Learning difficulties, autism and employment

‘…6% of people with a learning disability and 15% of people with autism are in full time paid employment

I would like to say I’m surprised with the number of people with learning difficulties and autism who are in paid employment but I’m not. Unfortunately a large number of employers can’t get past the conventional way of employing people; CV, Interview then a choice is made to hire the appropriate person. In most cases this is the standard hiring process and works for many companies but not for those with a learning disability and/or autism.

This topic is close to my heart with a brother who is diagnosed with Asperger’s who finished university last year and is looking for work. His degree in graphics and animation and in my opinion he is talented; he is constantly working on something and expanding his skills and knowledge. However I also know that the conventional type of interview is a daunting experience for him. The interview tips that are given to people are not going to work for him. His body language and lack of eye contact doesn’t mean he’s not interested in the position it’s just he doesn’t understand that what is the right amount of time to hold eye contact or that crossing your arms are the slouching can show him in a negative light. He is passionate about what he does and has a great imagination not to mention his witty and sarcastic sense of humour that occasionally makes an appearance. But an interviewer will not see all this because they may not understand Asperger’s, have not been able to make changes to the interview setting to accommodate him or they just can’t be bothered to think outside the box. I may seem like I’m making sweeping generalisations here and unfairly vilifying interviewers and companies but the statistics don’t lie, they can be manipulated but in this instance they don’t lie. I am biased but personally I think employers are missing out on a valuable talent pool.

‘Normal’ is such a generic term

A disability of any kind does not automatically mean that person is incapable of being employed & being brilliant at their job. Like the rest of us they want to have some kind of self worth, feel a sense of achievement. Despite all the attention surrounding the lack of people with a learning disability, autism or both, I wonder just how many employees ‘get’ what it means to have learning disability, autism or both? What cookie cutter employee mould do they consider normal? ‘Normal’ is such a generic term these days, what is normal? We live in a day and age where people decide to pick which gender they relate better with or no gender at all, they are gender fluid. Yet there is difficulty finding gainful employment for those with a learning disability, autism or both.

So what can, needs and should be done about this?

As I sit here ploughing my way through a box of Mikado I browse through the intrepid world of Google seeking answers to this very question. To begin, with autism and learning disability are not the same.

Autism is not a learning disability, but around half of people with autism may also have a learning disability, which will affect the level of support they need in their life. Some people may also receive a ‘dual diagnosis’; ­ for example, they may have Down’s syndrome and autism.

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.

Network Autism offer useful pieces of advice for both Jobseekers and prospective employers. If you prefer a more visual guidance visit autism.org to view the video’s.

I know I am biased but do think employers are missing out on a valuable talent pool. With a bit of tweaking here and there, a bit of adaptability and understanding employers could tap into this hidden workforce which for far too long has been ignored.

Resources
Mencap
The National Autistic Society
Network Autism
Dimensions

My brother; Graduation, Asperger’s and finding a job!

My youngest brother graduated last year with a degree in animation. We are all so proud of him, not only because he got a degree but also because my brother has dyslexia and Asperger’s. Due to the Asperger’s my brother has difficulty socialising, talking with people he doesn’t know and understanding things like sarcasm. However saying this I think University has done him some good as well as the book club for austic people organised and run by the team at SEPT he attends once a month. He is still shy but when we are at his graduation where once before he would have come and found his family afterwards we couldn’t find him anywhere! He was off having pictures with his class and saying bye to them, this is a big deal. When he saw us, me and our youngest sister sent him back to talk with the rest of the people on his course and to take his time. This may come as a bit of a surprise be me and my youngest sister can be a bit embarrassing for him so we kept our distance…it’s only because we care.
With the book club, there is either a book or a theme for topic of discussion; one week was about comic books, another was about Guy Fawkes. Some sessions my brother interacts more sometimes less all depending on the topic and his knowledge of it, but more importantly he spends time with people who are not his family.

Next steps for my brother is to find a job and to pass his driving test, in all fairness it is a lot more difficult to pass your driving test nowadays. I passed my driving test over 20 years ago, if I had to take my test I would probably fail even before we left the test centre car park!

Finding a job is where the whole new experience is a bit daunting for him and his confidence levels, depending on his mood can be a bit low. I honestly do not know how my brother would handle an interview and those experiences can be daunting enough for those of us who are considered ‘normal’.  Those of you who think he maybe sitting around on his PlayStation he isn’t, one thing my brother isn’t is lazy. He has been improving his existing skills and learning new techniques with the aid of online tutorials. He’s always updating his Tumblr & Facebook accounts with latest bits of design work. Question is how do we get employers get past the social hurdles and the need to ‘sell’ himself to see the potential he has?

