Do you have ADHD and struggle with work or want to have a career suitable for you? Don’t worry. There’s a lot of jobs suited for the person with ADHD. Another thing is, that there are also jobs more fit for an NT but can be better for someone with ADHD.
What? But ADHD symptoms are not suitable for traditional employment.
Yes. Short attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness cannot adapt to structured environment but can be highly successful in a more creative, unpredictable environment. Also, the notion that ADHD people cannot succeed in education or career path is a myth.
“It’s a misconception that certain jobs are not right for people with ADD. As I’ve found, there seems to be no limit to the careers that adults with ADD find fulfilling. But it is true that ADD can make choosing a satisfying career a challenge,” that’s according to Edward Hallowell, one of the authors of ADDitude magazine, a reading supplement for 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 and management tips, your work life can be successful.
According to Chris Iliades of everydayhealth.com, the following career types are suitable for ADHD:
Independent contractors like working on online sites like the former oDesk (now Upwork) and Elance can be good for people with ADHD. Owning your own business takes some investment and gumption, but the reward for adults with ADHD at work is independence. This does mean you’ll have to find an organizational system that works for you and maintain a solid schedule, but the key is liking what you do.
By being always on the go and talking to potential customers (hyperactivity includes being a chatterbox) is good for ADHD. Being a high-level, independent salesman 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,” said Hanley. “I have been able to create a system that allows me to work at my own pace rather than at a dictated pace.”
Medicine (Doctor, Nurse, Paramedic)
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,” said Jane Massengill, a certified adult ADHD coach for more than 30 years. Other medical professions like physical therapist, radiology technologist, or medical technologist may need more concentration or attention to detail, and can be a struggle for ADHD, but that doesn’t necessarily mean ADHD folks cannot be successful in these fields.
Entertainer (Musician, Actor, Host, Manager, Producer)
I think the entertainment field is the heaven of ADHD. For people with adult ADHD, such as Howie Mandel, the entertainment field offers high creativity and the ability to make your own schedule, which helps when managing ADHD symptoms. In fact, ADHD is a common condition among entertainers. (For more details about lists of celebrities with ADHD, click my ADHD article here) To get into this field you will need talent, some luck, and perseverance, according to Massengill. “Challenges include being able to leave on time for trips, staying organized, and making time in the schedule for fun and exercise,” said Massengill.
Another good job choice for ADHD especially if he’s up to constant movement and action, but with some caution, because of its structured environment. “The high energy, tight structure, and physical exertion of a military career can all be pluses for adult ADHD,” said Massengill. On the negative side, some people with adult ADHD may rebel against the strict discipline and control inherent in military life.
Police Officers and Firefighters
Like the military, being in the police department brings stimulation in ADHD. Many police and firefighters love the job. They get action and variety and have to rely heavily on their own skills and judgment. On the other hand, 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.
ADDitude Magazine also suggest these careers for ADHD:
Teacher and Day Care Worker
Many ADHD adults find joy in professions that allow them to work directly with children—in careers such as teaching or child care. These jobs rely on your sparkling ADHD personality and thoughtful creativity, and they’ll put your patience to the test. To be successful in a kid-focused career, you’ll need to be able to think on your feet and transition from task-to-task quickly—because when you’re working with kids, anything can happen!
Pursuing events, chasing public figures, catching the latest news – very fast, is also fit for ADHD people. ADHD adults working in journalism find the work exciting, creative, and rewarding. Journalists need to deal well with day-to-day changes in work setting, covering a broad range of topics, interacting with a variety of people, and having a quick turnaround on assignments – all a good fit for a person with loads of energy, a short attention span, low boredom threshold, and problems with sustained focus over hours or days. Hard deadlines, however, may be a challenge for ADHD adults.
Food Industry Worker (Chef, Cook, Baker)
Many adults with ADHD go into the culinary arts because the work is creative and relatively unaffected by ADHD-related deficits. Cooking requires you to focus on the task at hand and take immediate steps to create a finished product, while not demanding long-range planning or lots of working memory. Unusual or flexible hours, with sporadic ebb-and-flow pacing, add just the right touch of excitement to keep you alert and focused on the job.
