A question I get asked a lot is, ‘What are the best careers for people with ADHD?’
I wish there was an easy answer! Or a maybe even a list of jobs that people with ADHD enjoy and excel in.
But it’s not that simple.
Just as there isn’t one ADHD medication that works for everyone living with ADHD, or one type of exercise that all ADHDers love, it’s the same with careers and jobs.
A dream job for you could be another ADHDer’s worst job ever.
Why is it important to find a job you love?
We spend a lot of our waking life at work. What we ‘do’ becomes part of our identity. It’s how we support ourselves financially. It gives our life meaning and a sense of direction.
Because it’s hard to compartmentalize life, our happiness level at work affects other areas of life too including relationships, health and sleep, etc.
ADHD and Jobs
When you have ADHD, there is an even bigger reason to find a job you love. If you don’t enjoy your job, your ADHD symptoms get worse and it becomes very hard for you perform at your best.
If you have a job that isn’t a good fit, you might find that you…
- Don’t feel motivated, so it becomes hard to make yourself do things like work on a project or make phone calls;
- Often arrive late to work and meetings;
- Find it hard to focus and concentrate;
- Become increasingly distractible by internal and external distractions;
- Make what appear to be ‘careless’ mistakes even though you were trying really hard…
- Find that tasks take you longer than usual or compared to others;
- Drag yourself through the day with zero energy or enthusiasm.
It doesn’t matter how much logic you apply – ‘The company has good benefits’ or ‘I am using my qualifications’ or ‘It’s only a 10 minute commute.’ If your work doesn’t interest you, your ADHD symptoms get worse.
This has a knock-on effect. For example, if it’s hard for you to perform your best, it is reflected in your annual reviews and your confidence can take a hit.
The Secret to Finding the Best Job For You
The secret to finding the best job for you isn’t to find what jobs are ‘good for ADHDers,’ it is to find out what the best job is for YOU.
ADHD is a part of the equation, but it isn’t everything.
It’s also important to remember that general career advice for ADHD won’t always apply to you.
For example, common wisdom says a person with ADHD shouldn’t have jobs that involve attention-to-details tasks, or strict schedules, and should have jobs that are stimulating. But there are always exceptions.
Let’s take the example of an accountant. Being an accountant is often cited as a bad choice when you have ADHD as it involves sitting down and doing attention-to-detail work.
Yet some people with ADHD love their jobs as an accountant. They find dealing with numbers a relief from regular life, because there is a definitive right or wrong answer. In a world where there are so many options and emotions to navigate, working with numbers feels comforting and easy.
Proof reading is similar. I am severely dyslexic, and all my articles are reviewed by a professional proofreader before they are posted on the Untapped Brilliance blog. My best proof readers (purely by chance) have ADHD.
These proofreaders say they find it relaxing, or that it’s fun, like solving a puzzle. Spelling errors stand out to them like a beacon and they can’t help noticing them even when they are reading for leisure.
Strict schedules and deadlines are something else that ADHDers are warned against. However, some can thrive and do their best work in those conditions. Dr. Gabor Maté, author of Scattered Minds, says the only way he got through medical school was because of the structure and deadlines of regular assignments and exams.
Having a stimulating job is considered important when you have ADHD. However, what is even more important is finding the right amount of stimulation for you. Some environments are recognized as very stimulating – ER doctor or working on the floor at a stock exchange.
But for many ADHDers, those environments would be too intense, and the ADHDer would become scattered, frantic, stressed and unproductive.
The opposite of a stimulating and interesting job is one that is boring and dull. This type of job needs to be avoided because when you feel bored, your physical energy dips, you feel blah, low energy, unmotivated and unproductive. There will also be some tasks that are boring for you, so you can find ADHD-friendly ways to manage that. Ideally, those tasks would be a very small portion of your day or week.
There is a sweet spot where your job has the right amount of interest and action but not too much.
Finding a good job for you involves getting to know yourself in terms of what interests you, what environments you enjoy being in, as well as your skill set, qualifications and ADHD symptoms.
The questions below are a good way to start the exploration. As you are answering them in a notebook or journal, try to be as comprehensive as possible (don’t give yes and no answers!). The more detailed you are, the easier it will be to see themes.
- Think back to your last 5 jobs.
What did you like about them?
What did you dislike about them?
- What are you naturally good at, that doesn’t feel like ‘work’?
- What topics capture your interest?
- What tasks keep you so interested you lose track of time?
- What motivates you?
- What are you good at that people think ADHDers aren’t ‘supposed’ to be good at?
- What makes you feel happy?
- Have you ever worked in an environment that was ‘too boring’?
- Have you ever worked in an environment that was ‘too stimulating?’
- Do you have a job you love?
The answers to these questions will begin to give you clues about characteristics of the best job for you.
Next weeks article will give more tips on the “best jobs for ADHDers”