Dr. Umesh Jain
is now exclusively responsible
for TotallyADD.com
and its content
Dr. Umesh Jain is now exclusively responsible for TotallyADD.com and its content

Is There An Ideal Job For ADHD?

History Bites Cast

What’s the best job in the world for you and your mindset?  Or for anyone with ADHD

Being a comedy actor, director, producer, and writer, I know what I’d suggest.

And yes, I know that’s actually four jobs, not one, but then I have ADHD.

Now, let’s be clear, by ‘best job’ I mean the most fun… joyful… engaging… challenging.

Not the most lucrative.  I’m saying ‘best’ as in ‘spiritually rewarding’ versus ‘financially rewarding.’  Not that joy and money are mutually exclusive.

So, does that mean I recommend that anyone and everyone with ADHD get into comedy?  No.  First of all, I don’t need the competition.

Plus, if I stop and think it through, (which is not like me), I realize that not everybody loves getting up in front of large crowds.

Apparently public speaking is a bigger fear for most people than death, poverty, or listening to a political debate.

ADHD Workplace

Everyone is Different (How Annoying!)

Every person is a unique individual.  We’re each weird in our own way.  Whether we have ADHD or not, we all have our personal buffet of challenges and strengths.

I suppose this is good, and it makes for a more interesting world.  But the fact that everyone is different is exhausting isn’t it? 

I find it takes a lot more energy to remember people’s likes, dislikes, marital status, or name. 

By the way, if name tags are so handy at conferences and other events, why don’t we all wear them? All the time.  That would save me a lot of mental strain. Who’s with me on this?

What Was I Talking About Again?

Oh, right.  The ideal vocation for someone with ADHD.

After editing interviews with a dozen experts to create The Perfect Career for ADHD, it is clear to me that there are two universal truths for ADDers and work.

First Universal Truth (FUT): There is no one all-round right job.  (Don’t pout! This is good news. If there was only once choice, it wouldn’t be a choice, right?)  Your ‘calling’ is whatever calls to you.

In the Perfect Career video, Wilma Fellman, a Career Counselor who specializes in folks with ADHD, explains that every member of our tribe has a unique combination of challenges.  Your personal pot-pourri of strengths and weaknesses are different than mine.  Sure, there is lots of overlap.


We’re All Different Except for the Similarities

It’s like human faces–lots of variation from one individual to the next, but generally a nose, two eyes, a mouth, forehead on top, chin near the bottom. 

And yet these elements can produce faces as different as actress Zooey Deschanel and billionaire Richard Branson.  (Two people who are very open about having ADHD.)

So, yes, there are common challenges for people with ADHD.  (Easily bored. Impatient. Able to focus when interested.) 

This is why it’s not surprising that certain occupations attract a disproportionate number of ADD Adults. 

In fact, as Dr. Margaret Weiss jokes, there are certain jobs that only someone with ADHD would even consider! (She was looking at me as she said this.)

This Is a Big Deal

Second Universal Truth: Finding the right job can be crucial for someone with ADHD.

As you can probably attest ADHD is very situational. 

In the right situation we can soar.  (Onstage at a Comedy Club, I’m great!) And in the wrong situation we will struggle mightily, or simply give up.  (Doing my taxes.  Making follow up calls.  Following a To-Do list…)

The first time I watched the finished version of The Perfect Career For ADHD, I was struck by two things.

One, framing it as a parody of Mad Men really worked. (Although my Don Draper was a bit more Pee Wee Herman.) 

Second, I realized how lucky I have been to find a job, or rather a series of jobs, that really play to my strengths.

One piece of advice the experts all recommend is ‘Handing off the stuff you don’t do well to someone else.’ Sounds sensible.  Not so easy to do.

Handing off chores that I hated was not something I did for a very long time.  Even though I hated them.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed that I started to understand that I didn’t have to do everything myself. And I was wasting my already limited willpower trying.

Funny, if you’d ask me, ‘Can one person do everything?’ I’d have said, ‘Of course not.’

