Autism is a neurological condition that can impact how someone behaves, connects with others, and socialises. Autism is a Neurodevelopmental Disorder, which means people are born with it, however, traits can differ and many people may self-identify as being autistic, without getting a formal diagnosis.
Some autistic people may struggle with social relationships, which can create challenges within education, at home and in the workplace. As a result, it can lead to stress and anxiety, which can mean searching and applying for jobs can be a very stressful experience. But what strategies are best to manage stress before and during that all important job interview?
Strategies to manage stress and anxiety before and during an interview
A person looking for work may find going to an interview extremely stressful, but for autistic job-seeker who may also experience social challenges, interviews can be crippling. People who experience this type of social anxiety may tense up, become unable to think quickly, and eventually become unable to answer in a way that effectively conveys their experience and knowledge. Because of this, it’s important to create healthy approaches and ideas that autistic people can use to succeed in job interviews without worrying, anxiety, or fear.
Preparing to disclose in advance and determining how much information they are willing to share is one of the strategies that can help autistic job-seekers to relax. It is often beneficial to prepare a disclosure script or document to share, or to use as a prompt for a verbal disclosure. Disclosing can help to communicate the strengths and challenges associated with an individual’s autism, whilst also helping the interviewer to understand a communication style, and how to best approach the interview questions. Some people have strong opinions on the need to reveal a disability or neurodiversity as early on in the process as feasible, while others think this should only be told if it requires an accommodation for the interviewing process. Individuals should choose whether or not to provide information based on their own opinions, interests, and degree of comfort. Therefore, it should not be necessary for job applications, interviewers, or employees to reveal a disability before reasonable adjustments are actioned.
Knowing their strengths and challenges is crucial for autistic job-seekers. Job-seekers should be aware of how their background and experience relate to the job which they are applying for. They should effectively compare and contrast their credentials with those needed for the position. Additionally, it’s critical for autistic job-seekers to be aware of their comfort zones. There are many web sources where they can find common interview questions, and its important to use these to prepare answers in advance. Individuals should prioritise preparing for an interview, so they can feel more at ease and confident going into it. They can then become more assured throughout the interview as you can become more knowledgeable about the job application. If someone can use strategies to feel less stressed and more prepared for the interview, they are more able to identify their areas of strengths and weaknesses and convey these effectively to a potential employer.
If job-seekers can, its recommended that should try to relax and enter the interview with confidence, smile, and perhaps most importantly, be themselves knowing that they have fully prepared for the interview and can perform to the best of their abilities.
Its important to remember that being neurodivergent comes with many specialist skills and unique ways of thinking, so it can be beneficial for job-seekers to think about the strengths it brings them when applying for jobs.
Resilience and coping mechanisms
Being resilient is being able to adjust well to difficult situations. Risks and positive adaptations are two characteristics that define resilience. Coping mechanisms are attempts or techniques used by the mind and body to cope with demanding and stressful situations. There are two key stress management strategies that a job-seeker could try, such as problem-focused coping (where a person aims to resolve the issue that is stressing them out) and emotion-focused coping (where a job-seeker attempts to manage the negative emotions caused by the stressor and the search for new meaning to a stressful situation).
Talking about your experiences
Another really helpful strategy to reduce stress before an interview is talking about it to someone. This could be someone you trust, such as a family member or friend. Talking to someone can make you feel calmer, and you can even work together to develop strategies to help you succeed in the interview.
Relaxation techniques diet and exercise
Job-seekers can reduce stress and anxiety by managing their daily schedule, using relaxation techniques, remaining physically active, getting enough sleep, and paying attention to their diet.
There are some really good Ted talks about how exercise can improve your brain functioning. Click here to watch one of them.
According to research, mindfulness practices may also improve sensory modulation while reducing stress and anxiety. Try some mindfulness meditation exercises when feeling overwhelmed by stress or sensory overload.
There are some great Ted talks on mindfulness, click here to watch one.