When it comes to choosing a career, people with ADHD often have less of a path, and more of an overgrown intersection.
ADHDers often feel overwhelmed and confused when it comes to choosing a career. Given that about eight to nine million adults in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD, that makes for a lot of confusion.
This article is designed to provide insight into the versatility and uniqueness of working individuals with ADHD, and what career paths they can excel at.
ADHD Career Challenges
While the average adult changes careers 3-7 times over the course of their lives, for people with ADHD that number may be exponentially higher for several reasons:
- Impulsivity–anyone who has a bad day at work considers quitting their job from time to time. But ADHD impacts decision-making in several ways–one of which being a tendency to act before the critical thinking part of the brain has a chance to examine the situation fully.
- Motivation Deficit and Boredom–ADHD brains are driven by interest, not importance. Thus, we tend to struggle with motivation in jobs we aren’t personally interested and invested in. We also get bored much quicker than the average person.
- Burnout—People with ADHD are more susceptible to burnout than neurotypical folks. Whether due to struggles maintaining a healthy work-life balance (also a common ADHD experience), sensory challenges, or co-occuring mental health conditions, it’s especially important for “neurospicy” individuals to maintain a good work self-care regimen to avoid burnout.
- Performance Issues–whether due to boredom, or the many other symptoms of ADHD that affect performance (task initiation, organization, time management…the list is long), ADHDers tend to be fired from their jobs more often than neurotypical workers due to poor performance.
Job Traits in Careers Where ADHDers Shine
Fortunately, career challenges can be mitigated in a number of ways. For example, ADHD coaching can help the individual identify the tools and strategies they need to succeed in most careers, and how to communicate those needs to employers to ensure the work environment is set up for success.
It also helps to have a career that is suited to the individual’s unique skills and innate strengths. This is true for anyone, of course, but for ADHDers the right job can make a successful career much more attainable.
People with ADHD tend to excel more in jobs and roles with one or more of the following traits:
⚡ Fast-Paced / High Energy
- Why: ADHD involves a deficit of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers). These chemicals help stimulate the brain, enabling it to function. Without a sufficient level of these chemicals, people with ADHD may struggle with fatigue, lack of focus, and lack of motivation. Fast-paced, high-energy jobs can help fuel the brain.
- Examples: emergency responder (firefighter, EMT), doctor or nurse, retail worker, service employee, journalist, teacher, athlete
🎨 Encourages Creativity & Innovation
- Why: A study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that those with ADHD reported more real-world creative achievements than those without ADHD, but also revealed that adults with ADHD are selective with their output, choosing creative tasks and environments that fit their skills and preferences.
- Examples: Writer, artist, musician, carpenter or builder, actor, dancer designer (interior, fashion, graphic), stylist (hair, nails, makeup, fashion), inventor, marketing or advertising roles
🙈 Flexibility and/or Variety in Daily Routine
- Why: ADHD symptoms may vary day-to-day. For example, some days you may be able to focus really well with very little help. Other days, it may feel like lifting a mountain to focus for five minutes. A job that allows for flexibility in scheduling, job duties, etc. means that we can adapt our work each day to reflect what we’re able to do.
- Examples: Coaching, therapy, personal trainers, etc; Data Scientist, Photographer, Dietitian, Graphic Designer, Virtual Assistant, Software Developer, Social Media Managers, Dog Walker
- Why: Dr. Russell Barkley calls ADHD a “motivation deficit disorder,” rather than an attention deficit disorder. Our brains work best when we’re excited about something - when we have the internal, personal motivation to do it. So, jobs where we can work on something we truly care about are perfect for our brains.
- Examples: It’s possible to be passionate about almost anything, but some of these roles tend to be ones people pursue because of passion - teacher, artist, counselor or social worker, medical professional, writer, clergy or service-oriented roles, caregiver
📋 Highly Structured
- Why: Many people with ADHD may struggle with things like time management, procrastination, and managing paperwork. Career roles in highly structured environments may help you avoid some of these obstacles. These types of jobs often rely on systems and routines that guide your daily work. In some workplaces, structure is built around goals or markers of achievement, which studies suggest can benefit workers with ADHD.
- Examples: bookkeeper or accountant, project manager, factory worker, database administrator, data analyst, engineer
💬 Interactive (either socially, or hands-on)
- Why: Jobs that involve a great deal of interaction tend to also be jobs that include a great deal of problem-solving, which is great for an ADHDer’s curious, creative mind. Many of these jobs incorporate the other job traits listed here, too - see if you notice how much overlap there is in these examples!
- Examples: Teacher, Hair Stylist, Construction Worker, Artist, Therapist, Doctor or Nurse, Chef, Makeup Artist, Manufacturing/Warehouse Worker, Machinist, Mechanic, Product Tester, Salesperson
ADHD Career Paths (Closing Thoughts)
For those who have been diagnosed with ADHD as adults, figuring out how to control their symptoms is the first step in their successful career transition. They may also find that some careers are better-suited to their unique brains.
Success in the workplace doesn’t have to be a lifelong struggle. A Shimmer ADHD coach can help you identify your strengths, how to use them to better adapt and thrive at work, and how to choose the right career path for your unique brain. Try it out today!