I recently mentored and prepped a college-bound, high functioning autistic student in interview skills. He was applying to highly competitive colleges for which alumni interviews are required for admission. A math wiz, he dreams of one day working on Wall Street.
For any exceptionally bright, well-rounded college applicant, interviewing can be challenging. For a similarly situated high functioning autistic applicant, college interviewing is particularly daunting because it tests areas in which autistic people tend to be weak–interpersonal communications.
My student had to work very hard to master the rules of social intelligence and the giving and taking of information that is interviewing. He had one high stakes interview–his first choice school–that was conducted outdoors at Starbucks. He was cold and, therefore, distracted and did not ask to move inside, despite a prior analogous situation at my office in which we switched meeting rooms. Unfortunately, he was not accepted.
Not letting his disappointment keep him down, he kept at it, practicing with me and persevering until he finally built the muscle memory of the rules and social cues that interviewing entails. For him, this was harder than any financial math conundrum he would ever face.
In a subsequent college admissions interview, my student rose to the occasion. One alumni interviewer from a highly competitive school shared that she spends no more than 30 minutes with any given student. She spent an hour with my student and specifically told him that she did so because he was incredibly interesting and engaging.
<Spoiler alert!> He was accepted.
I recently wrote to this student and told him, without hesitation, that I was certain that he would be successful and achieve his already well-defined Wall Street career goals.
My certainty had nothing to do with his newly found interview skills, although they will definitely help him. It stems from the grit that it took for him to master those interview skills. His ability to persevere and pick himself up again and again will drive his career success.
So the next time you fall off the horse, get back up and don’t stop getting up until you are able to stay on and ride off into the sunset.
Happy graduation to my student and good luck in your journey. I know you will achieve whatever you set out to do because your challenge has presented you with a gift, the most important skill of all–the ability to get back on the horse.