One of the major stressors affecting young adults on the autism spectrum is finding and keeping a job. In this post Been There. Done That. Try This! mentor Anita Lesko gives her top tips on how to get the process started and make a good impression at initial interviews. 

The employment market is tight and very competitive because of where our society is at this point in time.  Unfortunately that makes finding and keeping a job all the more difficult.  Then toss in being on the Autism Spectrum to complicate matters even more! This might sound impossible, but it’s really not.  There are things you can do to maximize your potential for securing a job you want.

Everyone is familiar with the term ‘Curb Appeal.’ Yes, it’s referring to a home, what a potential buyer first sees the instant they pull up to a home for sale. That first impression will determine how they view the rest of the property.  Well, in effect, you are no different than the house for sale!  What a potential employer sees the moment you walk through the door sets the tone of their impression of you.  This is a key point that you have the opportunity to achieve a positive first impression.

When I meet with Aspies to run my support group, there’s a common trait I see in each and every one of them.  They walk in hunched over, head down, shoulders rounded forward, eyes staring at the floor. What does that convey?  Low self-esteem is the first thing that comes to mind.  If I were a potential employer, would this type of body language appeal to me?  Absolutely not.This might sound harsh, but that’s reality.  You, and only you, can control what your body language speaks about you. 

Following are some very simple steps to help you start off on the right foot in your quest for a job. First, I tell people to have someone like a family member, take a photo of you standing and one of you sitting. Just exactly how you normally stand and sit. Print them off to have as your guide. Next, while you are standing, take a nice deep breath, stand up straight and tall, lift your chin up, and shoulders back.Don’t do it to such an extreme that you look unnatural. Then let them take a picture of you standing proud and tall.Make sure your chin is up, and your eyes are up, looking ahead, or at the person whom you are meeting. Now do the same sitting. Put your back against the chair, shoulders back, chin up, eyes up and looking ahead or at the person you are meeting. Have your helper take a photo. 

Now, line up the photos and see for yourself what your body is saying! The ‘Before’ photos would not be what you want a potential employer to see I’m sure. The ‘After’ photos will be the ones that say you are confident about yourself, and you can do the job you are being hired for.  When I have people do this experiment they are quite shocked at the difference in the two sets of photos. Your body language speaks volumes about you. Whether going for a job interview or a first date, you want to make the best first impression you possibly can. 

This is a simple start to a complex process.  What is most effective is to practice your new body language in front of a mirror. There you can make any adjustments necessary to ensure you look natural yet effective. Continue to practice this until it is a normal way of life. It will make you feel good about yourself and have positive effects far beyond seeking a job! Think positive and keep trying. You can and will achieve the results you want!  And always remember to smile!

Anita is one of the editors of new book Been There. Done That. Try This! published in March 2014 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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