Career Planning for Neurodivergent High School Students

When parents of high school students request to join my Facebook Community, Launch Career Clarity, I ask them….

If you could wave a magic wand and pick a topic I would cover in a blog or post, what would it be?

Among the common topics, there are regular themes including what are resources, or does my coaching work for, students with ADHD, Autism spectrum disorder, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and other learning disabilities.

In short, the answer is a resounding YES!

Over the last decade, as we have coached 3,300+ high school students and young adults, there is a growing number of our clients who are neurodivergent. Like any other parent who wants to resource their child to design a future instead of drift into it, parents of neurodivergent students want to know there are reliable and proven resources that will add value to their college counseling and career planning journey.

The good news is there are also a growing number of employers who also recognize this need and have official neurodiversity recruitment programs such as SAP’s (IT and software) “Autism at Work” program started in 2013. They state a 90% retention rate of new hires on the Autism spectrum. Other companies taking such initiative include Microsoft with a focus on Dyslexia, JP Morgan, Hewlett Packard, Freddie Mac, and Ernest & Young to name a few.

These students really follow no different career planning path than a typical student. My proven framework is:

  • Step One: Know Yourself
  • Step Two: Know Careers
  • Step Three: Know Your Path

Know Yourself

When walking my coaching clients through the first module of the framework, we do the following for the student to deeply get to know his or her hardwired personality. First, the student takes the Birkman Personality Assessment as well as completes a personal profile including their academic record, hobbies, and any diagnoses including anything health-related or neurodivergent.

Through the Birkman Assessment and my self-discovery exercises create a lens through which he or she examines careers. Typically any neurodivergence will show up on the personality assessment in how an individual both behaves and what he or she expects from other people and the work environment – both of which Birkman measures. The way someone behaves is their strength. EVERYONE has strengths. It’s measuring and knowing these strengths, and weaknesses, that help inform what needs to align in a career path, but that is true for everyone not just neurodivergent workers.

Know Careers

Once the lens is created, I teach a step-by-step framework on where to find deep information on careers and evaluate them for fit with the individual strengths, motivations, and any limitations or personal preferences.

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., a famous scientist with autism, wrote a great article on how finding a career fit with autism in mind works. While it’s an older article, her candid advice still holds true and can be applied to anyone walking the career planning path. What I like about her article is it generates ideas even for those high school jobs before a student moves into a career.

The level of education and type of career will definitely be impacted by how high functioning an individual is. Dr. Grandin is very high functioning and intelligent. Again, finding fit is no different than a typical person finding fit. The process works the same.

Good News from Birkman

Recently, I had a meeting with the psychologists on the research team at Birkman International. They have already conducted one study using their assessment and researching the data and trends on a group who is neurodivergent (mainly on the autism spectrum) and are expanding their research hoping to replicate their findings. Because my program has worked with many neurodivergent individuals, we will be working together to connect Birkman to more people for their study and find them new individuals who have not taken the Birkman but will get to for free.

In Fall 2021, Birkman will make available a specialized report that certified consultants like me can make available to their clients. This population typically has difficulty self-advocating with teachers, professors, employers, and others. The report will be based on the individuals on unique wiring and for them provide tips and advice on how to self-advocate. If you want to be part of this, please email us at Flourish

Brave New World

Fortunately, there are growing resources for neurodivergent individuals for both career planning and finding (and keeping) employment for those who value the special strengths they bring to the workplace. Let’s get the word and positive message out!