ADHD at Work

ADHD Work Stories: The Jobs You Love and Loathe

Finding great jobs for individuals with ADHD takes time, practice, and a few false starts. Don’t give up! Here, ADDitude readers share their work stories about jobs they love — and some they loathe.

Business people discussing over plan. Morsa Images/Getty Images
Business people discussing over plan on glass wall in office. Morsa Images/Getty Images

When you have ADHD, pursuing a career path that you think is the perfect fit may actually involve some bumps, detours, and even crashes that leave you feeling more like a professional failure.

Don’t give up! Understanding what you want (and need) from a job takes work. (No pun intended.) As many of us know, it may take one or more false starts to get there.

Adults with ADHD can thrive at work if that work aligns with their passions and strengths. Here, ADDitude readers share their work stories about jobs they love and some they loathe. Share your stories about your disastrous or favorite jobs in the Comments section below.

Your ADHD Work Stories: The Best and Worst Jobs

“I started my career as a legal secretary. I had to keep track of everything — calendars, filings, reports, etc. I was simply not up to par, and it was a real blow to my confidence. I am smart, but my inability to keep track of things, prioritize, pay attention to details, and so on let me down. At the time, I was undiagnosed, and I now understand that the job I picked was one of the hardest for me to do. Now, I work for myself. I write non-fiction stories about crime; and publish them as a podcast.” — Sinead

“My most disastrous former job was doing data entry for a local architecture firm during my senior year of high school. The quiet atmosphere and monotonous work made me fall asleep at my desk. Fast forward 20 years, and I’m a receiving manager at Whole Foods, which plays to my strengths in attention to detail and organization. I constantly interact with others, and I never have to stay still when I get antsy.” — Anonymous

[Get This Free Download: Your Guide to Choosing Your Best Career]

“My favorite job was as an auto parts auditor. It was a line job, and I loved it.” — Anonymous

“My first day of training was my last day at The Great Escape Amusement Park. We had a terrible uniform. It was so loud, crowded, and confusing that I couldn’t remember anything about the training.” — Anonymous

“During the summer before my senior year of college, I took a custom picture framing job at an A.C. Moore craft store. I’ve stuck with picture framing ever since because it ignites my hyperfocus and creative problem-solving superpowers. I never get bored because I see different art pieces every day, design unique frames for them, and then build them in the shop.” — Ellen

“While acting as PA my boss realized I had a talent for design, and that’s how I started my career as a digital product designer. I make beautiful things for people without having to talk to them. I absolutely love my job.” — Bonita

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

I loved being a high school English and creative writing teacher — at first. After teaching mostly the same curriculum year after year and grading so many essays, it became harder to stay excited and engaged. I always wanted to become a writer, not spend my workday teaching others how to write. After years of feeling like a failure because I ‘couldn’t handle being a teacher,’ I learned how and why it wasn’t the best fit for ME. Now I am a staff writer and digital editor for a local magazine that focuses on outdoor recreation and lifestyle, which totally aligns with my personal passions.” — AM

“Once I took a job at a call center that did troubleshooting for people applying for Obamacare. There were too many rules, and we weren’t allowed to talk with those around us. I got fired for nodding off too many times because being trapped at a desk with nothing to do but read the IRS website is not stimulating at all!” — Valerie

“I love my kids and enjoy doing things with them, but being a stay-at-home mom was a really bad fit for me. I was unmotivated by the monotony of cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. and overwhelmed with trying to keep track of what everyone was doing. I’m loving my new part time job in the interior design world because it’s full of new exciting projects. My husband now takes care of the monotonous work, and I take care of all the projects’ like deep cleaning and renovations.’” — Anonymous

“I was a bank teller for a few years pre-diagnosis. It started off well, but by the end, I had issues keeping my drawer in balance and the numbers straight in my head and on the computer. Numbers and math were never my strong suit in school but all the tips and tricks couldn’t help my unknown dyscalculia and ADHD. Now I’m a testing proctor at a local community college. It is not the career I thought I’d have, but it works. Focus is hard at times, but my co-worker and boss are understanding. They give me time and space and help come up with things to keep my brain engaged in the work.” — Anonymous

