Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is usually thought to be a disorder of childhood, but up to 50 per cent of children with ADHD grow up to have adult ADHD.
Adult ADHD symptoms such as disorganization, difficulty staying focused, and becoming easily bored or disinterested can make it harder to do well at work. But with the right career choice, your work life can be successful.
"Adults with ADHD tend to be very successful if they find the right fit," says Jane Massengill, a certified adult ADHD coach for more than 30 years. "Most of my adult ADHD clients are self-employed or independent contractors." Owning your own business takes some investment and gumption, but the reward for adults with ADHD at work is independence. "The most important thing is that they have a job they are passionate about,” explains Massengill. “Otherwise, they tend to get bored and lose their focus.”
Being a high-level, independent salesperson usually requires a college education and good people skills — both attainable for those with adult ADHD. David G. Hanley, of West Hartford, Conn., has been a successful salesman for more than 30 years. Although he sometimes struggles with ADHD symptoms, such as difficulty with organization and multitasking, the ability to be independent and make his own schedule has been a big plus. "Working independently has allowed me to develop self-confidence,” says Hanley. “I have been able to create a system that allows me to work at my own pace rather than at a dictated pace.”
Doctor Or Nurses
Getting into the medical field as a doctor or a nurse requires years of study, but many people with adult ADHD find the field interesting and challenging enough to hold their attention. Work challenges may include long hours and a lot of paperwork. On the upside: "High energy, tons of variety, good patient and staff rapport, and partners to help with running the business can all be pluses for adults with ADHD in the medical field," says Massengill.
The Entertainment Field
To get into this field you will need talent, some luck, and perseverance, according to Massengill, whose clients include the singer and songwriter Joan Baez. For people with adult ADHD, the entertainment field offers high creativity and the ability to make your own schedule, which helps when managing ADHD symptoms. “Challenges include being able to leave on time for trips, staying organized, and making time in the schedule for fun and exercise," says Massengi
Entering a military career requires a high school diploma and passing a background check. If you want to be an officer, you will have to work your way up or hold a higher degree in education. "The high energy, tight structure, and physical exertion of a military career can all be pluses for adult ADHD," says Massengill. On the negative side, some people with adult ADHD may rebel against the strict discipline and control inherent in military life.
Firefighters Or Police Officers
These jobs require special training, and there may be quite a bit of competition to find an opening. However, if you can get into the police force or fire department, it could be a good fit for adults with ADHD. Many police and firefighters love their job. They get action and variety and have to rely heavily on their own skills and judgments. On the minus side, there may be periods of boredom, paperwork, and the need to deal with authority figures, which can make the job challenging for those with adult ADHD.
Adults with ADHD do well in careers that offer creativity, independence, and variety. Careers that may be tough for adults with ADHD are jobs that require rigid schedules and tight deadlines, as well as ones that are very detail-oriented. “Sometimes I need to breathe deeply and count to 100 to relieve boredom and reduce stress,” says Hanley. “I have learned not to over-react to situations and people and to be more patient. Taking a time-out to enjoy working in the yard, reading history, or just to do a little daydreaming helps keep me sane.”
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