Job Coaching Success Stories - Transforming Neurodivergent Careers
In today’s rapidly changing job market, one constant is the demand for soft skills. As opposed to technical or “hard” skills, soft skills are “interpersonal and behavioral skills that help you to work well with other people and develop your career” (Indeed). According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report, 92% of talent professionals reported that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. With this need has come the creation of the job coach position in many workplaces. At auticon, where 80% of our employees are on the autism spectrum, job coaching is especially key to helping our team members thrive and succeed in their roles.
Soft skills may be difficult for someone who is neurodivergent, and this can create challenges in getting jobs and performing at work—even if they are otherwise extremely qualified for and skilled at the role. For example, a typical job interview requires soft skills including interpersonal skills and verbal communication, while an autistic jobseeker may have a difficult time making small talk or interpreting indirect questions. After being hired, other important soft skills include written communication, time management, presentation skills, social etiquette, problem solving, networking, leadership, and stress management. Someone who has ADHD may have a difficult time with time management during the workday, and someone who has dyslexia may feel anxiety over a project that requires heavy reading.
At auticon, our job coach program is here to support our neurodivergent employees with soft skills. Job coaches act as a neutral party available for support throughout the workday. We provide a listening ear, a support system, and strategies for addressing common workplace challenges and building workplace skills. By fostering a supportive environment, we've seen remarkable results. As Lead Job Coach, I’ve had the honor of witnessing the personal and professional and growth of our autistic technologists.
Below are the job coaching successes stories of three auticon team members, Maria, Jason, and Chris (note: names have been changed to protect employees’ privacy). Their stories demonstrate the power of job coaching in not only improving soft skills, but in addressing anxiety, stress management, and struggles with work-life balance. These are all common challenges for autistic and neurodivergent employees, and providing support in these areas enables them to focus more fully on their work and developing other skills.
Maria’s Story: Managing Anxiety in the Workplace
One of Maria’s biggest challenges was managing anxiety in the workplace. In particular, she would often feel anxious about asking a question or feel like someone would be upset with her. Through job coaching we worked on self-advocacy, remembering that we are all a team, and that it is good to ask questions.
As a result, she felt more comfortable with her team and became able to advocate for herself and ask questions when she needed to—which in turn improved her work quality. She has been able to learn more, feel more confident, and take on more leadership responsibilities including being the point person for her team if they need support.
Thanks to job coaching, “I’m able to communicate better and I’ve been asked to run meetings,” Maria said. She also said job coaching has helped her feel an “overall sense of belonging in the company.”
Jason’s Story: Finding Work-Life Balance
Jason would often forget to take breaks during work, leaving him vulnerable to stress and burnout. By working with his job coach on his schedule as well as the importance of work-life balance, Jason now includes break times in his workday. As a result, he has become more focused and productive at work due to not feeling burned out or overworked.
Through working with his job coach on time management and work-life balance, Jason said “the quality of my work improved, my stress decreased, and I’m more organized.”
Chris’ Story: Asking for What He Needs
For Chris, the most challenging aspects of the workplace were communication and advocating for himself. Chris’ job coach worked with him on feeling more comfortable in the workplace, keeping communication lines open, and asking for what he needs. One importance aspect of advocating for himself was asking for time off, which he was able to practice with his job coach. As a result, he now feels more focused-on his well-being and is comfortable asking for vacation time.
“I feel more balanced in the workplace and less stressed,” Chris said. “I also appreciate that I can get what is bothering me off my chest during job coaching sessions.”
Job Coaching for Managers
Job coaching is an effective tool for teams and companies that want to better support their neurodivergent team members and create a neuroinclusive work environment. Beyond providing 1:1 support as described above, auticon’s job coaches also serve as a bridge between our neurodivergent team members, their managers, and the clients teams they work for. We provide managers with training and best practices for working with neurodivergent colleagues, ensuring a cohesive and supportive work environment for everyone involved.
The impact of job coaching speaks volumes, as echoed by one of our direct managers who gained useful skills in managing neurodiverse teams: “Job coaching has sharpened my professional skills and boosted my confidence. The coaching has also improved my communication, enabling me to express myself effectively and understand nuanced interactions better. Overall, it's been an invaluable resource.”
auticon clients access job coaching in two ways: first, it’s included automatically for companies that hire our autistic tech talent. And second, we offer job coaching as a service for managers and teams that want to better support their neurodivergent employees and/or build a neurodiversity hiring program.
For companies that are committed to becoming neuroinclusive, job coaching is a key element of the journey, but not the only one. It complements the neuroinclusion maturity assessment, neurodiversity training, and advisory services auticon uses to design and execute a customized plan for each company. These make up our full suite of neuroinclusion services, which were developed based on our more than a decade of experience hiring and supporting neurodivergent talent at major companies worldwide.
Our job coaches and neuroinclusion experts are ready to help design your customized path to building a truly inclusive workplace where neurodivergent employees can thrive. If you’re ready to get started, contact us to learn more.
About the Author
Reshma Dhawan is the Lead Job Coach at auticon US. She previously had a long career as a special education teacher with a passion for Community Based Instruction and how it could lead to better career outcomes for adults on the autism spectrum. Her interest in this area led her to join auticon in 2020 as a job coach, working with the company’s clients, autistic consulting teams, and technology managers to better support one another and achieve their goals. In her current role as Lead Job Coach, Reshma leads the company’s U.S. job coaching team as well as neurodiversity training for its clients.