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I'm disabled (autistic) and have found that if the company doesn't meet certain reasonable requirements that are thankfully considered a common standard in the industry I work in (IT), I struggle to be productive. And those requirements are pretty standard: analysis documents of what I'm supposed to do, frequent follow-ups with what I'm doing (i.e. scrums), tasks of limited scope (i.e. agile methodology sprint items),... Most of what I need is considered best practices in the industry.

I graduated roughly 10 years ago, and the first 5 years can roughly be described as this (dates might not fully match up):

July 2011 - March 2012: job search, mixed with efforts to qualify for employment subsidies, both financial and advisory;
April 2012 - August 2012: temp job as staff in a regional school network, offered by friend;
August 2012 - March 2013: back to job search;
April 2013 - December 2014: first real employment in IT sector, let go for lack of productivity (explained below);
January 2015 - April 2016: job search again;
April 2016 - current: happily employed at current employer.

As you can see, it took me 5 years before I finally stabilized in my current job and over 2/3 of that was unemployed. I feel like people who don't know about my disability could consider that a bit of a red flag and problematic (assuming that events from 5 years ago are still relevant).

The difference is that I feel like my disability does mostly explain why I spent so much time looking for a job. Because of my disability, I chose to not get a drivers license for fear of being a liability, which meant I could only work for companies in a certain area I could feasibly reach by public transport and even then only those that weren't consultancy, and that greatly limited me with regards to which part of the market I had access to.

It also explains why my first IT employer let me go. that first employer was a small company (around 4 other developers) where every dev had their own projects with customers and there wasn't really the available overhead to provide me with the assistance I need, though they did try for a while. It worked out barely at the start when my wages were mostly funded by one of those subsidies, but once that dried out they let me go once they were legally allowed to.

To be clear: I had no problems with this, because I was struggling with the lack of support myself and I didn't want to leave the job myself because of financial reasons. In addition, the short period they tried to provide me the support I needed confirmed to me that a company which could structurally provide me with that support would be better suited for me, allowing me to better focus my search afterwards.

As an aside, the friend who offered me that temp job that stands out because it's in an entirely different sector was also related to my disability. She played an important part in ensuring I graduated from college. After I graduated, I helped her with a project, and in return she helped me get that temp job so I could get some early experience under my belt.

I'm currently not looking for a new job because I currently get the support I need and I'm happy where I work. However, from a purely practical perspective, I do wonder if a tumultuous period like that at the start of my job search would raise any red flags with a prospective employer, if I end up having to search for another job.

I have heard a couple times on social media that there is significantly more automation in the recruitment process than a decade ago, because many more people are applying for jobs and it's not feasible anymore to examine all resumes without aid from automation like AI and HR tools. I'm worried that whereas 5 years ago such a gap would have been ignored by most recruiters, an equivalent gap today would cause automation to discard my resume without having the ability to defend myself.

so my question is: is a period like this considered a red flag by modern recruitment procedures, or am I overthinking this?

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    "is a period like this considered a red flag by modern recruitment procedures" Since you've been steadily employed the last 5 yrs and can explain what you did in the previous 5 I wouldn't think this is a red flag, especially considering that you are within the autisitc spectrum. "am I overthinking this?" Yes, a bit ;) Enjoy your current gig and whenever the time comes to move on - don't stress too much about the first 5 years..
    – iLuvLogix
    Sep 7 at 14:22
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Not neccessarily.

For obvious reasons, people that graduated with you and just worked steady jobs for the first five years, will be considered to have 5 years more experience. So in a direct comparison with them, they might get the job every time or might get a better salary. However, the world is a big place and you are not competing with them. You will always compete with people with more and/or less experience than yourself. If you compare yourself to others with 5 years on the job, you should be fine.

Normally, people will see the recent past as more important as the distant past. You may get sorted out by automated systems, but then, automated systems are stupid, they might sort you out because you called it SqlServer instead of SQL Server. So I don't think anything is lost there. I think those automated systems are more of a US thing anyway, in smaller countries we don't get just as much resume junk as they do.

For me, someone who struggled, found out why and fixed it (even if it's "only" by having certain requirements) is great. I am suspicious when I see that someone struggled and has no real explanation or it was always just "bad luck", "not a good fit" or someone else's fault entirely. Acknowleging that you have a problem and taking measures to fix it is what I need from employees.

So no, personally, I think having a reasoning why you struggled and as a result clear requirements for your next job is not a red flag. It might sort out some employers who cannot provide those benefits, but I think that is actually what you want.

So if you see interviews as a test, you will score worse than people with 10 years experience from the last 10 years, but you should score just the same as people having 5 years experience total. You may test out of many companies that are not that well organized, but that is your goal so I don't see that as a bad thing.

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You are overthinking this - it probably will not affect you very much.

Even without a disability, most people bounce around a little right after graduation. You took advantage of your bad experience and know what red flags to look for.

While there is automation, it's usually used to find stuff like top 10 schools or "SQL Server" experience. It's less likely to detect resume gaps.

When a human looks at it, they'll notice the gaps and likely the non-industry experience. It may not come up since you've been employed for the last 5 years. If it does, say what you've said here. Talk about wanting to work with your friend. When talking about the gaps, focus on what you've learned. Explain the kind of environment you work best in.

Continue advocating for yourself and the working conditions you need

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