Lessons Learned from Temple Grandin

Posted In: Leadership
Posted On: 5/8/2018

If you have seen the HBO movie starring Claire Danes or remember Time Magazine’s 2010 feature on the 100 Most influential People in the World, you know that Temple Grandin is one of the most amazing women of our time.  Not only is she a renowned expert on animal behavior and a professor at Colorado State University, she is a highly visible spokesperson for understanding the many facets of autism.

Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel for an event entitled Meeting of the Minds: Neurodiversity, Women and the Spirit of Courage. Dr. Temple Grandin, Liane Holliday-Willey and Alix Generous were my guests for a very frank discussion on autism at my favorite venue, etown.  The event was sponsored by the Temple Grandin School, which is based in Boulder.

Although the discussion was centered around women on the autism spectrum, the advice Dr. Grandin shared will resonate with so many of us as we search for jobs. 

Here are the tips that I learned from our discussion with my commentary as to why it is applicable to a broad audience of job seekers (please note that what follows is my interpretation of her answers, not direct quotes):

Temple:  Get a job early to learn responsibility.  Walking the neighbor’s dog or starting a lemonade stand shows initiative and helps you develop confidence.

Jane: Work ethic and initiative are two characteristics that EVERY employer loves.  No one ever got turned down for a job because they demonstrated they work hard and did something on their own!

Temple:  Be specific about your experiences in an interview.  Share in detail your accomplishments so that an employer does not just see a generalization about your work.

Jane: Yes, please!  Potential employers are not looking for buzz words about teamwork or leadership, they want specific examples that demonstrate what you have done!  Be specific, but also remember to be concise with your explanation.

Temple:  Learn real skills and don’t be afraid to get dirty. She particularly highlighted lack of young workers joining in old industries like steel working or pork processing.

Jane:  Be proud of any job that you have had and represent what you accomplished at that job.  If you worked at Starbucks as a barista, you understand customer service, a demanding schedule, and working under pressure.  Those are all important skills that an employer would like to know about.  Remember it is more about what YOU did in the job versus the job itself.

That’s just a little sample of the wisdom of Dr. Grandin.  She is a New York Times best-selling author and her books include Animals in Translation, Thinking in Pictures, Different…Not Less.

And a Ted talk she did in 2010 is incredibly relevant for today: The World Needs all Kinds of Minds.