Whilst doing a bit of research for this blog piece I came across the website The National Autistic Society which has a page called advice about work. This site has some useful information, advice and tips that could benefit both a job seeker with autism and an employer with staff members who have autism. I also want to highlight that employers are potentially missing out on a diligent workforce because they are unable to think outside of the box.

We are seeing a lot in the media lately about the lack of mental health support available because of lack of funding but also because there still those who live in a bubble where if something doesn’t fit the cookie cutter mould then they can’t work with them. It is those people that cannot see beyond those boundaries to see the diamond hidden in the coal.

If anyone does see the same potential in my brother that his family do then contact him through his Tumblr page just remember he’s not going to fit a uniform mould but has qualities & talent that some of us ‘normal’ people could dream of having.

The Art of a Job Interview When You Have Asperger’s
The National Autistic Society; Advice about work
On mental health, the Tories need to put their money where their mouths are
Young people’s mental health services in the UK need cash not empty promises

Should you tell your manager you are looking for a new job?

The job you once enjoyed is no longer as challenging or as fulfilling as it once was. Maybe the company re-structure has changed your working environment so that you no longer feel you fit into. Whatever your reason, you have come to the decision it is now time to look for a new job. The question is do you tell your current boss?

Do you opt for the honesty is the best policy route?

Your existing manager might appreciate your honesty. They may try to entice you to stay or help you find something suitable within the company. If that doesn’t work it is possible, if they are able to will help you find a suitable job by sharing contacts.

Others may see you wanting to leave as a personal attack and not be so positive about your honesty. Although you are planning to leave you still take your job seriously though your current manager may not see things the same way as you begin to notice you are being treated differently and have been passed over to work on projects.

Do you opt for the secret squirrel approach?

If you know the best option is to remain quite about your plans to look for a new position until you have something lined up there are a few things you should avoid.

Don’t use your company computer to search for new jobs and don’t broadcast your intentions on your social media networks. If you do have to take phone calls regarding positions try and wait until you are outside of the building or during your lunch break away from the office.

I’ve worked with some good and some poor managers, though there hasn’t been a manager that I could say I would have been comfortable with telling them I was looking for a new job and leaving once I had found something. I would only let my managers know I was leaving once I had handed in my notice and had a confirmed position lined up. In my current job I do know of a work colleague who told our manager of his plans to leave but handed in his notice at the same time without a job to go to. In this colleagues case he had already got the ball rolling and had some opportunities in the pipeline. The managers though sorry to see him leave were also supportive of his decision.

Every situation is different as is every manager employee relationship. It will be up to you to judge what type of relationship you have with your current manager. Ideally you would like to leave your current position on good terms with your manager, especially if you want them to provide you with a personal work reference.

Job Search Tool: Blogging!

Blogging

You’ve cleaned up your online profiles and networked online to your heart’s content. You have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a LinkedIn profile but have you considered starting a blog?

Believe it or not blogging can be a beneficial part of your job search. Blogging is used for both professional and personal purposes. It is an easy and simple way of distributing your thoughts and knowledge to a large number of people in one go.

As a job seeker your CV provides potential employers with a list of your skills and achievements, as can your social network. A blog can be used to personalise yourself, showcase examples of knowledge and opinions on your industry of interest. As with anything online these days, if you want to be easily searchable you will need to use the right keywords and optimise your blog so it can be found via search engines.

Where to begin?ITJob

There are websites such as WordPress, Tumblr or Tumbler which you can use to begin your blogging empire. With WordPress and Tumbler you can easily setup an account. Blogger is linked with Google and requires you to have a Gmail / Google account and use this email address to create your blog.

Some platforms are better than others, all depends on what features you want your blog to have and if your chosen blogging platform can accommodate your blogging needs.

Blogging name

It would make sense to use your name so your blog is easily searchable and available to potential employers.

Topic / ContentBlogOrNotToBlog

The topics you choose to write about will give potential employers an insight into the type of person you are. Unlike other social networks, blogging gives you control over the content and the image; both professional and personal, you want to portray of yourself.

If there is a particular industry you are trying to gain employment in this would be your opportunity to showcase your interest and knowledge.

