Maggie earned a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal and Fine Arts with a Major in Communication/Public Relations and a Minor in Non Profit Management from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has worked for Compass Resource Group since 2011. She assists adults in Texas with disabilities in achieving their employment goals by providing training, job placement assistance, environmental work assessments, social skills training, and job coaching. She has been instrumental in shaping the services at Compass Resource Group to meet the needs of young adults on the Autism Spectrum who are transitioning from high school. She is a member of the DARS Statewide Developmental Disorders Team
Q: Should I tell my potential employer that I have Aspergers?
Oftentimes individuals that I am working with choose not to disclose their disability/ies because they feel that it will affect how others perceive them at work. While this is a legitimate concern, it is one that can be minimized with practice and self-confidence.
I tell individuals who are thinking about disclosing their disability to really focus on their capabilities or strengths, that which they can offer an employer that stands out above what they feel they lack. It is usually in the best interest to have some solutions in your mind for the accommodations that you will need while working.
I have often been asked: What is the hardest part of your job? The majority of the time the answer is discovering what skills my clients have to offer to an employer. As an employment specialist I recognize that prospective employers are talking about hard skills.
Cold calling is: calling up a person or business and informing them that you are interested in employment. This can sound intimidating, but it can be very effective for opening the doors to the hidden job market we discussed previously.
Cold calling allows you to possibly learn about a job that is not yet posted. For individuals with Aspergers/HFA it could seem very daunting to call a stranger on the phone and ask for a job. Some individuals never will be comfortable with this part of the job search, and that is okay. Other individuals love the initial autonomy of it.
For individuals with Aspergers/HFA here are some tips we utilize to help reduce fears when cold calling:
Do you know the difference between the hidden job market versus the advertised job market?
The majority of individuals are unaware that a hidden job market exists. The hidden job market includes jobs that are not formally announced on the Internet, the companies website or even by a “now hiring” sign. The hidden job market is often used by the employer to hire someone within their network or their associate’s networks. According to statistics, 80 percent of all jobs are never advertised. (Uncovering the hidden job market by Martin Lieberman)
So how does this affect individuals with Asperger’s/HFA?
Job fairs: This can be very daunting for anyone at any stage in the job search, but job fairs are a great way to get to see the companies in your area. You can see what positions are available without having to apply or call anyone, if you aren’t ready for that.
As I have previously talked about, informational interviewing is a tool to use in order to get to know a company, and talk to individuals about how they have gotten to where they are. A job fair is one great way to attain that informational interview.
To be honest, starting a job is not always as easy as it sounds. When my clients with HFA/Asperger’s are trying to start a job it is very important that we go about it the right way, which may take longer, but ensures stability in the workplace. In older posts I have discussed work assessments, and I still believe they are a wonderful tool for learning what environments you will do best in. I highly recommend using work assessments. The same outcome could be achieved through volunteering as well.
If work assessments can’t be completed, then here is what I suggest:
One of the most common concerns when working towards employment, interviewing and accepting an offer is the decision to disclose your disability or not. This a very personal decision, and one that you should feel comfortable with.
Many concerns the employment seeker has can include:
Will it affect how I am perceived at work?
Will others judge me?
Who do I disclose too?
When do I disclose?
In the next few entries I will discuss answers to the aforementioned questions. I will address the different types of disclosures – such as full disclosure, partial disclosure and not disclosing – as well as what to do after you answer yes to the question: “Can you do this job with or without a reasonable accommodation?”
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and as an employment specialist who strives for equal employment for everyone I work with, this is a great month to celebrate how far we’ve come. Although the numbers are not where they should be in regards to equal employment…things are changing.
I hope that the blogs leading up to this one have helped, or can help you in the future as you strive toward employment. Let us celebrate our unique and wonderful capabilities. Instead of letting our difference hold us back, let it be something that, in the words of Samuel Allen, “Gives us wings.”
Here is a great website that talks more about this month: