Online employment works well for many individuals. For example, working from home allows me, an autistic with multiple disabilities, the same opportunities as other employees.
Living with COVID-19 has revealed that many jobs can adapt to remote employment. Companies that were hesitant to embrace telecommuting have discovered its many benefits, including reduced costs and lower stress among workers.
Autistics considering either entering the workforce or developing career skills should consider the lessons of the last year. Embrace the possibility of working in your residence, which is tailored to your needs. This article offers three steps for career building in these challenging times:
- Create and maintain an online brand with a professional image.
- Search for opportunities online.
- Add new skills or certify existing skills online.
Creating a Brand
We often struggle with professional networking because of the social interactions. Many locations also challenge our sensory needs. Online professional networking equalizes opportunities for autistics.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, that’s a great step toward achieving your career goals. Employers often use these profiles to judge your skills and reputation. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, create one.
Don’t forget to maintain your profile. A good rule to help you remember to do that: when you update your traditional resume, update LinkedIn. Complete a class or earn a degree? Update LinkedIn. If you earn a professional certification or complete specialized training, update LinkedIn. If you receive a promotion at work, update your resume and LinkedIn. Anything you do to improve your work skills, add the information to LinkedIn.
Other Online Profiles: Employment search engines, listed here in order of popularity, include Indeed, ZipRecruiter, SimplyHired, and Monster. These websites work best if you complete their profile forms. Creating those profiles will take time and can be frustrating. I recommend creating a checklist of websites, starting with Indeed. Check off sites as you finish the profiles.
After you have profiles on LinkedIn and the leading employment search engines, begin searching for job listings. Use the advanced search options to find jobs that best match your skills, expectations, needs, and preferences. If you wouldn’t be happy in a full-time job 30 miles from home, refine your job search accordingly.
One of the search criteria on Indeed and ZipRecruiter is a “remote” checkbox, which indicates you want to work from your residence. If, like me, you prefer working from home, check this box.
A list of checkboxes asks you to narrow the search based on employment type. Many autistics thrive as independent consultants working on projects that allow us to take a break to recharge when they end. For that reason, I choose “contract” and “temporary” job listings.
Freelance Job Boards: If you prefer to work on projects and have a professional portfolio, freelancing websites can be good places to find work as a self-employed worker. The sites Upwork, Fiverr, Guru, and Freelancer are only a few of the options for contract work. Writers, programmers, designers, and artists, among others, use these websites to find work.
Freelancing isn’t like selling goods on Etsy or Shopify. Instead of selling completed products, you are selling your time and skills as an expert. People and companies hire you to create custom products or solutions. I know dressmakers using Upwork to sell their services, remotely. I also know printmakers using these sites to sell custom artwork. The artists receive contracts that might include selling original patterns or other production materials.
Adding New Skills
Employers seek new hires with documented skills. With each new skill you add to a profile, the more desirable you become as an applicant. Originally, my autistic impulse was to add only newly acquired skills to LinkedIn and Indeed. I had not considered that “new skills” on these platforms includes demonstrating what I already knew.
LinkedIn and Indeed offer assessment tests that you can pass to highlight abilities. Anyone can add “Word expert” to a resume, but do they really have the skills and knowledge? Passing an assessment proves to employers that you do know what you list on a profile. There is no charge for taking these short tests, so I have added several to my profiles.
Matching Employer Needs: When you read the job search results, look at the skills listed as requirements in the postings. If the same skill appears in several job postings, that’s a skill you should consider adding to your profile.
I found many jobs listing HTML/CSS as a skill. I had assumed because I have a degree in digital design that I didn’t need to list something so basic. After taking a simple assessment test for HTML code, I started to receive more responses to my applications. It seems illogical, but employers use search engines, too. Each assessment you pass increases the chance employers will find you.
Not every job adapts to remote work, nor have all employers accepted the benefits remote workers provide. As well-known companies embrace remote work, other employers will follow. While there may be more opportunities for remote work in the years ahead, there will also be jobs in the traditional office. Choose the path that fits you best.
Christopher Scott Wyatt began blogging as The Autistic Me in 2007, at the age of 39. Wyatt avoided becoming an autistic self-advocate until he realized things had not improved significantly since his childhood. Blogging led to invitations to appear at regional and national conferences. Wyatt also provides training to schools on how to better accommodate students on the autism spectrum. Along with his wife, Susan, he also frankly discusses relationships and parenting. The couple lives in Central Texas with their two young daughters.