Please welcome to Autism Mom interview coach Ramon Santillan with a step-by-step guide on how to turn interests and accomplishments into a resume with relevant work experience.
Many times those on the autism spectrum may not have much “official” work experience. This lack of work history can seem challenging when preparing a resume. However, there are several ways to turn your autistic youth’s unique experiences into a resume that will get an employer’s attention.
Focus on the Content
For starters, if the youth is applying for an entry level position or if your youth doesn’t have much experience, the format of the resume will be straightforward. You can see the image below for an idea of what it should look like.
I won’t go into details since the format is self-explanatory. What we want to focus is on the content. The content, not the format, is what will get you the interview and soon after, the job offer.
Create a Deck of Accomplishments
The best way to start is by creating a “Deck of Accomplishments.” This is a list of any projects, accomplishments, recognitions, awards, scholarships, presentations, or experiences they’re proud of. At this point just create a list. You will pare it down and develop the ideas later on in the process.
Here is a sample Deck of Accomplishments
For this particular youth, creating his Deck of Accomplishments lead us to find out that he had several interesting things he had done even though he had not officially held a job before. These included things like scholarships and honors, activities and interests related to his degree, school projects, and personal projects.
Sometime people have a hard time coming up with their accomplishments because they feel like they’re bragging. Don’t fall into this trap! Even small projects that may seem inconsequential can make a big impact on a resume.
Segmenting your Deck of Accomplishments
For things that are straightforward (i.e., scholarships), put them under the “Scholarship” section which is usually towards the bottom. However, instead of just putting the name of the scholarship, feel free to add some details.
For example, you can put how many people applied, the amount, how many times you’ve received it, and any requirements to apply like a minimum GPA. You want to add meat to your resume to make it attractive to employers.
Volunteer experience can also be attractive to employers. Again, focus on the work done and any transferable skills that another employer would find useful. Was the youth responsible for a certain task or area of a project? Were there any amazing results that came from their time spent there? Make sure you write them down.
Next up, things like personal projects can be a gold mine. Many times youth on the autism spectrum have personal or school projects they’ve worked on that they have spent many hours on.
The job now is to find the real lessons learned from the projects.
In the example above, one of the personal projects was creating a website where he took a deep dive into side-scroller video games, one of his personal passions.
Although an employer may not care too much about video games, they do care about being a self-starter, creating a plan, and seeing something completed to fruition.
Another of his personal projects was creating an app for his mom’s medical clinic. This is something definitely considered an asset since it aligned exactly with the type of experience potential employers would look for.
Even though he wasn’t considered an employee, based on the work done, responsibilities, and the deliverable, we decided to go ahead and put this and a volunteer role of “Website Manager” under “Work Experience.” Both of these projects aligned exactly with what future employers would look for since he was looking for software engineering positions.
Developing the Story
Turning bullet points on a resume into a story is my favorite part of creating. Remember how I mentioned earlier of thinking about the lessons learned when creating your Deck of Accomplishments? This is where you’re going to get into high gear.
For example, when creating the resume above, I learned about the app this student created for his mom’s autism focused clinic. He didn’t think it was worth mentioning it since it was work he did for his mom.
After we discussed it, we were able to present it as a long-term project, that he planned, directed, and delivered all of which were true statements. Also, these are all code words for “self-starter, “highly motivated”, and “detail oriented” all of which are skills highly desired by hiring managers.
Think about the skills that jobs like babysitting or lawn care create. Babysitting teaches responsibility, flexibility, and trustworthiness. You wouldn’t have much of a babysitting business if people didn’t trust you with their kids.
Even maintaining your own yard requires you to be detail oriented and consistent.
Remember, this is an exercise in “spin.” You don’t want to lie, however you also don’t want to sell yourself short. Even the smallest projects can deliver a powerful message. You just have to take the time to develop the story.
Creating a resume for someone who doesn’t have much work experience isn’t hard. It just requires time and some imagination. Remember, employers don’t expect an entry-level employee to know everything.
All they want is to hire someone who is hard-working, dedicated, and a self-starter. Focus on those transferable skills when helping your autistic youth create their resume.
Ramon Santillan is an Interview Coach who helps job candidates with high functioning autism get corporate careers at Fortune 500 companies. You can read his blog at www.PersuasiveInterview.com
Also published on Medium.