THE ROAD TO JOB FULFILLMENT
Meet our author, Amy!
Amy Cramb is an autistic woman passionate about empowerment and advocacy from the autistic perspective. After completing a psychology degree and working in the autism support industry, Amy noticed gaps in the services offered to autistic females particularly. She is utilising her passion and lived experience with autism to fill these gaps with her business, Finding Autism.
This year, I surveyed just under 150 autistic women about their experiences, traits, and aspirations. What did I find? I found that autistic women are awesome!
We have several unique strengths that would make us valuable employees or professional leaders. The strengths most cited by these autistic women included empathy, capacity for deep focus, problem-solving skills, pattern recognition, exceptional attention to detail, and creativity.
Despite these strengths, many of the women described that they were still seeking a profession that matches their skill set, is enjoyable, and is sustainable for them. For example, one of the women described that the hardest thing about being autistic for them is
“The inability to find work that suits my unique skill set and accommodates my needs as an Autistic.”
Another mentioned that
“I cannot keep a job, though every place I’ve worked benefits from having me as an employee… inevitably I walk away because I’m so miserable.”
In describing aspirations for the next few years, one autistic woman similarly mentioned that
“I’m trying to find a job that I don’t hate that lets me work mostly independently… and lets me have enough free time and energy to do what I enjoy.”
Reading these responses made me feel extremely lucky to be an autistic woman in a profession that suits me well and that I enjoy. However, I have only recently found my ‘professional groove’ after many years of suffering in roles that were unsustainable for me. How can autistic women, with their wonderful strengths, find their professional groove?
Here are my 3 pieces of advice:
1. Select the roles that align with, and champion, your personal strengths.
One interesting finding from the survey was that there seemed to be a distinction between the autistic women that had high attention to detail and those that instead, described themselves as creative or having “out-of-the-box thinking.”
So, for those that have creativity as a personal strength, some potential professions include running art classes, fashion design, inventing, architectural design, website creation, content creation, creative writing, photography, filmmaking, interior design, and more! The possibilities are endless. Indeed, these roles would benefit from someone who is passionately creative and approaches things from a unique perspective.
For those that focus more on attention to detail as their strength, aligned professions may include becoming a technical writer, editor, researcher, program developer, or fingerprint examiner, to name a few. These roles tend to be autonomous, therefore allowing for deep focus and high attention to the details that others may overlook.
What about the autistic women who value people-based work that puts empathy front and center? Indeed, the most frequently cited strength of the surveyed autistic women was empathy: a deep understanding and care of others’ perspectives. Empathy is the key to success in many professional roles but is arguably most critical in positions where someone else is in your care and requires support and understanding. For example, psychologists, counselors, social workers, therapists, nurses, doctors, and vets would strongly benefit from a deep level of empathy.
Now, I know I just listed off a whole heap of professions. These can be narrowed down with my second piece of advice:
2. It is important to not only find a profession that aligns with your strengths, but also one that is born from your passions.
Deep passions and interests are often a large part of being autistic. Indeed, 74% of the women I surveyed this year described themselves as having strong interests in things that last for years. I could see their passion shining through when I asked them to describe these interests and why they were enjoyable. Our passionate interests often provide us with meaning, a way to express ourselves authentically, become present, relaxed, and feel safe.
3. It could be argued that our deep interests or passions are a strength in and of themselves, giving rise to devotion and specialization.
Personally, when I am passionate about something, I am more focused, attentive, creative, motivated, productive, and ambitious. Therefore, working in a field that aligns with my interests and passions brings out the best in me in my work. It allows my brilliant strengths as an autistic woman to rise to the surface.
Indeed, other autistic women echoed this in their survey responses. For example, one woman said that
“I'd say my biggest strength is my passion for my interests. When I develop an interest in something, I soak up knowledge, have commitment, and memorize things in great detail. It feels easy to become an expert on the things that interest me. I am drawn towards learning and happily enjoy sharing my knowledge.”
Another autistic woman explained that
“When something becomes a great interest, my need to know more or master something has grown into a number of skills.”
Similarly, yet another autistic woman mentioned that
“I can get extremely invested… As a result, I am one of the few people to have discovered my passion in life at a young age, as well as the drive to pursue it.”
So, if you are still looking for your ‘professional groove’, consider your personal strengths and what you are passionate about. Hopefully, this will help guide you into a profession that is sustainable, and meaningful, and encourages you to thrive.