One of the more difficult things people are facing today is looking for the right job. That was one of my big challenges when I graduated from college; I had the degree everyone wanted but not the experience. I had to find the right company that would start giving me the experience I needed to start moving up the “ladder” to a position I was happy with. A few of the things I considered while searching for a job was what education was needed, what the pay was, and if I would get benefits. But as a Supported Employment Manager for adults with autism, I learned quickly that the job search has to be taken in a totally different direction than it was for me.
Part of my job is searching for employment opportunities for the adults on my caseload, and also recommending someone on my caseload for a job that is found by someone else. When I first start searching for jobs for the individuals on my caseload, I think about whether the individual can actually do the job and also what can go wrong at the jobsite. There are many factors to consider when looking for a job for someone with autism, and different kinds of questions that have to be asked when interviewing with a manager. In the end, the final decision is not even mine to make. The job has be approved by the psychologist of the company I work for to make sure that the job is the right fit for the individual.
When going to speak with a manager about a potential jobsite, there are a few factors I look at to make sure the job is right for the individual. One of the things I look at is where the individual will be working for most of the day. Other factors include making sure the space is not too small, if there are a lot of people around, and how noisy the area is. Another key factor is what the individual will actually be doing. Finding a job with the same routine would typically be the best fit rather than a job in which the duties change every day. During the actual interview, the biggest question is how many hours will the individual be working? Our vocational program runs from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and in order to access state funding, the individual has to work at least four hours each day. Not only do we want to meet the needs of the employer but we also have to meet the state requirements for funding for the individual. Once we have a jobsite and the hours, the next challenge is finding the right individual for the position.
At the company I work for, we have weekly meetings in which jobsite ideas are brought up. Each manager will submit a few names to see who would fit best. We do not have the final say on who gets the job; the psychologist does because ultimately we want to put someone working at the job that will not have a “problem” with the conditions and the hours. The ideal situation would be to find a job for everyone on my caseload and have them all working. As people are finding out, the job market is really hard for someone with a college degree and experience, let alone someone with autism. In the end, it is an ongoing process that does have the best reward: Seeing the smile on the face of one of my individuals working at a job that they love and having the parent thank me for everything I have done to help them find work.