Dyspraxia and looking for work

Dyspraxia shouldn’t prevent employers making the most of your talent. Here are some common job-hunting hurdles and ways to overcome them… 

Low self-esteem

People with dyspraxia often lack support, which can mean we lack the confidence to get into work, and others often don’t understand what’s behind our feelings. We may feel we have to be like someone else in order to fit in. If poor self-image is holding you back, seeing a counsellor or coach may help. Some offer low-income discounts, and an increasing number have experience of working with neurodiverse clients. 

Finding work early in your career

Common first or stopgap jobs such as working in bars, restaurants or retail can be more difficult for people with dyspraxia. You may be able to overcome the challenges with some adjustments, like extra training, or working on less busy sections. Or you might prefer to look for alternatives, such as basic office or call centre work. If sales or cold calling make you anxious, a role supporting customers online might suit you. People with dyspraxia are often empathetic and excel at reading and writing. Proofreading can be a great way to earn money and use these skills to help others. Work with animals or children and young people is often in demand, and an entry-level job can lead to a career.

Turning unpaid or casual work into regular work

Work shadowing or volunteering can help you gain valuable experience when you’re starting out or returning to work. But it’s important to know your worth too. If you’re hoping unpaid work will lead to paid work, is there anything else you could do to make this more likely, like widening your search, or aiming for a portfolio career made up of different work? If you’re struggling to move forward in your career because of a skill where you’re less strong, are there people in your sector you could go to for advice? Would adjusting a role or starting your own business help you to do what you’re best at doing?

Dealing with interviews 

It’s natural to feel nervous during an interview. Open ended questions like “Tell me about yourself” or hypothetical questions can be tricky, especially if you haven’t had much experience. You may find it difficult to be aware of your body language while you’re speaking. Practising answers and talking to someone who has done similar jobs can also help you understand what employers might be looking from particular interview questions. Try to find out as much as you can about the format of the interview. Some employers, particularly smaller organisations, may invite you for “a chat,” but treat it as an interview. To give yourself the best chance, ask whether there’s anything you need to prepare beforehand.

Asking for adjustments

You should be able to ask for adjustments at any stage of a job application. Once you’re at work, Access to Work can provide practical support like travel, equipment and coaching or training. You may find it helpful to prepare a brief document with some information about dyspraxia for your new employer. Sharing your experiences of dyspraxia in public can also give you valuable experience, and help you talk to potential employers about dyspraxia comfortably.

Staying positive  

For many people with dyspraxia, finding the right job takes time. Being rejected can be particularly tough to deal with, and remind us of setbacks we’ve faced in our lives.  But it is common to look back and see times you applied for a job and weren’t successful as more of a lucky escape than a failure. Above all, rejection is an opportunity to find the best place for your skills.  

by Maxine Roper

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