Student wearing headphones

November 2, 2020, by Caroline Nolan

How to Use Neurodiversity as a Strength

By Christian Jameson-Warren, Employability Education Projects Officer 

Neurodiversity is the concept that people’s brains can be ‘wired’ differently.  There is growing awareness that this can be advantageous in the workplace.

If you see yourself as neurodiverse the following steps can help with this:

Step 1: How does neurodiversity affect you? 

Every person’s experience of neurodiversity is different.  The first step is to be explicitly clear on how being neurodiverse affects you as an individual. This sounds straightforward but is something people often miss.  For example, I have moderate coordination difficulties, and  struggle with concentration and organising structured, clear paragraphs. 

This includes reviewing your beliefs about being neurodiverse.  These greatly influence your aspirations and actions without you necessarily realising.  How much do you believe being neurodiverse can be advantageous or disadvantageous? Why?  

If you struggle with negative thoughts about being neurodiverse, hopefully the following activities can help.  

Step 2: Identify your personal strengths  

Be clear on your personal strengths that have come from being neurodiverse. These can be natural strengths or things that you’ve developed in response.  If you naturally struggle keeping organised,  develop your own strategies to stay more organised you may have demonstrated creative problem solving, determination and resilience. 

It may help to write and practise saying ‘I am’ statements, for example,  ‘I am meticulous’, ‘I am energetic’, ‘I am a good communicator’. This simple activity can help you take greater ownership of your strengths. 

Step 3: How to use strengths 

Identify how these strengths can be used in the work you want to do.  If you’re not sure what work you want to do, start by thinking about how these strengths could be used generally in work and go from there.

For example, I recently read about a dyspraxic man working in a bank. He took a complaint call and managed to turn to the situation around so the customer went from really angry to being happy. This one experience shaped his future career path working in customer complaints, where he excelled in part due to his people and creative problem solving skills that came from being dyspraxic. 

It can help to write a list so you have something to refer to in the future. The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) has put together a leaflet on show you how you could talk to your employer about your strengths. 

Step 4: Maximise your strengths

Plan ahead taking account of both your time and energy levels. I believe it’s important to plan at least a week in advance and be realistic about how different activities will give or drain your energy.  

Throughout my career I’ve organised my work week to follow a consistent routine that gives a nice mix of structure and flexibility.  I do lots of people-facing appointments and workshops Monday to Thursday, but keep Fridays free to help me ‘recover’. This allows me to be really engaged and play to my strengths when working with people.  I know that I only have to maintain this energy for a fixed-time period. I also block time out after appointments to focus only on actions and administration from those appointments. This enables me to keep organised rather than letting work that I sometimes find draining to build up, positively contributing to my wellbeing and energy levels.  

It may also help to think about pragmatic ways to minimise the impact of energy-draining activities. When doing tasks that require concentration, I find somewhere to work alone.  I listen to music that helps me be in the right emotional state, so I find the work less tiring.  

Getting this process right in the workplace requires some trial and error, but once you work out how to best manage your energy you can then work out a way to maximise working to your strengths.  

If you are struggling to articulate your strengths and skills, why not book an appointment with one of our advisers.

Posted in Choosing Your CareerDisability