Rewind back to June last year: I was applying to countless job adverts hoping to find a role that will kickstart my career. I did my research, picked my interview outfit and signed up to a few agencies in my area. Yet with all this preparation under my belt, there was still one more decision I needed to make.
Do I tell my next potential employer that I’m autistic?
Before then I had never mentioned it to the people I worked with. It seemed easier at the time to keep it private as I was worried about how they would react; a part of me didn’t want to be judged by their definition of what being autistic means. There’s always a risk of being seen as weak and when I was at the start of gaining experience, I didn’t need that negativity hovering over me. Disclosing is a personal choice which meant I was lucky enough to be able to make the decision for myself.
I stuck this out for the first few years of working and to be honest disclosing rarely crossed my mind if at all. It wasn’t till I became more vocal online that I started to debate whether to or not. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with Ali Caitrin, especially since sharing my experience with being autistic and having this realisation helped me see that maybe now is the right time.
All I had to do is figure out how to approach it.
There’s no rule book on how to tell someone that you’re autistic – even if one existed it would be impossible for it to work for everyone with it being so personal. For some, sharing their diagnosis can be a nerve-wracking experience and despite being oddly confident with this myself, I was well aware that explaining it to an employer was on a whole new level.
So How Did I Disclose It?
That was the more tricky part. While chatting with my parents one evening I realised that saying it outright would be too intense; I needed to ease myself into it somehow. I knew I wanted to mention it during the interview to see how they’d respond. People sometimes forget that they’re interviewing the employer too, just with a slightly different approach. A negative reaction to my diagnosis would have been a deal breaker for me!
Because I have my blog on my CV, it will always without a doubt get brought up during the interview. Especially as I was wanting to go into web content and development it’s a great way to show off the skills I’ve gained from it. But most importantly it meant I could use this as the starting point and casually bring up that I share my personal experience with autism into the conversation. Although it may be a more informal approach it was the one I felt most comfortable with. Plus they could then see that I was using it to my advantage. Well, that was the plan anyway.
Sure it was scary and yes I felt pretty vulnerable by that point but it was also a huge relief! I was able to prove to them that being autistic does not equal being incapable to do the job. Alongside that, it gave me the chance to mention any adjustments I needed. I couldn’t guarantee that they would accept it all but at least I’d know before it was too late.
Now here I am 8 months later in a job I can wholeheartedly say I enjoy! It may have taken me longer than expected to get to this point (read: too long) but I’m glad I went through it all.
If you’re reading this because you happen to be in a similar situation then I hope it will help in one way or another. Maybe give you some sense of relief that it’s not all bad? Either way, if you decide to tell your employer then that’s awesome! If not that’s totally fine too – it’s 100% your call!
We can’t control how others will react, but sooner or later it will lead to a better acceptance of autistic people. Because why would we want to blend in when we can stand out instead?