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Does ADHD Affect Your Career? Four strategies to navigate job transitions

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

You look up from your boring work task and stare out the window. Remember when this job was all you ever wanted? What happened? Now that you've grasped the role, that excitement is gone and replaced by thoughts of those monotonous tasks you need to do. You can feel that itch again and try to resist the urge to set aside your work and start Googling: "best careers for ADHD." No! Not this time! You promised yourself that this time you would stick with it, that this was the role worth enduring for. Slowly, you turn back to your task and wonder if you'll ever find a job you really love.

For those entering the workplace for the first time or planning another change in their career, ADHD can be a dominant factor in how people approach and struggle with work [1], [2]. An examination of young adults' early career experiences with ADHD found they struggled with attention, organisation, impulsivity, and self-management [3]. In some cases, these struggles have also been associated with job loss and multiple career transitions [4]

If you're considering a career transition and wonder if ADHD might be the reason, or if you find yourself moving between multiple jobs but not finding one that fits, here are some strategies that can support ADHD in your chosen role.

1. What Changes Can Be Made In The Current Workplace?

Sometimes the issue is not the career but an environment set up in such a way that it's unsupportive of neurodiversity. So before you shift jobs, it's good to stop and consider what changes could be made to the workplace to support your ADHD. Check out this article on possible accommodations for the workplace if you need more ideas. Our ADHD coaches can also provide one-on-one support on developing effective workplace strategies.

2. Assess Your Environmental Fit, Not Just Your Skill-set

Often, when we are considering a new career, we focus on what skills we have first and then consider the environment we'll be in. With ADHD, it's important to consider the environment as equivalent to, or in some cases, even more vital than your skill-set [5]. If you love working with computers but hate sitting in front of a desk all day, then programming may not be the job for you. Instead, perhaps an IT support role where you walk around an organisation and work with different people would suit you better.

3. Test New Career's First

One of the best ways to see if a role is right for us is to shadow someone doing it. This will help you get a sense of what the day-to-day position looks like above and beyond a set of skills or tasks. It can also help to pinpoint issues such as working memory, quick transitions, or other executive functioning struggles that are likely to come up.

4. Select Your New Role Holistically

There are many reasons we choose a career. Maybe it's one we've heard about from our peers and parents, perhaps the title provided more prestige than others, or maybe it was most commonly available the last time we searched for a new role. Instead of focusing on this somewhat arbitrary method of choosing a job, consider working through a questionnaire that outlines your strengths and skills, combining that with your ideal neurodiverse environment, and then using that to search for roles that fit both these areas [2]. This can provide a framework for finding a job that suits you best as a neurodiverse individual. You might even find that your new favourite role is one you've never heard of.

Hopefully, these tips provide you with a better idea of how to go about transitioning your career. Remember, this is a common struggle for those who have ADHD, so if you feel overwhelmed at work and aren't sure which job is for you, you're not alone. Talking with a career or ADHD coach can also help you unravel those struggles and take a step towards a more desirable career.

Talk again next week.

Skye


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References

[1] K. G. Nadeau, 'Career choices and workplace challenges for individuals with ADHD', J. Clin. Psychol., vol. 61, no. 5, pp. 549–563, 2005, doi: 10.1002/jclp.20119.

[2] A. O. Dipeolu, 'College Students With ADHD: Prescriptive Concepts for Best Practices in Career Development', J. Career Dev., vol. 38, no. 5, pp. 408–427, Oct. 2011, doi: 10.1177/0894845310378749.

[3] B. A. Mather, 'Early career experiences of young adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder', Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, United States -- California, 2013. Accessed: Nov. 03, 2020. [Online]. Available: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1328385199/abstract/FF7440B3952546E0PQ/1

[4] H. M. Bayne, 'The experience of job loss in adults with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder', Ph.D., Capella University, United States -- Minnesota. Accessed: Aug. 24, 2021. [Online]. Available: http://www.proquest.com/docview/304720481/abstract/4E3E35B200B643E8PQ/1

[5] A. K. Lasky et al., 'ADHD in context: Young adults' reports of the impact of occupational environment on the manifestation of ADHD', Soc. Sci. Med., vol. 161, pp. 160–168, Jul. 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.06.003.

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