Whatever your topic, the content should be well written. Your content is a reflection of you, save the rants and rude language for a different environment. Your future employers want to know they can trust you and won’t post anything on your blog that could negatively affect them.

Reading reams of text no matter how informative can put some readers off. Break up the text using bullet points, sub heading using visual aids such as graphics, Infographics, videos which will help keep readers engaged.

Put your CV on to the ‘About’ page. Future employers can read what you have to say and view your CV all in one place.

Design

Many platforms will offer both free and paid templates to customise your blog. Keep in mind you want your blog to showcase you but also be easy to read.

Posting

However often you decide to blog it should be consistent, eventually readers will know when to expect a new update from you.

It’s not all about how often you post but also the quality of your content. You want people to read your blog. You may have a small number of followers but may find number of people who have actually read your blog is much higher.

Once you have written your blog pieces the next step will be to get your blog noticed.

Want to work for an excellent company?

I recently found out another female colleague is leaving for pastures new. I am happy for her as the move is the right one for her. Though she wasn’t part of the IT department she was one of the few females whom I had a rapport with.

I don’t mind being one of the few females working within the IT department. The other female works on a part time basis and the male colleagues who sit closest to me do their best to try and have girlie conversations but we eventually revert back to talking about marvel super heroes and occasionally cakes.

It would be nice to have a balance of male and female which I know can be difficult to achieve in the IT industry. I know female developers are not a myth, they do exist, I’ve seen them!

JobServeFBLogoSo I am putting this job opening out there to the blogging community. How would you like to come and work as a C# .NET Web Developer for a successful jobs board based in Tiptree, Essex? I

Tiptree is a quaint little place which has the well known jam factory that I have yet to visit, a Tesco, Asda, lots of pubs and a cute little coffee shop to go for lunch. Oh and I can’t forget Mo’s cafe who serve up huge portions of food at a reasonable price, it’s not a place for people on diets!

Plus the company provide all the free tea and coffee you want to your hearts content, a few times a month we even get homemade goodies depending on who in the department has been baking.

Still have your attention? Then keep reading.

The team are a friendly, welcoming bunch. I’ve worked with a few different people in the past and this has been the team where I have been the most comfortable.

The job is currently advertised on the JobServe website, have a look to see if this is something you could be interested in.

There will be logic test, but you’ll be a developer whiz so a logic test will be a walk in the park.

This job is open to everyone including new Graduates. We had an excellent young guy who was with us for two years and came straight from University so the bar is quite high.

Male, female, alien, whichever group you choose to associate with, if you have the skills, live in the UK and like cakes then apply.

Look forward to meeting you. 🙂

Do we choose our careers or are they chosen for us?

There are personality assessments out there to determine which jobs are suited for your personality type. Are 23you a ‘thinker’, ‘sensitive, ‘extravert’, ‘introvert’ etc?  There are plenty of online assessments you can take to decide which group you fall into. I took this online personality assessment on the website http://www.careertest.net/. The assessment and results are based on MBTI assessment, a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

According to the results my personality type is; INFJ: “Author”. Strong drive and enjoyment to help others. These are serious students and workers who really want to contribute. They make good therapists, general practitioners and ministers. 1% of the total population.

CareerTest

In reality I have mostly worked in admin and gradually moved into a mixture of admin  and Social Media Marketing related work with the occasional dabble in baking.  I’m also left handed and a Scorpio, if you’re to believe the theories on how the dominant hand and star sign can also affect our personalities which in turn could be linked to our careers choices.

Whether you are an Introvert or an Extravert by nature it doesn’t mean you cannot learn to adopt certain traits from each personality type to further your career. It may not always come naturally for an introvert to be engaging with people on a regular basis or being the centre of attention but it doesn’t mean it cannot be done. Have a look at some of the posts written by Bob McIntosh, he draws on his own experiences as well as how both introverts and Extraverts can go on to have successful careers in environments that may contradict certain aspects of a person’s personality.

If we were to go one step further there are companies who use Psychometric testing to determine if an individual is the right fit for the company / job even before meeting them.   This type of assessment includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational measurement. Does ‘failing’ this type of test mean you are not suited for a career in that industry or just not a career with that particular company? The MBTI assessment was created during a time to determine what type of war time jobs women would be the most ‘comfortable and effective in’. and considered effective for its purpose. Moving forward to today how many of these personality traits have been created by society, society’s idea of what personality type is expected to work in which environment? We know different personality types exist, our personalities are shaped by many external and internal factors, look at those with certain types of autism who have exceptional talent yet may struggle with the social aspect of the world they find themselves in.

