This is due to a wide variety of complex issues, including disadvantages in the application process due to communication differences, employer bias, and lack of confidence or anxiety after a previous negative experience.
If you are from Auckland, see below details for the Autism New Zealand Employment Support Programme, however if you are outside of Auckland, other Supported Employment Organisations may be able to assist (Google *your city* + Supported Employment) like Workbridge, Emerge or contact your Autism New Zealand branch for local knowledge.
Some other ideas to get you started:
In order to increase your chances of finding paid employment, it is always a good idea to get some experience through volunteering.
Volunteering is a great way for you to ease into an employment routine gently, obtain professional references or a proven track record of reliability and skill. It can also boost your confidence and help you feel better about yourself, just by getting out of the house and doing something to make a difference.
Being seen in the community as doing something worthwhile or altruistic can also open doors to networking opportunities. It can be a perfect conversation starter, which you could use to explain that you are currently unemployed, but wanting to do something useful while you are looking for work.
Google volunteering + *your city* to find organisations who coordinate volunteer placements, or contact a company you like to offer your time.
Learn more skills for free
Many tertiary education and vocational training providers offer free courses for youth up to 19 years via the Youth Guarantee programme. Other training programmes for sought-after professions are offered at Zero Fees regardless of the age of the learner, such as the National Certificate in Health, Disability and Aged Care (Foundation Skills) at Futureskills. For those who don't do well in a classroom setting and prefer to learn on their own, Open Polytech and the Southern Institute of Technology offer a wide range of distance learning courses up to postgraduate level at Zero Fees.
If formal tertiary education sounds like too much of a commitment, even taking an inexpensive night class at your local Community College can be a way of getting an edge over other applicants.
Keeping your options open
There is a fair amount of literature on employment support for autistic people, and most authors include a list of professions they deem suitable or unsuitable. By their very nature these lists tend to be simplistic, often focusing on stereotypical proficiencies: jobs that require accuracy and focus, are repetitive, technical, or deal with animals and nature. Other authors build their recommendations on presumed special skills or talents.
Ask a trusted friend or parent for input, but don’t let a list tell you what you can and cannot do. Find out what you like and what you are good at — then go for that.
Auckland Employment Support Programme
Ministry of Social Development funding now allows Autism New Zealand to offer an employment support service in its Auckland branch. Managed by an experienced staff member who understands the challenges and opportunities autism can present, the service focuses on pre-employment coaching and in-work support for the employee and the employer. It is specifically designed to provide the time and support needed to find employment that is suitable, meaningful and long-term allowing opportunities for further development.
The employment service includes:
- identification of realistic career options
- creation of a step-by-step plan to gain employment
- creation of a targeted CV and cover letters
- practical job search skills
- assistance in making the first approach to employers
- interview practice and interview support
- autism awareness training for employers of participants in the service
Jonathan Ball, who used Autism New Zealand’s employment support service to find work, speaks passionately about how his job has changed his outlook on life. You can watch the video here.
In order to be eligible for this service, job seekers should:
- Have a formal (written) ASD diagnosis, and
- Be on a main benefit from WINZ, and
- Be willing to work a minimum of 15 hours per week in a mainstream workplace.
Autism New Zealand's Employment Support Facilitator email@example.com.
For those wanting some inspiration to strike out on their own, the following book is highly recommended:
Simone, R. (2010). Asperger’s on the Job. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons
You may also find these books helpful:
Carley, M. J. (2016). Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum. How to Cope Productively with the Effects of Unemployment and Jobhunt with Confidence. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Saperstein, J. A. (2014). Getting a Life with Asperger’s. Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood. New York, NY: Perigree (Penguin Group)