Navigating the job search with Asperger’s syndrome

Planning for interview details such as eye contact and pleasantries are important 
for those with Asperger’s.

In 2006, career coach Barbara Bissonnette attended a workshop on Asperger’s syndrome at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. She instantly felt she wanted to better understand the job search challenges of people with AS. Today, her company, Forward Motion Coaching, is one of the few in the nation to specialize in providing career coaching to people with AS.

Her latest book, “The Complete Guide to Finding a Job for People With Asperger’s Syndrome,” will be released in November.

What’s the difference between writing a career book for a person with Asperger’s syndrome as opposed to a neurotypical reader?

There’s a lot more explicit detail in some areas. For example, most books would take certain aspects of the process for granted: How you introduce yourself to the interviewer, making eye contact and smiling. It’s important to discuss the details — casual exchanges of pleasantries. People with Asperger’s usually struggle with that, so I try to prepare them for those moments in the job search.

Are their certain fields that are better for people with AS?

I get asked that a lot. People are looking for a short list. Actually, I have had clients in a wide range of careers. So there is no list. But, to make a general statement, jobs that don’t involve a high level of sophisticated personal interaction are a better choice for most individuals with AS. And I can understand why people with AS often gravitate toward fields like engineering and information technology. These are fields with difficult but concrete problems to solve: A leads to B, typically, and they don’t usually require a high sensitivity to nonverbal signals.

Should people with AS disclose their diagnosis to potential employers?

For me, it depends on the person and their particular situation. In general, if you don’t need to disclose, why bring up potential problems? But, if they feel they have to choose between focusing on the interview and managing an aspect of AS, it might be a great idea to be upfront with the interviewer.


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