Just because an individual is deemed to have a particular personality does not necessarily mean they are restricted to jobs commonly associated with that type. Passions, determination and that ‘one person’ seeing the potential in you can override any results of a personality assessment.

You can also view this article on www.jobserve.com.

Graduate Job Search: Social Media

You’ve done all you can with creating a generic CV, which you will tweak and tailor to certain jobs.

Being of the Gen Y generation you already know a CV isn’t enough to get you that golden ticket known as an interview.

That’s right, social media is also an important factor in getting employers to notice you. We’ll look at some of the key players and how you can effectively utilise them in your job search.

Facebook

The majority of the world’s population have a Facebook page and no doubt you will look back fondly at the pictures of fresher’s week, the end of year balls not to mention those pictures which you don’t even remember, all publically saved and accessible by future employers.

Either ‘clean’ up this Facebook page and remove any evidence that is likely to paint you in a less than favourable light. Or increase the security settings on your existing Facebook and create another new Facebook page which can be used as an online version of your CV; highlighting your skills, work experience etc. Use this page to follow companies you would like to work for and build your social media brand.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, if you don’t already have an account for this network then create one. Use this environment to get in touch with potential employers ask them sensible questions directly and via groups. The more you effectively network the better.  Attach links to your online portfolios, blogs anything that is beneficial to your job hunting.

Blogging

What you choose to blog about is entirely up to you.  If you are going to use your blog to showcase your knowledge then keep in mind that your blog is reflection of you and available for all including potential employers to see. Alternatively why not use your blog to create an online version of your CV. WordPress offer a variety of suitable themes.

Pinterest

Pinterest may not have been around as long as some of the well-known social networking sites but has continuously grown in popularity. This networking site was initially thought to be an effective tool for females to share web pages relating to fashion, food, celebrities. Due to the visual aspect this networking site is also becoming popular with businesses and job seekers.

Twitter

You may not think you can do much with 140 characters lets alone promote yourself, but it can be done with a tweetsume.

Now you have an idea of how social media is more than just about updating statuses and photo albums go create your online brand and get yourself noticed by the right people.

Also have a look at my blog article; Graduate Job Search

Graduate Job Search

3d-graduation-hats-icons_21-95475779You’ve graduated, taken on board all the tips and advice on how to get your foot on the employment ladder, not just any employment ladder but the ladder to your ideal job. It’s been a few months now, application upon application and not a peep.  What is going on?

Firstly have you checked out our website; www.careers4graduates.com? Still nothing seems right?

Ok, then maybe it is time to take a step back and see where the problem lies and how to fix it.

Being a graduate the chances of your CV containing an abundance of experience is going to be slim. Focus on the skills gained throughout your course, the projects you worked on, what challenges you overcame whether it was the project itself or working with difficult people. Just because you left university does not mean you won’t face similar challenges in the workplace.

You’ve already done this?

Are you tailoring your CV to the job you are applying for? Does you CV contain the relevant keywords in order for your CV to get noticed? As much as we dislike the idea, CV’s are still filtered with the use of specific keywords, don’t let your CV slip through the net because of a minor error.

Don’t forget to check the layout of your CV, is it easy to read? Too many font’s and over artistic CV’s can be pretty to look at from afar, up close it’s not so easy on the eyes. A recruiter has hundreds of CV’s to go through and wants to get through the information quickly; simple formats are understated and better.  You’re worked hard over you’re CV and you’re protective over it, it doesn’t hurt to have someone else to give your CV a once over to pick up things such as spelling mistakes that you and spell check have missed.

Want to showcase your work, then have your CV contain a link to an online portfolio; don’t attach examples of your work with your CV.

Still not getting anywhere?

Did your application contain a cover letter?

You are likely to hear mixed opinions on this. Some recruiters will read them others won’t, either way if the option to send one is there it can’t hurt to send a well written cover letter along with your application.

You’ve worked on your CV, made a few tweaks here and there, but another week later and you’re still unemployed.

It’s time to re-evaluate your job searching approach.

Think of job searching like shopping, impulse buying is always a bad idea. You see a shirt you like knowing it is 2 sizes too small yet for some reason in the shop you think you look fabulous in it. Then get home and realise it makes you look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man. The same can be said for job hunting, just because it looks fabulous doesn’t mean it is right for you. Do you have the skills, experience, is the job in a location that you could easily get to.  All these factors and many more are important things to think about. Remember, in most cases you are a graduate with theoretical experience but not much physical experience. Aiming high is good but aiming way, way over the horizon early on in your career with nothing to back it up with is going to guarantee your CV won’t even get a look in.