Why then, do I, and many of adults with ADHD, think we have to do everything ourselves?  Perhaps when you’ve grown up feeling you can’t trust yourself to do things, you find it hard to trust others.


Let Go of Struggle – Focus on Strengths

If you try to do everything, which is impossible and exhausting, you end up living a very small life.

Almost every career you can think of involves working with others. 

Somebody made doing stage and television productions require me to work with scores of other people: experts in costume, makeup, set design, lighting…

I was glad to hand off those things because they were exotic specialties.  Yet I insisted on struggling to finish my taxes every year, which meant they were always late. 

I spent more on late fees and fines than we now spend on our bookkeeper.

That’s right, we have bookkeeper who handles almost everything.  Flawlessly.  For her, numbers and precision are a real strength.  She finds it interesting. Challenging.

Remember I said everyone is unique.  Well, bookkeeping is the Perfect Career for her.

Funny thing, when I talked a bit about my work she just shook her head. 

The prospect of being a writer, actor, and director, ‘In front of all those people…’ terrified her about as much as that giant shoebox overflowing with crumpled receipts, invoices, and letters from the tax department used to paralyze me.


Rick Green

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  1. Sfreedman March 13, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Worthy of being put on a bumper sticker: “REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE UNIUQUE – just like everybody else.”
    And yes — I agree that career fit this is one of the long list of things that is important to everyone, but CRUCIAL to ADDers. Bad fit and we’re done for.

  2. gfurst March 15, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Hey, another great reading guys.
    Answering to the question: I would sure experience a lot of games, tweak up with computer settings.
    I want to write a lot too, this is something new that has been good to me. And maybe if I’m capable try to develop my own game( I already have it in my mind).
    And actually I want to share my new blog( a couple of weeks old), it will include mostly computer and nerdy linux stuff, but also personal and how I relate to my ADD.

  3. tcsimmons73 March 16, 2014 at 11:23 am

    @Sfreedman – I agree with your bumper sticker, I would put that on my car.
    Through the years I have had the same issue with trying to find my career. Most have been a bad fit and I was done for. Security work is what has been a better fit for me the past ten + years, though switched companies a lot. Always liked working with computers and maintaining them though, have to go to a school for a piece of paper to do that carer though…an employer won’t just accept you teaching yourself.

  4. Ben March 17, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Without a doubt I would be a writer, I would take screenwriting classes and write forever and ever. If I could work it into my life right now I would take the classes. I have an overflow of STUFF coming out of my mouth and I would like to learn how to get it on paper. I am constantly told by people that I should be in comedy, I can keep a group laughing all night. I just cant get it on paper or remember most of it when I try to get it on paper. I am only good off the cuff, once I sit down to write, I go blank. I have no doubt in my mind that I could succeed in the writing world if I could get in with the right group of people. If I never had to work to support myself I would spend all my time surrounding myself with the comedic writers of our time. Seth Rogan would be someone I think I could write an entire movie with.

  5. Evelyn March 18, 2014 at 4:30 am

    My best so far, the one I enjoyed the most was a graphic/production artist job making ad’s for a shopping guide that was week on week off. We worked our butt’s off for the week leading up to publication date twice a month, then had the week following off while the sales crew gathered new ad’s for us to do for the next issue. It was perfect because I got stop and recharge before I had to do it all over again.
    I think it wouldn’t matter as much what the job was as how it was structured, taking advantage of the Hyper-focus, overwhelm/burnout cycle that seemed to be my problem with holding a job. “I can do anything for a minute”. Sustaining that level of concentration was the death sentence for that job though, it was just too much even though I loved the job, when they restructured production to even it out, I started to lose my focus a lot easier. Distraction was a lot harder to resist. Not long after that I was looking for something more stimulating.
    I think we have all had the experience of how enjoyable and stimulating a new job was, how much easier it was to follow the rules, and stay focused. We thought we could do the job forever… forever came pretty quick though.
    Having a week on week off structure gave me time to recharge, and just as I was getting overwhelmed with work and heading toward burnout, I’d get that brake to do something else for a while, then just as I was getting board with that it was time to go back to work. Perfect… Perfect… Perfect!!!
    At least for me.

