Saturday, June 18, 2011

Should someone with Aspergers/ASD work at a start-up business

Start-up companies in high tech are some of the most chaotic and accepting places you can find. One would be a real detriment to someone on the Spectrum and the other a real bonus. And if a start-up hits it big then you can be rewarded well. Some Aspies have even created their own start-ups simply because of the flexibility they provide. In many ways they allow for customized employment within the stability of a company. If you are considering working at a start-up keep these things in mind:

  1. Be open about your needs. You do not necessarily have to disclose your condition but be sure to mention your sensitivities and short comings. You may not get the job but you will be happier anyway; if they cannot handle the issues in the interview you would have been miserable on the job
  2. Expect a lot of chaos. Start-ups are dynamic... some are very dynamic and change is constant. Make sure you deal with the anxiety from the change.
  3. Ask about their funding. "Close to closing our first round" is often code for "we're not sure the lights will be on next month". Make sure they have money for your position for at least 18 months.
  4. Push for an equity stake. They salary is nice but the real bones come from the equity in the company.
  5. Consider offering to contract with them for a while to see what it is like... that way if you are uncomfortable you can leave with fewer hurt feelings.
  6. Write down the names of everyone you work with. Turnover can be high in start-ups and keeping in contact with the people that leave will help you network if things go sour.
  7. Keep in mind that it could fail. A lot of start-ups fail or struggle along for years without achieving anything; that is the nature of business. Look for signs that it might not be working out... like suddenly office supplies are no longer provided.
  8. Seek to customize your work space with things that make it easier for you. Sound baffling, hidden corners and pleasing wall colors are frequently possible in a start-up.
  9. Tailor your duties to things you like. You may have to take on more tasks than at a big corporate job but you can often make sure those tasks are suited to you.
No one gets rich off of just a salary and start-up companies offer a route to achieving wealth, recognition and acceptance that are not always available in larger companies. There are risks and the wise ASD person will explore that before taking a position there.

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