Be sensible and selective with the jobs you choose to apply for. You’re search for the right job with the right company is just as important as a company looking for the right candidate.

This is a time where everything is shortened and recruiter’s don’t have the time to go through ‘fluffed’ up CV’s to find the hidden gems. So put all the overused verbs and adjectives aside and let the gem that you are shine through your CV.

Next time we’ll look at if you are effectively making use of social media.

This article can also be found at www.careers4graduates.

Text speak in job adverts; Lking fr a jb?

It has happened, text speak is steadily filtering through to job adverts.

One simple question, why?

There are some who would say this is the way forward, the way to draw in a specific person. In my opinion this makes the advertiser look lazy and the advert look messy. Especially when the entire advert is written in one paragraph and in text speak.

‘Require Master’s or foreign equiv. deg in Comp. Science, Comp. Appl., CIS, Engg, Math or Bus. Require 1 year of exp as Comp Prgmr, Sys Anlst/Sys Eng, Eng, Dev, Conslt., Tech. Staff Member or equiv. The qualifying exp. must include at least three of the following comp. tech.: Java, J2EE, XML, SQL, PL/SQL, C/C++, JSP, Oracle, VC++, ATL, COM, DCOM, C#, VB.Net and ASP.Net. Empl. will accpt. any suitable comb of educ, training or exp..’

Surely job advertisers know the importance of a good job advert? The job advert should have a clear layout, why some advertisers choose to have all the key information regarding the job written in one paragraph is unusual, not to mention confusing and painful to read. Use bullet points or paragraphs to break up the information.

The description and requirements of the role should be clear and concise. Job related abbreviations are one thing writing the advert as if it were a text message is another. It is nice the advertiser would like to include details of the company and how wonderful they are to work for but isn’t necessarily required on a job advert. It is up to the candidate to do that kind of research for themselves.

Salary and location are paramount pieces of information all job postings should ideally have. If salary has not yet been agreed then provide some indication as to what stipulations are in place, such as salary will be dependent on experience.

Advertisers don’t complain you are attracting the wrong candidates when you have not taken the time to create a good advert. If then the right candidates are not turning up in droves then it’s time to look at other mitigating factors. Start with the basics first, a good job advert.

 

You can also view this on www.jobserve.com.

Can you be over educated?

SchoolEach country has its own education process, in the UK whilst I was at school the leaving age was 16 after that it was up to the individual what would be their next step.

In my case I went to college for two years followed by another three years at university, by that point I was done with studying, not necessarily done with learning.  Others will seek to continue their studies with a MBA, PHD.

Having a degree was considered to be the crème de la crème but this was not the only way to begin your career. Not everyone excels in an academic environment, about 15 years ago there were alternative options to further education once you left school. Apprenticeships were becoming popular with the youth training schemes (YTS) to help young people learn and also earn a salary.

Moving to today’s employment world youth unemployment is high and there are limited opportunities for those not wanting to continue with their education beyond school. As one way to tackle this issue the government are increasing the compulsory education age from 16 to 18.

The introduction of tuition fees has not prevented many young people from studying towards a degree. Degrees still hold some kind of merit in the employment world and in some professions such as law and medicine is a must have.

How many young people actually know what career they want to have at the age of 18? Will the same career path they have planned out at such a young age be the same path they want to walk down once they have completed their studies? How many young people are choosing to go to university, pursue a degree in a subject they like simply because of the prestige giving to degree’s, because they do not know what type of job they would like to do or are even suited for?

My query; is the need to be academically intelligent hindering the next wave of employees?  Choosing to go onto higher education does teach individuals the importance of disciplining themselves to meet deadlines, work together in teams and memorise vast amounts of information to apply in exams and in theory apply in the real world. There are degrees that offer a year in industry but for those who don’t choose this or the option is not there, all they have is theoretical knowledge. This brings us onto the fight to get onto graduate schemes, finding internships that don’t exploit the individual to gain that all important work experience that prospective employers crave.  As the needs of employers are changing perhaps it is time the way young people are taught is adapted to these changes to better prepare them for their future careers. Books can only teach us so much, it is when we have to apply those theories to the world outside of books does the real learning begin.