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ADHD Career Advice

Your Approach to Looking for a Job Might Be All Wrong

A man works at a great job for a person with ADHD

If I had followed the standard advice and chosen a career simply because I was good at it, or had some talent, or general interest in it, today I might be a piano teacher, horticulturist, or a stenographer.  And let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with any of these careers, they just would not have been right for me.

Instead, for the past 20 years I have thrived as an entrepreneur in a career I love as an ADHD Life Coach, and owner of the International ADHD Coach Training Center (iACTcenter.com). A profession and role that didn’t even exist when I was taking all those personality and career quizzes dozens of years ago

The Best Jobs For People With ADHD

So how did I, and many others with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, discover that elusive career they thrive in?  Well, discovering a job that is a good fit takes diligence, a willingness to experiment with different kinds of work situations, a lot of soul searching and a bit of luck. And like many people with ADHD who are very satisfied with their job or career, it is often a circuitous route ending up in a career that is very different than they could have anticipated.

Back in the early days of my adulthood, all the assessments and advice I received directed me toward being a primary school teacher.  But they were wrong.  After I spent a full day in a first-grade classroom I changed my major.  I know chemists turned comedians. Park rangers turned golf pros.  Art majors who are public health managers, a college janitor who is now an engineer.  Hospitality specialists who are thriving as high school career counselors, a social worker turned virtual specialist, and a journeyman brick layer who eventually became a CPA.  All with ADHD. 

8 Tips for a Successful ADHD Career

There are many reasons we may not find the job or career best suited to us right away.  ADHD is not one of those reasons.  People with ADHD can pursue, enjoy and thrive in any career, as long as they heed the following tips.

#1 To find the right job or career for you…get a job

Flip burgers, deliver pizza, stock shelves, be a janitor.  My first real job was selling shoes at Sears.  Not very glamorous.  I have been a waitress, taught sewing, baked cookies and made lattes in the early 80’s in Seattle.  To find the right job, you have to start working a real job.  One where you have to show up, be on time and probably do things you really don’t want to do in order to get paid.  Too many young adults are graduating college and stepping into the work force finding it hard to actually get hired for a job because they don’t have any work experience.  An internship is not the same thing.  An entry level job teaches you as much about what you don’t want to do as a career as it does the life skills that will help you succeed in college and beyond.  Get a part-time job while you are in high school and definitely in college.  No one should be graduating from college without having had a real job.

#2 Volunteer

I volunteered as a girl scout leader, walked dogs and petted cats at the SPCA, sang in the church choir and was a piano accompanist.  Volunteering is a great way to find out if you would really enjoy a certain kind of work.  And this doesn’t just apply to the young among us.  One of the clients I worked with wanted to make a career change in midlife to improve the lives of animals by working in an animal shelter.  He had a previous successful career in marketing, but no experience in non-profits or working around animals.  So he volunteered.  He found out they needed people to help in the thrift shop that helped support the shelter and started right away.  When we last spoke, he was enjoying his dream career in a paid position where he was enjoying his passion with animals and had increased the revenue made from the thrift shop by putting his marketing skills to work.

#3 Take a variety of classes, workshops or courses on topics you are interested in

Most of my experimenting for careers was through enrolling in a variety of academic courses.  I took a computer courses (blah!), secretary sciences, teaching, biology, history, math, health and psychology.  I even signed up for Business 101 and I am still a bit embarrassed to say that it is the only course I ever transferred out of in my seven plus years of college because at the time it seemed so boring.  In those early years, becoming a nurse or a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner was not even on my list of career possibilities.  There are classes available nearly everywhere where you can try your hand and level of interest in a variety of fields, jobs and careers.

#4 Know the difference between things you are good at, or interested in, and things that you are passionate about

When everyone says it’s important to find a job you’re good at, but no-one tells you how, discover what endlessly fascinates you.  Those topics and activities that you can’t get enough of and feel naturally drawn to could be your career in the making.  I had lots of interests, but what lit me up, what I devoured and never tired of was when I took my first college course in psychology.

What’s the difference between an interest and a passion?  An interest can be described as the feeling of wanting to learn or know about someone or something. Passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm and excitement about something.  The key difference is in their intensity; passion is more intense than interest.

Personally, I couldn’t learn enough about the mind and human behavior.  I am fascinated by how people’s minds work.  The connection between the mind and how we behave.  My curiosity on these topics continues to be endless.  When I completed my undergraduate degree, I had completed a degree in psychology and nursing.  Taking a nursing class on a whim I realized that being a nurse would provide even more understanding about the science of the mind and human behavior.

