Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A potential game-changer: SCORE now offers on-line mentoring

I have decided to begin writing a guide on alternative employment options for autistic adults and teenagers which will focus on self-employment and work from home career options.  The purpose of this guide is to begin tackling the catastrophic 85 to 97% unemployment rate among autistic adults by empowering autistic people to find alternatives to the standard NT career options that require strong social skills.  Some autistic adults have flourished in standard NT career paths such as academia and business after receiving extensive social skills training and ongoing job coaching.  But many autistic adults have found that they cannot function effectively in the mainstream NT job world because their social challenges are extreme.  In particular, many autistic workers cannot cope with the all-pervasive problem of workplace bullying, which affects 35% of all employees according to surveys by the Workplace Bullying Institute.

I support the idea of entrepreneurship for autistic adults.  And so I am engaged in an intensive search for programs, services, and ideas which can help empower autistic adults on their self-employment journeys.  In 2000, I started a business that involved publishing a newsletter on Latin American Internet companies.  I sought the help of a mentor from the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE).  This outstanding group of successful business people volunteer their time to help new entrepreneurs with every aspect of their business, from writing a business plan to marketing and sales and human resources management. I found this advisor’s suggestions as very helpful.   

And so I was very pleased to discover that this group now offers on-line consultations with a national group of mentors.You can search for a mentor by both industry specialization and by functional focus. you could search for a marketing mentor who has industry focus on the IT sector, for instance.  This service allows you to tap a previously unavailable national network of volunteer mentors so that you are no longer limited by geographic restrictions to meeting only with mentors in your local area.  So if you are starting a technology business in Florida, now you have access to technology marketing specialists in Silicon Valley. 

More importantly, it also allows autistic entrepreneurs to work with an on-line mentor.  On-line and email communication  removes most of the obstacles posed by misunderstandings that commonly occur in face to face social interactions. Autistic people in general struggle to read body language and to interpret non-verbal social cues, and so they are unable to clearly decipher the other person’s intentions. In face to face social settings, people often say one thing with their words but
indicate the opposite feelings with their body language.  In an email interaction, the dialogue is conducted entirely in writing. Thus, misunderstandings based on an autistic person’s social challenges are less likely to occur.  In addition, autistic people are likely to feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts freely in an online dialogue because they are less afraid of facing
social rejection.  Thus, working with an on-line mentor plays to the autistic entrepreneur’s intellectual strengths and expands opportunities for him or her to freely discuss and resolve the challenges involved in running a business.