Teens with ADHD

“What Should I Be When I Grow Up?”

Your teen has an amazing future ahead of her. She also has a handful of ADHD attributes — like executive function challenges, hyperfocus, and anxiety — that may influence her career decisions, success, and happiness. Help your teen recognize both her strengths and her weakness — and devise strategies for working around the problem areas.

Arrow sketch on chalkboard

What single factor is the greatest predictor of success (or struggles) on the job with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD)? That’s easy, it’s passion.

If the ADHD brain is fired up, it will generally conquer. That said, not all professions and employers are equally “ADHD friendly” or make it a priority to create environments where different thinkers can succeed. So, when investigating future career paths, every teen and young adult with ADHD should take care to consider how these three ADHD attributes may factor in to the job: executive function challenges, hyperfocus/hyperactivity, and comorbid conditions such as anxiety.

ADHD Career Consideration #1: Executive Function Challenges

Typical workplace realities include deadlines, team interaction, and communication. The consequence for missing a deadline at work is often quite different than missing a deadline at school. If you turn in a school assignment late, you might get a poor grade that brings down your GPA, but you can almost always work to raise it. In the work environment, the consequences for missing a business proposal submission, for example, are more significant and severe. Being demoted or fired never looks good on a resume.

Team interaction is commonplace and arriving late for meetings is unacceptable in most companies. Responding late to texts and emails isn’t the end of the world outside of work, but will quickly become a problem in the office if your forgetfulness negatively impacts others.

ADHD Career Consideration #2: Hyperfocus/Hyperactivity

Every workplace establishes organizational goals, however perfection in achieving them is not always required. Hyperfocusing on a task to the point of perfectionism can be counterproductive — for you and for your coworkers. When evaluating a workplace, consider the extent to which your perfectionist tendencies may get in the way. Likewise, be honest about whether your ADHD hyperactivity may make it difficult to sit still at a screen. If you need to be outdoors, consider jobs where you aren’t bound to a desk and companies with progressive work environments.

[The Ultimate ADHD Test for Teen Girls]

ADHD Career Consideration #3: Anxiety and Other Comorbid Conditions

If severe anxiety or depression threatens to interfere with your work, management is unlikely to sympathize. Certain job environments can be paralyzing, so it is important to minimize any triggers that might affect performance. For example, if public speaking gives you crippling anxiety, pursue a career like accounting. If you’re introverted, find a career that doesn’t hinge on interpersonal interaction. A little anxiety can drive performance, but it’s important to be honest about its severity and likely impact.

Workarounds for Young Adults with ADHD

The good news is that plenty of careers cater to ADHD strengths — without the restrictions found in the typical office space. Freelance work, for example, allows you to create your own schedule. Likewise, trade jobs often provide a physical outlet for hyperactive individuals who prefer using their hands. It’s also worth stressing that your teen or young adult need not know their dream career right away. Consider the following if they are unsure about their next steps:

  1. Gap Years provide the opportunity to explore potential career options while building maturity and independence by living away from home.
  2. Internships are a great way to try out a career before investing heavily in the training or education.
  3. Inexpensive job training can be found at software development camps like General Assembly or Launch Academy, which teach candidates what they need to know to develop software and then place them in an internship or job to try it out. This is a good option if your teen is confident about his or her chosen career path.
  4. Community college is a great way to try different areas of study inexpensively. Since students can attend part time or full time, many also pursue an internship or paying job while studying.
  5. Inexpensive online courses may benefit your teen if he or she doesn’t want to enroll in community college. Coursera is one free option. Udemy and Codecademy offer high-level, high-quality classes in specific industries and fields for a reasonable price.

This content came from the ADDitude webinar by Rick Fiery, M.S., MBA, titled “ Engaging Career Paths for Teens and Young Adults with ADHD” That webinar is available for free replay here.

[Free Resource: What to Ask Yourself to Find the Perfect Job]