#5 It doesn’t matter if you are good at it to begin with

Becoming really good at most things takes decades of practice.  Abilities are developed rather than “discovered”.  Darwin, Lincoln, JK Rowling and Oprah all failed early in their career, then went on to completely dominate their fields.  Albert Einstein’s 1895 schoolmaster’s report reads, “He will never amount to anything.”  Don’t ask “what am I good at?” Ask: “what could I become good at?”  The being good at it comes later.

#6 The best job for someone with ADHD is one that you love doing

I have worked with clients who love their jobs as an accountant, a firefighter, a librarian, pyrotechnic specialist, and a teacher.  The job or title doesn’t matter.  The important thing to remember is to know if you love it enough to do it even if you didn’t get paid for it.

This previous comment might scare a few folks who envision either themselves or their child in a dark room, penniless, playing video games for the rest of their lives.  Or maybe fantasizing for a moment about how great it would be to play golf for a living. 

In my own family, the video game player in the darkened room became a communications technician in the Navy.  He did end up sitting for hours in a dark room the size of a closet watching security monitors.  Currently, this has evolved into a career in online cyber security.  Interestingly, because of his security clearance level he really can’t tell me what his job is so I joke and tell people he is a professional “secret keeper”.  My other son does play golf for a living.  A talent he discovered early in his 20’s that became his passion.  For the past 10 years he pursued this passion, earned a degree in golf management, worked as a golf pro at a resort in San Diego, was sponsored by Puma and Cobra, and now works for an up and coming golf company, Taylor Made. 

#7 Know your non-negotiables

For most, a job or career is so they can be self-supporting.  However, it is important to consider some additional important areas that would impact the fit and satisfaction of a career or job for you.  Each person will have a distinct list.

For instance, examples of non-negotiables might be:

  • A wage or salary you can’t afford to go below
  • Benefits such as health insurance, sick leave, parent leave, paid time off, vacation time
  • Geographic location
  • Commute time
  • Not working nights or weekends
  • The amount of travel

#8 Know what’s most important and meaningful for you

There are career or personality tests that can add some insight into possible good fit careers for you.  However, the best indicator I have seen as to someone’s happiness, sense of fulfillment, satisfaction and best job fit came from those who knew their life or core values and took these into consideration when choosing a job fit.

A core or life value is what gives your life meaning and motivation.  They form an inner framework of your priorities and how you make choices.  These values are so deeply ingrained in us that to live another way feels wrong.  Even if we don’t know what our core life values are, they will impact how we behave.  A life core value resonates deep within, and it is something that we are not willing to give up in our life.  There are several ways to discover your core life values, the exercise I use with clients and teach students to use with their clients at the iACTcenter is here.   Most people whose work, career or job are aligned with your life core values feel they have found a perfect fit.

For instance, a few of my life core values are learning, making a difference and creativity.  In my work as an ADHD Life Coach and Coach Trainer I am tapping into, and expressing these core life values constantly.  The understanding, and information about the brain and ADHD is constantly growing, and provides a rich environment for me to be constantly learning and teaching others.  I feel every day that I am making a difference in the world by increasing the awareness and decreasing the stigma of ADHD.  I am also constantly able to express my life core value of creativity in writing, creating useful ADHD resources, designing courses, products and tools to help people better understand ADHD or train to become an ADHD life coach.  With my work and my life core values aligned, I am constantly motivated, feel fulfilled and know that I have been very lucky to be able to work and support myself doing something I love.

Being diagnosed with ADHD does not limit the chances of your finding a fulfilling career and job fit.  If you are like most people with ADHD, it’s likely that your first job will not be your last.  If you don’t already know your “calling” or your “passion”, that’s normal.  It’s hard to predict which career is right for you.  However, the path to finding one includes tapping into your personal strengths, taking risks, experimenting with options, actually working and reflects what’s important, meaningful and motivating to you. Good luck on your journey!

Laurie Dupar ADHD

At Coaching for ADHD, Laurie Dupar, Senior Certified ADHD Coach, Certified Mentor Coach and trained Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, specializes in working with ADD/ADHD clients of all ages who want to finally understand how their brain works, minimize their challenges and get things done! In 2015 she founded the International ADHD Coach Training Center (IACTCenter) where she trains and mentors emerging ADHD coaches to help them build a successful and profitable coaching business they love. Find out more at http://coachingforadhd.com and http://iactcenter.com – a new semester starts January 6, 2020!

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