Autistic & Employed: My Journey - Chapter 1

Written by Greg Smith - Chocolatier at Harry Specters

My employment story started when I left West Suffolk College in 2016 and having passed my driving test, I started applying for several apprenticeships so that I could learn a trade whilst earning a small income.

I sent my CV through to a few companies in the hospitality and delivering sectors and managed to get a few interviews, but often as I got halfway through the interview, the questions they were asking got harder and I struggled to articulate that I was right for the job. The most stressful interview was when I applied for a café job in Bury St Edmunds – the staff weren’t prepared for the interview and so the questions were unexpected and not always related to the actual job which made the whole experience very frustrating and made me want to give up my job hunt.

I also found the actual process of filling out application forms very difficult because of the vague wording and open-ended questions, so I often had help from my Mum to get a better understanding of what the questions meant. Even the “disability friendly employers” didn’t seem to tailor the application process to make it easier for people like myself with learning difficulties.

Lots of the forms also had a tick box to mark if you have a disability. At first, I always ticked this box but after several unsuccessful applications, I started to wonder whether I should leave it blank? The trouble is, by doing this I might have got more job interviews but once I was there, I found the interview process even harder!

Registering for Job Seekers allowance and later Universal Credit was also a challenge. The online application was very confusing and was followed up by a difficult face to face interview. Once I had registered, I also found it hard to complete the weekly diary to evidence my job search and often had to ask for help to complete it.

To sum it up, after spending almost 12 months in 2017 hunting for jobs without success, I was starting to feel disillusioned and confused about how to find a job that was right for me. The most frustrating thing was that I knew I was fully capable of doing all those jobs that I applied for but was finding it difficult to express myself well enough to convince employers.

I really feel that if some employers had been more understanding and if “disability friendly” really meant disability friendly then my job search would have been a whole lot easier.

I did find some help during my job search, from a charity called Shaw Trust. They helped me update my CV and recommended going into a volunteering course at the Green Light Trust which was really helpful in improving my confidence and mental health. I really enjoyed working with both charities and after several months of job searching without success, I finally found my first paid employment job by pure chance.

Published by Shaz Shah

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