Getting colleagues on board: Autistic PhD Scientist

Even with high level qualifications, finding a job as an autistic graduate can still be challenging. This case study explains the challenges of finding a job as an autistic, PhD graduate in France and gives tips and insight into how to overcome the challenges of searching for, applying for, and securing work. Getting colleagues involved and increasing their understanding of autism was crucial.


How was the job found?

The graduate had been looking for somewhere to live and was in the process of applying for social housing. They had been put in touch with a professional to help them find appropriate housing. The professional also worked with autistic people and had links with the disability department of the French government. Through these contacts, the graduate was put into contact with the Aspie-Friendly program (add link to aspie-friendly charter), a French programme for the inclusion of autistic people in universities and towards employment.

With the help of the Aspie-Friendly team, the graduate was able to get support in applying for jobs and completing the interview process, something which the graduate found difficult and overwhelming. They also helped the graduate disclose their autism to their employer, meaning that the employer had a better understanding of the condition, and how it affected the graduate specifically e.g., a need for organisation and their preferred way of doing things. Initially, the graduate was offered a 2-year contract, but then moved on to a permanent position after being able to successfully showcase their skills in the work environment.

What were the adjustments?

The research institute employing the autistic graduate was offered autism training, helping staff understand how to work with autistic people. In addition to this, a discussion surrounding the graduate, their diagnosis and how this affected the graduate took place within the research institute, ensuring that colleagues understood the needs and preferences of the new employee. Support was also provided to the new employee to help them understand the institutional framework, as well as personal support for issues in their home life that had affected their capacity to work.

After two years in employment, the support is still active, something which was particularly beneficial during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Tips for current students and graduates

  • Follow your passion, don’t give up.
  • Seek out support programmes such as Aspie-Friendly in France.
  • Don’t be scared to disclose your autism and get support in order to do so, employers can make adjustments to make the workplace better for you.
  • Find people who can give you good references or letters of recommendation.

Tips to share with employers

  • During recruitment, if a person is accompanied by services, such as the Aspie-Friendly program, liaise with the team to gain a better understanding of autism, and how it affects that individual.
  • Consider how autism may affect the candidate e.g., through masking which may affect their interview skills. By considering this, you give autistic people the same opportunities and chances as anyone else.
  • Consider how interviews may be challenging for autistic individuals, is there a better way for them to showcase their skills?
  • Ask the autistic individual what will help them to work more efficiently, e.g. more frequent breaks, flexible working hours, a work mentor etc.
  • Access support after recruitment to offer help with potential challenges that may occur.
  • Offer support to autistic employees throughout the entire employment journey, not just in recruitment.