Basic Job Skills

What are the basics for getting a job? What skills does an individual with autism want to sharpen before going for that first job interview? Once employed, what skills can help people keep their job? Take a look at four job skills critical for successful employment.

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(1) Focus. An employee must be able to focus on the task at hand, to listen to directions given by a boss or supervisor, and to turn attention to important announcements or safety drills. Successful employment also requires individuals to maintain focus on a task for an extended period of time.

(2) Follow. Compliance is another critical job skill. Our friends with autism will be much more productive in any job if they can and will follow directions with minimal assistance. If an individual has deficits in processing verbal instructions, she can be taught to use a visual schedule so employers and job coaches can successfully communicate the information she needs to complete a task or a job sequence. Strong-willed or uncooperative individuals will need to develop a willingness to follow directions and job procedures.

(3) Finish. Even when jobs are broken down into a series of smaller tasks, some individuals with autism are unable to complete those tasks without prompting from a supervisor or job coach. A critical job skill to teach early in life is to finish tasks with less prompting.

(4) Flexible. The nature of autism causes some individuals to be intolerant to changes in routine. Our friends with autism will be more likely to succeed on the job if they learn to be flexible and “go with the flow.”

TIP FOR THE DAY: All of us, whether diagnosed with autism or not, can benefit from improving our flexibility, persistence, compliance, and focus. Time spent shaping these basic skills can lead to success not only in the workplace, but also in daily life.

We can also benefit from sharpening our skills in being able to systematically address challenging issues that can arise in the lives of our friends with autism. Click on the Toolkit tab on our webiste for great resources;

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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