since being diagnosed the most important tip, is knowing yourself. For me personally I know I can be overwhelmed by a lack of routine or lack of control, so I know that I can’t work in London because the idea of the tube and its loud crowded environment causes me anxiety and I can’t escape it easily. Therefore, for my year in industry I deliberately chose a scheme that was not in London, although I was very lucky my dream scheme wasn’t there anyway!
The moral of this story for me is to know what you can and can’t do. There is a lot of media today that will tell you you’re unlimited and can do anything, which is true in principle, but it doesn’t mean you should be upset if you make the choice to do or not do something because it wouldn’t work for you. The quicker I reconciled with myself what I wanted and that it was OK the better I felt about myself.
When It comes to applying you have a right by law to reasonable adjustments, which means throughout the application, interview and in your job your employer must make reasonable adjustments to your work and workspace to ensure you are not discriminated against. You also have the right to disclose or not your disability. Personally for me I always disclose because legally it cannot affect your application.
The things I normally say is “I am Autistic and sometimes I can’t make eye contact with you, I might go off on a little tangent as well so try and be precise with your questions!”. Or perhaps there is a chance you could slowly get used to the environment if that is something you need? Being able to spend a couple of hours getting to know the layout, people and space might increase your confidence and help to settle you in!
A word of warning!
If the employer does not or cannot accommodate your disability, they might not be the right one for you. Sadly, even today a lot of employers do not understand disability. Personally, I have had a lot of people not quite understand the way my mind works, not maliciously but perhaps a manager may get annoyed by how literally I word things, or I want very detailed instructions. It is up to you to judge on a case-by-case basis but be wary and don’t be afraid to raise the question and have suggestions how they can use your skills best! But don’t feel it is your fault if you encounter issues, I was very hard on myself for a while before I knew I had autism and instead of chastising myself I reflected on what I could have done better, but also accepted when it wasn’t my fault.
Another tip that I have is, just because you don’t fit one criteria doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply! Any reasonable employer should know that the perfect candidate doesn’t exist and so as long as you think you’re able to do the job and can show them what have you got to lose by applying? I personally have applied to and even got jobs that I didn’t think I was qualified for or didn’t meet every criteria on the description, so my best tip here is to have confidence in yourself!
Like anything at University of Kent, there is so many resources available to help you. Never be afraid to reach out to the Student Support and Wellbeing Team or the Careers Team where you can get dedicated one-to-one support on any questions or issues you might have around disability and employment.
Photo by Lukas Blazek on unsplash.