“Working in the library in college was terrible. There was no structure and it was also very boring. Plus, you’re not allowed to just read all the books!” — Alex

“I loved being an elementary teacher. There was something new every day and lots of ways to be creative. I was surrounded by creative people and enjoyed making a difference with what I did. Being a teacher was the best career for me. I’m now a stay at home mom and, while I love my kids and wouldn’t change it, I’m not as good with juggling ‘mom’ things as I was at being a teacher.” — Anonymous

“In my early 20s, I was thrust into a store manager position. I often opened the store late and turned the music up really loud in an attempt to stay engaged. As a people pleaser, I found it terrifying to have hard conversations with my staff. A couple of months later I was fired. I was actually so relieved. For the past 20 years, I have been a massage therapist. I absolutely love my job and am grateful every day for it.” — Sarah

Career Choices and ADHD: Next Steps

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3 Comments & Reviews

  1. Working in a hardware wholesaler completing orders, stock taking, and cleaning floors icky, army stores order taker deathly, insurance health claims reviewer better, group insurance sales rep good, consultant better, and president of a small Consulting company, best. The first two positions taught me order, the next one taught me prioritizing through listing. The last 4 gave me the freedom to be inventive with solutions and with my time.

  2. I was hoping something in this article would give me an “Ah ha!” moment. I was just diagnosed with ADHD, combined type, moderate to severe at age 52 and I am female. I knew I had it because it runs in my family and I have always had “weird” things I did to stay on top of stuff in my life, like refusing to use checks because I could never get my checking account to balance and having all the clocks run fast in my house, etc. I got fired from my last job for the first time in my life, due to impulsivity, and then I realized my ADHD was getting worse as I aged. This website helped me understand that the fluctuating estrogen in my body likely exacerbated my ADHD to the point I could not manage it myself. So I need to get another job and I have some anxiety about that because of my last experience, but I also can acknowledge, that job was not the best fit for me. I have had jobs that were a good match for my ADHD, like I was a wildland firefighter during my 20’s and early 30’s and that was an amazing job for my condition. I was just fed up with the blatant sexism and toxic politics of the job and quit at age 32. I had a job a few years ago that was another amazing match for my skills set. I was a nonprofit manager at a job corp, where most days I was so busy, I rarely had time to eat or use the restroom. But, the population we were serving was young adults `8-25, who came from some of the roughest and most disadvantaged backgrounds and they had a lot of trauma. The constant fights, screaming profanity events, threats against my personal safety and gang threat had taken a toll on mental well being. I am an empath and even the kids who were less triggered, just hearing their heartbreaking stories from foster care and what not, was a heavy toll on me because I felt their pain and it was everywhere.

    So, I need a fast paced job, putting out fires, so to speak, with lots of variation, requiring problem solving, juggling responsibilities and high stakes. The fear of failure raises my adrenaline, which in turn helps my brain function. Unfortunately, a lot of those types of jobs are male dominated and I don’t want to go back to the sexism. And I don’t unmanageable stress or emotional stress. So what job is that? It’s the million dollar question in my life. The only job that even sounded appealing to me was the receiving manager at Whole Foods. It would combine my passion as a foodie and my ideals about sustainable food with being on my feet and quick thinking. But I don’t want a job where I have to work weekends because my husband works long hours M-F and if I worked weekends, I hardly ever see him. So that eliminates a lot of those kinds of jobs. Sigh.

  3. I agree with Deekay in that I was hopping for guidance.
    I loved data entry it makes my hyper focus very happy.
    I avoided customer service roles for years because I thought I was bad at it and the best jobs I have ever had were as a call centre person and in a Business Service role.It turned out Empathy works really well in those roles.

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