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, Early Stage Careers’ 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
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. In the words of Early Stage Careers co-founder Jill
Tipograph, who handles this sensitive outreach, “It is crucially important to understand the
strengths and challenges of the job seeker, how their needs manifest, what their behavioral
triggers are, and to get an objective professional’s view on how we can best tailor our
approach as career coaches.”
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, co-founder of Early Stage Careers, 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
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 workplace 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. Early Stage Careers 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