  6. Grant Crowell March 18, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I would really like to know, did you guys cover working in social media as a preferred career choice? If not, you should definitely have me contribute an article since this is the area that I work in. It would almost be a travesty to avoid any discussion of ADHD + Social Media!

  7. sdwa March 18, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Wow. I have no problem answering that question, and I never have, to the point that I can’t understand at all why I haven’t won the lottery. I’d know exactly what to do with my time. It’s what I do with my free time now, which is write, read about writing, or learn about writing. It used to be making art. And hopefully finding ways to take creative projects and use them to help other people achieve some kind of personal insight or healing. And if I were that rich, I’d spend a lot of time at the ocean, walking on the beach. Easy question. Now where’s my money?

  8. kempdr1 March 19, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I believe that someone with ADD has limitless career options as long as we like what they are doing.
    There are some aspects of any job that are low stimulation that we need to do in order to be successful. My pet peeve is travel expense reporting and budget planning. In order to keep my job and continue to do the other 90% of my job which I love I have DO the EXPENSE REPORTS on time.
    My diagnosis of ADHD – PI was a couple of years ago (in my early 50’s) and it has allowed me to learn to manage my job rather than it manage me. I have found that if I don’t structure my day and take breaks I am not productive.
    There are many resources we can use including technology, coaching, etc. I have found that I have to be ‘disciplined’ in order to use these resources effectively. Everyday I ask myself ‘Do I want chaos or a productive, enjoyable day. The chaos is something that I have experienced for too many years and so the answer is obvious.

  9. jacquelinew April 2, 2014 at 3:47 am

    The last 4 years I’m working as a Systems Librarian, which basically is a function where I thrive! I get to do 6 things at the same time, everyday there’s something interesting I can dig into, analyze it, put other people to work to get the solution I figured out to work.. No day is the same and in this field the developments keep coming. As long as it’s not dull, I can use my mind and most important, choose my own tasks, I’m happy in my work!

  10. meggein September 11, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Since I was a young child I have been fascinated by the cases of violent offenders and serial killers. I have always wanted to be a criminal investigative analyst. I’m proud to say I’m taking the first steps toward that today at age 27.
    I also plan to continue to work on my art at the same time and my writing as well, actually I have been writing little things down a lot lately. I have children’s books I would like to do as well.
    Unfortunately I can’t also chase my longest dream of becoming a CIA and also become an astronaut but I don’t know… I feel really happy being a writer, artist and future CIA.

  11. Rick September 19, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    @meggein, I wanted to be an astronaut too! Or I thought I did. Then I realized I wanted to be Captain Kirk. For a while I wanted to be Lt. Uhura. (That was an awkward age.)
    Which reminds me, I got to meet Nichelle Nichols, (Lt. Uhura) and was serenaded by her for a show I did my years ago, called Prisoners of Gravity. That was rather cool. (Wow, this has nothing to do whatsoever with this blog…. Or maybe it does, since I got the perfect job, or series of jobs, for me.
    Interesting reading everyone’s comments. There really is no one perfect job. It depends on your interests. What turns your crank. Arts? Medicine? Trades? Science? Entertainment? Education? Finance? The Justice System? Cause inside any one of those fields there are a wide range of jobs for a wide range of personality types and skill-sets.
    I know a woman who is a doctor, but is also an incredibly talented artist, and she ended up taking a course to become a medical illustrator. Not something I’d wanna do, but hey, she hates public speaking.

  12. ladygogo October 17, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    The best job I had, but not the best paying, was working for a Temp Agency, believe it or not! LOL.
    I got to work in a ton of places, always new challenges, and if I hated it, well it was only a few days.
    One time i was helping unpack and label products for a chain of adult sex shops!
    I got exposed to more companies and personalities and managers in six months than most people do in a lifetime.
    Total eye opener.

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