For Neurodivergent individuals, job-hunting can be a challenge. Even if one already has proficiency in the required skills and experience in the field, traditional job interviews are a big hurdle that involve new environments, pressure from interviewers, and stressful social environments where all the attention is focused on you. In these sorts of situations, it's normal for people to be nervous, but interviewers may interpret that nervousness negatively, as lack of preparation or unconfidence.
What is a normal task may become daunting due to circumstances out of one’s control. So how should we, as a society, go about clearing that challenge? How can we make careers that are open to everyone, and foster inclusive and supportive environments?
The solution lies in an association working to create what can only be described as a new job market for neurodivergent individuals. Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable, founded in 2017, is a community of employers that seek to hire and support neurodivergent individuals, seeking their often overlooked skills and talents. According to their website: “The Roundtable is about building a community of employers that work together to create understanding, awareness and supportive systems that provide opportunities for neurodivergent employees to grow and achieve their full potential,” and with their dedication to equality and diversity in the workplace, they’ve formed partnerships with almost 50 companies. The companies partnered with Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable are not only from a broad range of industries, but also very prominent companies within those particular industries as well. Some names you may recognize are: Microsoft, Ford, Bank of America, Google, HP, Dell Technologies, Warner Bros. Pictures and Wells Fargo. Every single one of these companies is united in the fact that all of them have programs committed to providing hiring opportunities for those with disabilities.
And those benefitted by these programs only have positive things to say. Francine Heisler works for Freddie Mac as an IT Generalist. As someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Heisler was hired through Freddie Mac’s Neurodiversity at Work Program, which seeks to find the talents of people with disabilities, and provides them with support even after the initial hiring process! Heisler says “I’m glad to be working at Freddie Mac with a manager like mine, who sees me for who I am with my strengths and challenges, and who accepts me just like any other employee on our team. The comfort of this acceptance allows me to use the energy I previously expended in hiding my disability. I can now present my best self to accomplish my best work”.
“Interviews were my wall that barred me from having career level employment.” says Anna Fogle, a Senior Analyst in Business Intelligence. When she applied to the Dell Technologies Autism Hiring Program and ended up being hired, she states “I was shocked that Dell was willing to give me a chance, and that they found me to be competent enough to actually deserve not just a job, but a good job, doing what I love”. Through this program, she was not only able to enter a field that she loved, but also receive training due to Dell’s assessment of her potential. Anna’s story is just one of many, as Dell has partnered with Neurodiversity in the Workplace Initiative to aid neurodivergent individuals in their career path.
The Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Round Table launched their site, The Neurodiversity Career Connector in April of 2022. The site looks to connect neurodiverse individuals with job opportunities in companies with dedicated Neurodiversity Hiring Programs from the various companies of the Employer Round Table, so that they will be accepted and supported in their careers.
On the Career Connector, you can search for job listings by company, skill, and job title. Most jobs are related to computer science. Once you find a job, you apply, and rather than a traditional interview, you may be scheduled for a modified interview, or even just an evaluation of your skills. Applying for a job to a company with a Neurodiversity Hiring Program eliminates the hurdle of stressful interviews, and allows you to disclose your neurodivergence to an accepting and understanding hiring team. On the site for Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Round Table there are also additional resources on how employers can develop their own neurodiversity-focused hiring initiatives.
According to a Drexel University Study, due to barriers in the job-market, Neurodivergent individuals are at a disadvantage, with only 14% of adults with autism occupying a paid job. This statistic only goes to show how much untapped potential there is in the workplace regarding people with autism. By adjusting the hiring process, companies are able to hire neurodivergent people with talent they had previously been missing out on.
With the launch of sites such as The Neurodiversity Career Connector, Neurodivergent Individuals are given the opportunity to find jobs, support themselves and have equal standing in the job-market. Doors open up for people, and we can achieve equity in the workplace. The Neurodiversity Career Connector is a resource that takes the steps to ensure that all people are celebrated and embraced, and Neurodiverse individuals can have the resources they need to succeed. Here at SN Inclusion, we are dedicated to the same.
Some other programs that work towards neurodiversity & inclusivity in the workplace:
Neurodiversity in the Workplace Initiative (https://nitw.org/)
The Yang Tan Institute on Employment and Disability (https://www.yti.cornell.edu/)
Diversity Partners Employment (https://www.buildingdiversitypartners.org/)
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (https://askearn.org/)