General Education

What Are the Best Careers for People With ADHD?

What Are the Best Careers for People With ADHD?
The foundation for the best career choice should be built on strength areas, a true passion, and the decision to figure out strategies for getting through the mundane. Image from Unsplash
Tracey Goodwin and Holly Oberacker profile
Tracey Goodwin and Holly Oberacker April 29, 2019

Your ADHD brain craves newness. You are good with your hands, and an unstoppable problem solver. Here's the career for you.

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Finding an enjoyable career path is important for everyone, but for adults with ADHD, who combat boredom, impatience and focus, an interesting and stimulating career is essential. While choosing the right career may sound daunting, there are numerous careers that allow people with ADHD to excel. In the United States, about 4.4 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 experience ADHD symptoms and many of these people have built satisfying careers by leveraging the traits associated with the medical condition.

The foundation for the best career choice should be built on strength areas, a true passion, and the decision to figure out strategies for getting through the mundane. Since people with ADHD thrives in areas that are highly interesting to them, we recommend aligning your career search with the thing (or things) you’re passionate about. It sounds basic, but it really is where the magic happens. Think of it this way: the goal of your profession path isn’t to make yourself “fit" into a career but rather, find one that fits you and your specific strength areas.

Start by taking a moment to think about something that you truly enjoy, or what it is about your personality that helps you succeed. Do you love to bake and have adventurous ideas about new recipes? Are you a history buff with an impeccable memory for details? According to Dr. Jeff Chamberlain, MD, people with ADHD find success when they know how to purposefully channel their focus.

ADHD looks and feels a bit different for everyone. There are numerous beneficial traits that many individuals diagnosed with ADHD experience, such as the ability to accomplish goals because of hyperfocus, creative imaginations, out-of-the-box problem solving, serious drive (when the mission is clear), and a kindhearted spirit that draws others in. Utilizing these qualities and focusing on the positives of ADHD will lead you to career success. It’s true: According to a report published in the Journal of Business Venturing Insights, symptoms like hyperfocus and impulsivity could actually give an edge to entrepreneurs with ADHD.

What are the best careers for people with ADHD?

The individual strengths you have living with adult ADHD may lend themselves to a different career, but here is a list to get you started on discovering a field where that may be a good fit.

You are a quick-thinking, intuitive problem solver with high energy. Consider working in medicine or healthcare, as a doctor, nurse, veterinarian, physical therapist, personal trainer, first responder.

You have a memory for details, are quick-thinking, and uninhibited. A career as a lawyer or police officer could be a match.

Out-of-the box thinking is your trademark—on top of being creative with a memory for stimulating ideas. Engineering, Interior design, and architecture are for you (though not all at once).

You've always been a team player, thanks to your high energy, creativity, social skills, and problem-solving attitude. Marketing, public relations, advertising, and graphic design need people like you.

We know this is all starting to sound the same... but are you creative, high energy, social, and enjoy out-of-the-box thinking? Creativity comes in many forms. Not all artists hold paintbrushes! You will also thrive as a chef, a hair stylist, a makeup artist, graphic designer, or a journalist.

You are good with your hands, and an unstoppable problem solver. Jobs in construction trades—like electricians, plumbers, builders, auto or boat mechanics—will be the most fulfilling career paths for you.

Hyperfocus, high energy, creative, out of the box thinker, uninhibited... sound familiar? You're an entrepreneur who basically needs to start a business. Yesterday.

You're a high energy, out-of-the-box thinker, a creative problem solver who is also empathetic. Empathy is needed in education, so a career as a teacher, childcare provider, professor, or curriculum writer may be your calling.

You're hyperfocused and high energy, a creative out-of-the-box thinker who problem-solves like it's nobody's business. Technology, my friend. Become a computer programmer, software analyst, or designer.

Still with us? Let’s fast forward to when you’ve chosen a career path or taken a new job, and are wondering how you can be the best employee possible. In addition to the strategies below, you may benefit from a standing desk, private workstation, organizational apps, or working with an ADHD coach.

Self-reflection can also be a big help. Follow the steps below to take stock of the challenges you might come up against in the workplace, and what needs to happen in order for you to stay motivated and engaged (and in solid mental health).

What are the challenges your job could throw your way?

This might include constant distractions, the need to be constantly engaged or in focus, time management, staying motivated, or deadlines, or even feelings of anxiety.

Make a plan to solve those challenges.

  • Do you jump from one task to another without completing the one at hand? You might set visual reminders at your desk or at a workstation. You could also create a visual on your computer that says “STOP," “Think about the Task at Hand," or “Complete NOW!" to avoid procrastination.
  • Do you lose track of time? Try using Time Timer, a clock that uses color and alarms to show the passage of time and create urgency.
  • Do you have trouble paying attention after an interruption? Hang a sign on your door (or a note on your cubicle) that says, “please don’t disturb" or a personalized message of your preference that includes the time when you will be available. Be sure to talk to coworkers about your plan so they’re in on your routine.
  • Do you have difficulty talking to supervisors or colleagues when there is a difference of opinion? Depending on your chosen profession, you may have lots of challenging conversations throughout your career. In any case, we recommend writing out a script ahead of time so you can feel confident expressing your opinions and possible responses.
  • Do you have a messy desk? Think about what makes sense to you when it comes to organization. Does color help? Do files or sorting trays work best? Do you need daily or weekly “reset" times to reorganize? Or maybe you need to toss on a pair of headphones and organize while listening to a particular playlist.

Think about what to do when faced with the unexpected.

A coworker interrupts your workflow with an off-topic question? What is the plan you’ll have in place to “reset" your brain and get back to the task at hand? Whether that’s having a system of notes that shows where you left off or getting up from your desk for a brief walk—what you do to reset doesn’t matter, but doing it does.

What needs to happen to stay motivated and engaged?

A study published in Mol Psychiatry shows that the ADHD brain can overcome low motivation when it’s rewarded after the completion of a mundane task.

Maybe you need to reward yourself with physical movement or a chat with a friend after you complete paperwork, or get some fresh air to feel reinvigorated. Thinking about what keeps you in your “work mindset" will also help with motivation. Maybe you need a quiet environment while others would benefit from constant action (mentally and/or physically) throughout the day. Do you need rigid timelines or flexibility and loose schedules? Do you prefer working with others as part of a team or on projects that let you work solo?

Whatever career path you choose, remember your ADHD brain craves newness and that, at some point, you may have to switch up some of your systems for managing challenges. And remember, the team you work with professionally is going to benefit from your unique perspective, undeniable passion, out of the box thinking and sensitive spirit. Go get that job! Anything is possible when you put your ADHD brain to work.

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