Why Traditional Careers Advice often fails Neurodivergent people and what to do instead...
(This post is an excerpt taken from from an interview with me about Careers Education and Neurodiversity, published by Neurodiversity Media on March 20th 2022)
"...Neurodiversity is not something that has been discussed much in terms of (mainstream) career development (or education.) There isn't necessarily that understanding of the importance of interest led careers for neurodivergent people.
The messaging that you find in traditional careers coaching, “be yourself, but not like that.”
The lack of congruence is damaging to neurodivergent people. We thrive by being our authentic selves and masking is so detrimental to our mental health and performance.
(Before making any career decisions, neurodivergent people need to be clear on..) What are my best ways of working? What kind of environments are going to be right for me? How will I navigate those things? How can I talk about my neurodivergence in a positive way that needs to be spoken about to get the job? So there isn’t this elephant in the room, thinking “Will I get the job if I do share about my neurodivergence?”
There needs to be a change in mindset about careers for neurodivergent people, both in terms of how others perceive our career planning and in terms of how many neurodivergent people think about it for themselves....
Firstly, we have to move away from where a neurodivergent person needs to fit in or squash themselves to be employed because of the detrimental impact of this on both work performance and mental health.
As such, neurodivergent people need to pay particular attention to ensuring they understand their own strengths, needs, best ways of working etc before working on determining the career they want to pursue. This ‘self reflection’ stage is often skipped over and we are encouraged to jump straight to ‘choosing’ a career, but this is actually a fundamental issue with most people’s career planning in my experience.
Particularly as neurodivergent people, a move away from choosing a career from a pre-determined list of types of careers, and towards a model of deeply thinking about what would work need to entail for me in order to thrive in it, is essential in my experience. There are neurodivergent people in all different kinds of roles and industries – we are not constrained by our neurology in that sense.
The second mindset is around demonstrating value to the workplace in Recruitment Selection processes or when you are simply talking to people about the work you do.
The research tells us that the unique ways of thinking that neurodivergent people bring to the workplace is extremely beneficial to organisations on a commercial level. Essentially, we have have the power to make a real difference in the workplace.
There’s a lot of evidence that we are the best problem solvers, we have the most creative thinking, we are the people who do amazing innovation and we see things other people don’t see. We need to not be afraid to talk about that to organisations – they need us!"