Q: My son “Brett,” who will graduate from college next year, has a documented diagnosis of high-functioning autism, often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome.
Fortunately, a full scholarship has made it possible for Brett to focus on his studies without having to get a job. The stress of juggling school and work would have been a lot for him to handle.
Now, however, I’m beginning to worry about how Brett’s lack of job experience may be viewed by potential employers. On his resume, the only entry under “work history” will be a temporary six-week position in the school’s disability office. How can he explain this during future job interviews?
A: Since the immediate objective is for Brett to receive his degree, your desire to avoid overloading him is certainly understandable. But with graduation approaching, both of you should begin thinking about the transition from school to employment. Otherwise, Brett may be completely unprepared for the change he is about to experience.
All graduates, with or without a disability, have a lot to learn about the world of work. However, one aspect can be particularly confusing for people with autism. Since they are frequently mystified by the nuances of social behavior, relationships with bosses and co-workers represent a minefield of confusing interactions and unclear expectations.
Pre-graduation job practice will not only shorten this interpersonal learning curve, it will also result in references who can verify Brett’s value as an employee. So instead of trying to explain your son’s slim resume, which will be a big red flag for many employers, help him find appropriate ways to fatten it.
The college career center or disability office may be able to identify low-stress student jobs, internships or volunteer assignments. Local and national autism organizations may also have helpful resources. Finally, encourage Brett to connect with graduates who have walked this path before him. Their insights will be invaluable.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.