Work Strategies

We’re Hiring: ADHD-Friendly Careers

Research shows that inattentive, hyperactive, scattered adults with ADHD struggle at work more than the average employee. This is especially true if the job is a bad fit. Here, find careers, including an emergency medical technician, that suit unique ADHD skills.

A group of people with ADHD in different occupations and jobs
A group of people with ADHD in different occupations and jobs

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 workplaces offer more ADHD-friendly jobs 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

To share ADHD career advice with others, visit the ADHD Adults support group on ADDConnect.

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