Careers and ADHD
“Is there a list of great careers for people who have ADHD? Is there an ideal job that works with ADD? Can I make good living and succeed with ADHD?”
Those are big concerns for adolescents with ADHD going to college. Or for adults who are struggling with their ADHD at their job. If they have a job.
The rates of unemployment amongst people with untreated ADHD are depressing.
Finding a career that works with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder then requires you first get the right education. Which brings on more questions: “How do I succeed at college with ADHD? What courses should I study? Or should I even bother trying? Do I need a degree?”
For great advice and strategies for conquering college with our mindset, check out Earning a Degree With ADHD. And for suggestions on how to find the right school here: Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Choose a College.
But college is the stepping stone. The means to the end. And college is 3 or 4 years of your life. (5 or 6 if you have ADHD)
Whereas your career lasts decades.
Which begs the question, “Do you want a career, one career, forever?” Or would you rather be engaged doing things you love and do well? And can you have both? Perhaps. But which is more important?
The Right Job for My ADHD? Or the Right Job for Me
Working in television as a writer, actor, director, producer… heck, even becoming a model-builder, puppeteer, graphics artist, and prop maker at some points, has worked well for me. Every day is different.
I’ve had a huge range of experiences in my career. And more to come, I know.
But I have to confess, it doesn’t feel like I’ve had a ‘Career.’ It feels more like I’ve had a whole series of interesting jobs. I’ve pursued what interested me. And often not bothered doing things that would have helped my ‘Career.’ Promotion. Publicity. Networking. Applying for awards. I was oblivious.
Almost every offer I’ve jumped at, and all of the projects I’ve created and then managed to convince someone to produce and broadcast, were shows I wanted to work on. I was excited, fascinated.
Every one has been a learning experience, from History Bites, a comedy series that imagined, “What if television had been around for the last 4,000 years?” to Prisoners of Gravity, a series on comics, science fiction, horror, and fantasy, to TotallyADD.com.
But I never paused to think long and hard about what I should be doing next? I followed whatever drew my eye.
What Draws Your Attention?
In our video,The Perfect Career for ADHD, experts emphasize playing to your strengths. That’s true of anyone, whether they have ADHD or not. As I would have liked to have been a rock star, being tone deaf with zero musical skills, was going to be too much to overcome. People laughed when I sang. Hmm, maybe comedy?
But after struggling your whole life with ADHD, you may be so battle scarred that you don’t think you have any strengths. Sure, there are things that you can do, fun things that are easy. But STRENGTHS? What are these traits?
Courageous? Bold? Visionary? Totally reliable?
It’s all a bit ambitious sounding. Especially after your dentist just called wondering why you aren’t there for your appointment. “Was that today?! [email protected]*&!!
Forget Seeking High-Minded ‘Strengths.’
I’m going to suggest a ‘strength’ doesn’t necessarily have to be some heroic power. Don’t go looking for some world-shaking ability, some virtuous gift that is a wonder to behold.
Don’t get all noble. Just look at what you do well.
Ask, “What is easy for me? What do I love doing?”
I never stopped to ask that question when I was younger.
And if I had paused to survey my ‘abilities’ I may not have come up with the obvious answer, which for me is being funny. Making jokes. I do it all the time. Ask my wife. It’s wonderful. Then it’s annoying. Ask my wife.
Then when I was diagnosed at age 47, every ‘trait’ and ‘character flaw’ was up for consideration. What was the real me and what were just symptoms of my ADHD? It’s still an ongoing process.
Doing Comedy? For a Living?
I didn’t see “always making jokes” as a strength. Certainly my teachers never appreciated it or encouraged it. Ha!
Most folks are poor at self-assessment, but when you have this disorder, with a brain that’s either stuck in neutral or going full tilt, well, pausing for self-contemplation is difficult. And by difficult I mean boring.
Which is why the ADHD specialists and career experts in The Perfect Career for ADHD, repeatedly recommend that you work with a coach or guidance counsellor who gets ADHD, who truly understands it.
It doesn’t have to be a professional. Ask your friends, “What are my strengths? What do I do naturally?”
For me, as I say, one obvious trait is being funny. Being creative. It’s nerve wracking sometimes, sure, but exciting.
I’d rather get up in a big theater in front of 1,000 people and perform comedy than read the seven-page contract to rent the theatre. That didn’t strike me as weird. How weird is that? It never registered that this might indicate a strength or a gift or a unique ability. Mostly I noticed was the negative: I’m terrible at paperwork.
Start With What You Love, and What Loves You
So, as the experts explain, start with your strengths. (What comes easily? What’s a no-brainer? What do you love to do? What would you do if money wasn’t a concern?)
Then look at possible careers, or even simply a job that would be a natural fit. (Planning your entire career path is almost impossible with the rate of change in today’s world. And who wants to do the same thing for the rest of their life? Not me!)
And by the way, this is not a 10 minute process. The experts lay out the steps, but suffice to say it’s interesting, and something you’ll probably do more than once in your life. Coach and Trainer Barbara Luther shares her own experience of taking on an interesting position in a new field, learning a ton, and then after 18 months, she’d be done, “Get me out of here!”
Sort of like, “Been there; done that; love it; what’s next?”
Once you’ve identified occupations or positions that play to your ‘strengths’, and there are suggestions on how to do that, then you ask, “Okay, how will my ADHD undermine me? What parts of the job will be a challenge? And how do I eliminate or overcome them?”
And how do I figure out how to eliminate or overcome challenges? I draw upon my strengths and get creative.
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