ADHD at Work: Match Your Employment to Your Skills

Consider these ADD-friendly careers, so you can make use of your unique ADD/ADHD gifts and talents at work.

Jobs That Suit ADHD Symptoms Polka Dot/Thinkstock
   
 

Find an ADD/ADHD Career Mentor

If you work at a desk and do the same thing every day, get a leg up on your job by recruiting a mentor. If you gain your mentor's respect, others will hear about it, and you may win allies whom you didn't actually cultivate. Here are some guidelines for the mentoring relationship:

  • Recruit a coworker, company friend, or supportive supervisor -- anyone you can make yourself accountable to every day for the work you need to get done.
  • Meet twice a day for five minutes at a time. Set goals at your first meeting, and review what you've accomplished at the second.
  • Make it a priority to do what you've agreed to do.
  • Show your appreciation through small tokens of thanks.
  • Don't seek out advice for personal problems. Stick to company business.
 
   

Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) change jobs and careers more often and have more trouble meeting the demands of their work than adults without the condition. They are also fired or laid off more than their non-ADHD counterparts.

Research shows that adults who are hyperactive have the biggest problems in the workplace. Teachers might cut you some slack for being fidgety and restless at school, because you're a growing child or a hormone-driven teen. In the workplace, those who are paying you expect you to stay at your desk or work station to get your job done. Employees who can't do it are often labeled "slackers" and, eventually, let go.

Work That Suits Your ADD/ADHD Symptoms

Some jobs are more ADHD-friendly than others. The occupations listed below have proved better for some of my adult patients. Perhaps they will lead you to a long and successful career as well:

  • The military. The service ensures structure and discipline, immediate feedback, and more benefits than many other fields.
  • Door-to-door sales. These jobs involve freedom of movement, changes in setting, a flexible schedule, frequent meetings with new contacts, opportunities for talking and social interaction, and passion for the product. Adults with ADD/ADHD may need assistance back at the home office with completing reports and paperwork, but they do well in the field.
  • Emergency medical technician, police officer, firefighter. These jobs allow you to work in a variety of settings, while providing the kind of adrenaline-pumping excitement that helps many ADHDers focus their minds.
  • Computer technician/consultant. In these jobs, the employee roves throughout a company, hospital, or other venue to help people with their computer problems or answers queries from customers who call or e-mail in with a problem.
  • The food industry. I know many adults with ADD/ADHD who have gone into the culinary arts, including The Next Food Network Star contestant Alexis Hernández. They have found the work to be creative and relatively unaffected by their ADHD-related deficits. Cooking requires you to focus on the task and take immediate steps to create a finished product, while not demanding long-range planning and lots of working memory. Unusual or flexible hours, with sporadic ebb-and-flow pacing, add just the right touch of excitement to keep you alert and focused on the work at hand.
  • Your own business. Starting a small business suits the strengths of ADD/ADHD. The hours are usually more flexible than working for a company, and you are your own boss. Work settings vary from day to day in some self-employed occupations, accommodating the restlessness that many adults with ADD/ADHD experience.
  • Photographer/videographer. Many of the adults who have assisted me in creating various DVDs have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. They were able to deal well with the day-to-day changes in work setting, the diversity of topics they were asked to cover, and the frequent opportunities for interacting with a variety of people, all of which were a good fit for the ADHDers' short attention span, low boredom threshold, and problems with sustained focus over hours or days.

Excerpted from Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, by Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D. Copyright 2010. Published by The Guilford Press. All rights reserved.

Work Tips for ADD/ADHD Adults

Careers for ADD/ADHD Adults: Which One Is for You?
Career Advice for Finding the Right Work with ADD/ADHD
How I Found an ADD-Friendly Job

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