I’m a 17y/o autistic (self dx) person and I want to find a job this summer. I’ve never had a job before. Last year I went cold calling with my CV, the first place I went to the manager was really patronizing and I got upset and went straight home.
I’d love a job in a kitchen, but when it comes to the workplace, the social code is completely unknown to me. I have no idea what is socially acceptable and what the norms are for acting around managers and co-workers etc. and it terrifies me.
I just about grasp the social code for peers my own age. Being talkative and outgoing and appealing to employers and is such a big part of getting work and I have no idea how to do that, and I don’t even have any work experience to back it up. However I know I’m skilled and I’m a fast learner, I’m hard working I just don’t know how to prove it to employers. How can I approach getting a job as an autistic person where communication and social cues some of my biggest difficulties?
Short version: Ask a Manager has much better advice than I do about work stuff, and I’d recommend her writing about how to get a job.
Medium version: Try not to be hard on yourself. Getting a first job is hard for everyone, especially in the current economy. Even a lot of people with experience and in-demand skills are out of work right now:
- You’re probably going to have to apply to a bunch of different positions in order to get hired somewhere
- Being rejected from a job doesn’t always mean you did something wrong
- People who do everything right still often get rejected from most of the jobs they apply to
Sometimes you’re not the problem:
- There are a lot of jerks in the world, and some of them are managers
- If you apply for jobs, you’ll probably encounter some jerks
- It’s upsetting when jerks are mean to you.
- Being a nice and respectful person is unfortunately not always a prerequisite for becoming a manager
- Some managers are jerks, and you might
- It helps to learn not to take this personally
- Someone being mean to you doesn’t mean you’re broken or that you can’t get a job
- It just means someone was mean.
Sometimes there are skills you can learn that make it easier to get hired and keep a job. Ask a Manager has really good advice on those things, particularly about resumes and cover letters. Her book on how to get hired is well worth buying.
In terms of kitchen work specifically:
- Kitchen work is loud, fast, physically demanding, and physically exhausting
- Chefs yell at everyone
- Often, so do other people in kitchens
- You will get yelled at
- It usually won’t be personal
- Learning not to take getting yelled at personally is an important social skill if you want to work in a kitchen
- It’s also important to be able to follow instructions quickly and without too much in-the-moment clarification most of the time
It might also be a good idea to find some volunteer work to do, especially if you don’t have an immediate need to support yourself with living expenses. The best way to get hired is to show that you have successful work experience, and volunteer work experience is easier to get than paid volunteer experience.
At your age, school activities often count as experience. Are you involved in any clubs? Have you accomplished things you can talk about? If so, talk about that.
If you’re still in high school and are receiving special education services in school (which it sounds like you may not be since you’re self-diagnosed), you should be eligible for transition planning services. Even if you’re not, there may be job placement and training services at your school that you can access. If you can find out who at your school does that and make an appointment with them, they might be able to help you.
Anyone else want to weigh in? (Especially autistic or otherwise disabled people; especially teenagers or people who have been teenagers recently.) Have you been able to find work? How have you figured out how to navigate these things?