Beautician (Hairstylist, Makeup Artist
For the girly-girls (women and gays alike) who love beautifying people (though this can be also for men), this job is for you. Those who work as hairstylists, manicurists, and cosmetologists are constantly meeting with new clients — each one providing a unique creative challenge requiring only short-term focus. They often remain on their feet all day and need to jump from task to task quickly, an ideal working environment for a hyperactive-type ADHD adult with lots of energy. Plus, the constant influx of customers provides ample social interactions and quick task turnover, leaving little opportunity for boredom.
Arts (Artist, Photographer, Interior Designer)
The arts is probably the most ideal profession that a person with ADHD can have. Given no particular 9-to-5 working hours and structured environments, the artist is totally free to make her own work of art anytime, anywhere. This is especially true for independent contractors. But even if an artist is part of a 9-to-5 type of company, this kind of work is still not as rigid as other jobs like administration assistant.
These are some of the suggested career paths for people with ADHD as these don’t require long attention span and structured environment. But like in many other work settings, there are some rules to be followed and superiors still to be obeyed, which can be daunting to people with ADHD.
But of course, there’s a lot of advantages of having ADHD in work life. 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,” said 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.”
In fact, all of the so-called ADHD symptoms, which are weaknesses at school, are actually strengths in the workforce.
Here is a quote from ADDvance, a website about ADHD, which states about the ADHD symptoms that can be a weakness at school and a strength at employment:
If you are an adult with ADD (ADHD), some of the challenges you face at work may be very similar to those you experienced during school years. At work, just as during school years, you must concentrate, listen and remember; you are often expected to write reports, learn new skills, and plan projects. On the other hand, when you’re well-matched with your job, many ADD (ADHD) traits that may have been a negative in school can become an asset on the job. For example:
- “Hyperactivity” in school can translate into high energy and drive.
- Those who “talk too much in class” may become highly successful at networking, promotions, and sales.
- Students who were “distractible” in class, always looking around, may find that they “notice everything” in a valuable way on the right job.
- Many who “couldn’t keep their mind on homework” are very able to focus on the real world engaging in hands-on activities.
- An individual who “daydreamed” in class may become an adult with valuable, creative ideas.
- A teen with ADD (ADHD) who “wastes hours on computer games” may become a talented computer scientist who hyperfocuses for hours on his work.
This country was built by individuals who had many ADD (ADHD)-like traits – they were high energy, impulsive, risk-taking, good in a crisis, jump-in-with-both-feet and figure-it-out-as-they-went-along people. These were the people who took a leap of faith to come to the new world, then risked it again to leave the security of the east coast states and forge out into the American wilderness. They were the ’49ers who bet their last dollar chasing the promise of riches in California. They were the Thomas Edisons, who had no sense of time and yet had endless ingenuity and creativity. A study of successful business entrepreneurs today will show a great over-representation of individuals with ADD (ADHD). People in sales, inventors, politicians, comedians, pilots, entertainers and all manner of other high profile people have strong ADD (ADHD) characteristics.
– Quoted by Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ph.D., from the article “ADD (ADHD) in the Workplace” in ADDvance.
But these job suggestions above are only applicable individually, and also some of these are only fit for ADHD alone, or with combined ADHD + dyslexia. But when ADHD is combined with other pervasive developmental conditions like dyspraxia, autism, language disorders and dyscalculia, the case will be different. For example, in theatrical jobs, while someone with ADHD alone can survive this job, someone with combined ADHD and autism spectrum will find this very hard (I’ve personally had experienced this before). That’s why it is still very important to address and recognize each neurodiverse condition and find suitable educational and employment opportunities for each condition like here in ADHD. This is to avoid frustration on the part of the neurodivergent and also frustration on the part of the neurotypical employer that expects much of the ADHD employee.