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Five Steps to Support ADHD in a New Job

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Starting a new job can be challenging. Learning new skills, getting along with new colleagues and navigating seniors can cause stress. Research shows adjusting to a new role can be particularly difficult for adults with ADHD (Ramsay, 2010). Problems managing and organising large complex tasks along with other executive functions can all cause difficulties (Adamou et al., 2016).


So, if you’re starting a new job or moving into a new role, here are five steps I recommend to help you get settled. Note that one of the things you could do is request accommodations for ADHD, but because this depends on your employment and what you feel comfortable disclosing I haven’t included it on the list.


1. Ask What the Expectations Are

Similar to last weeks discussion of imposter syndrome. It’s important that if you’re starting a new role, you explicitly ask what the task expectations are as soon as you can. For example, knowing how quickly you’re expected to send through a document or how many customers you’re supposed to speak with can help provide clarity in your job. Research has shown that for some people with ADHD, those clear expectations can act as motivating goals and help you stay interested at work (Ek & Isaksson, 2013).


2. Set Up A New Routine Quickly

When everything changes your routine is usually the first thing to go. This loss can lead to having to re-learn hard-earned habits like morning exercise or healthy eating. So as soon as you have an understanding of your new role, set aside time to rebuild your routines. Bring back what was working well in your last job and adjust for any differences in the new one.


3. Increase Dopamine In Areas of Boredom

With new tasks also come new ways to be bored. Try to notice when this is happening and actively start to include activities to combat boredom. Options include listening to music or a podcast, using colour codes or engaging stationery, drinking tea, coffee or a smoothie during the task, using a fidget toy or tackling the tedious tasks when you have the most energy.


4. Connect with Colleagues

One study found feeling a sense of togetherness with colleagues helped motivate ADHD adults at work (Ek & Isaksson, 2013). Getting to know colleagues can also have benefits; someone to ask for advice or to cover if you can’t attend a meeting. So when you’re starting, even though it may seem overwhelming, try to take the time to reach out online or in-person and introduce yourself to your colleagues.


5. Use Your Learning Style Where Possible

Have you ever found you can’t remember verbal instructions but do much better when they’re written down? You might be a visual learner. Understanding what kind of learner you are (visual/verbal or kinaesthetic or a combination), can help you understand how you best take in new information at work. For example, if you’re a kinaesthetic learner, you might benefit from having the opportunity to try a task yourself rather than written or auditory instructions. Use your preferred learning style where possible to help you retain any information you're taught.


Starting a new job can be stressful, especially if you have ADHD. But once you've implemented some of these steps, hopefully you'll feel more confident in your new role. Keep going, remember you were hired for a reason and that ADHD has weaknesses but also several great strengths like creative thinking and problem solving (White & Shah, 2011).


Talk to you next week.


Skye.


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References

Adamou, M., Graham, K., MacKeith, J., Burns, S., & Emerson, L.-M. (2016). Advancing services for adult ADHD: The development of the ADHD Star as a framework for multidisciplinary interventions. BMC Health Services Research, 16(1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-016-1894-4

Ek, A., & Isaksson, G. (2013). How adults with ADHD get engaged in and perform everyday activities. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 20(4), 282–291. https://doi.org/10.3109/11038128.2013.799226

Ramsay, J. R. (2010). Career counseling and workplace support. In Nonmedication treatments for adult ADHD: Evaluating impact on daily functioning and well-being (pp. 77–90). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/12056-004

White, H. A., & Shah, P. (2011). Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(5), 673–677. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.12.015

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