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Finding Work That Works For You: A Career Guide For Young Adults with ADHD

Updated: Apr 14, 2023


This is an image of two girls interviewing.

Are you a young adult with ADHD struggling to find a job or career that is engaging? Have you struggled with the leap from formal schooling to employment?


What are the best jobs for people with ADHD? And what jobs should you avoid?


Because of all the executive function skills necessary to find and maintain work, people with ADHD may need more guidance in the employment and career development process.


This guide aims to describe the challenges and strengths of people with ADHD, while also giving practical steps for finding meaningful employment and building a career.

Questions that a person with ADHD could ask themselves when looking for work on a beige background
Finding work that works for you: a career guide for young adults with ADHD

Table of Contents


Is it harder to find work when you have ADHD?


People with ADHD may struggle with certain aspects of the job search process. Here are a few challenges that they may face:


Maintaining focus and attention

One of the hallmarks of ADHD is difficulty with maintaining focus and attention for extended periods of time. This can make it challenging to stay organized, prioritize tasks, and stay engaged in the job search process.


Time management

People with ADHD may struggle with time management, which can make it difficult to meet application deadlines, schedule interviews, and manage the logistics of the job search process.


Impulsivity

Impulsivity is another common symptom of ADHD. This can lead to impulsive decision-making and difficulty evaluating job opportunities thoroughly, which can result in accepting jobs that may not be a good fit.


Hyperfocus

People with ADHD may also experience hyperfocus, which is an intense focus on a particular task or activity to the exclusion of other responsibilities. This can make it difficult to balance the demands of the job search process with other responsibilities.


Social interaction

Many jobs require strong interpersonal skills, and people with ADHD may struggle with social interaction. They may have difficulty with communication, networking, and navigating the social aspects of the job search process.


It's important to remember that while people with ADHD may face unique challenges in the job search process, they also bring many strengths, such as creativity, adaptability, and resourcefulness.


By understanding their challenges and working to overcome them, people with ADHD can find meaningful and fulfilling work that leverages their strengths and supports their unique needs.


What are the best jobs for people with ADHD?

As someone with ADHD, I can tell you that finding the right job can be a bit of a challenge. But fear not! With the right attitude and a bit of creativity, you can turn your ADHD into an asset in the workplace.


First off, if you're someone who gets bored easily, steer clear of jobs that require you to sit in the same place all day. Being a security guard or a statue at Madame Tussauds is probably not the best fit for you. Instead, consider jobs that keep you on your toes, like being a teacher, baker or yoga instructor. You'll have a hard time getting bored at any of those!


Ask yourself the following questions to get more clear on good matches for you:


1. Do you like frequent change?


Jobs that require constant change, variety, and new challenges can help people with ADHD stay engaged and avoid boredom. Examples include sales, event planning, or entrepreneurship.


2. Do you like physical activity as part of your work?


Jobs that involve physical activity and movement, such as personal training, construction work, or landscaping, can help people with ADHD manage their energy levels and stay focused.


3. Do you like work that requires creativity?


People with ADHD often have a knack for creative problem-solving and out-of-the-box thinking, making them well-suited for creative professions such as graphic design, writing, or music.


4. Do you want a job with a flexible schedule?


Jobs that offer flexible schedules or remote work can be ideal for people with ADHD, allowing them to work when they are most productive and accommodating their unique needs.


5. Do you like jobs with structured tasks?


Some people with ADHD benefit from structured tasks that help them stay on track and avoid distractions. Jobs such as accounting, data entry, or computer programming can be a good fit for people with ADHD who thrive on structure and routine.


It's important to note that everyone with ADHD is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It's essential to find a job that fits your unique strengths, interests, and abilities, and to develop strategies that help you manage your symptoms and stay focused on your work.


This is an infograph for questions to find a job for individuals with ADHD


What accommodations should a person with ADHD ask for at work?


Accommodations can help individuals with ADHD to perform at their best in the workplace. Here are a few examples of accommodations that can be helpful:

  1. Flexible work hours: Individuals with ADHD may struggle with traditional 9-to-5 work schedules. Flexible work hours, such as the ability to work from home or to adjust start and end times, can help them to manage their symptoms and work when they are most productive.

  2. Breaks and rest periods: Taking short breaks throughout the workday can help individuals with ADHD to refocus and manage their energy levels. Employers can consider scheduling regular breaks or allowing for short rest periods when needed.

  3. Structured tasks and checklists: For individuals with ADHD, it can be helpful to break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Employers can provide structured checklists or project plans to help individuals with ADHD stay on track and organize their work.

  4. Reduced distractions: For individuals with ADHD, external distractions can be a significant challenge. Employers can provide a quiet workspace, noise-cancelling headphones, or other tools to help minimize distractions.

  5. Assistive technology: There are many apps and tools available that can help individuals with ADHD to stay organized, manage their time, and track their progress. Employers can consider providing access to these tools or allowing employees to use their own devices.

  6. Clear communication and expectations: Clear communication and regular feedback can help individuals with ADHD to understand expectations and stay on track. Employers can provide regular check-ins, clear guidance, and constructive feedback to help individuals with ADHD succeed in the workplace.

These are just a few examples of the accommodations that can be helpful for individuals with ADHD. The best accommodations will depend on the individual and their specific needs. It's important for individuals with ADHD to work with their employer to identify the accommodations that will work best for them and to communicate their needs and challenges in a clear and constructive way.


This is a colorful Infograph with accommodations for a person with ADHD


5 steps to requesting accommodations at work for ADHD


Requesting accommodations for ADHD at work can be a daunting task, but it's important to remember that it's your right as an employee to request reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Here are some steps you can take to request accommodations at work for ADHD:

  1. Identify your specific needs related to ADHD in the workplace.

  2. Research your company's policies and procedures for requesting accommodations.

  3. Schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your request for accommodations and be clear and concise about your needs.

  4. Provide documentation if necessary.

  5. Follow up and monitor progress to ensure that the accommodations are effective.

By following these steps, you can help ensure that you receive the accommodations you need to perform your job effectively. Remember, it's important to understand that requesting accommodations for ADHD is your right under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and your employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations to help you perform your job.


What steps can a person with ADHD take to find a job?

When seeking employment, keep these key points in mind. Use stories of our clients to visualize how you can make these habits work for you:


Develop a routine

Sarah is a recent college graduate with ADHD who is struggling to stay organized during the job search process. To help manage her symptoms, she creates a routine that includes specific times for job searching, writing cover letters, and submitting applications. By sticking to her routine, she is able to maintain focus and stay on track.


Leverage strengths

John is an aspiring graphic designer with ADHD who struggles with traditional office environments. Instead of applying for jobs that require him to sit at a desk all day, he looks for opportunities to work in creative fields or as a freelancer, where he can leverage his creativity and problem-solving skills.


Practice self-care

Emily is a job seeker with ADHD who is feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the job search process. To manage her stress, she makes sure to take regular breaks, exercise, and practice mindfulness techniques. By prioritizing self-care, she is able to maintain her mental health and stay focused on her job search goals.


Seek support

Mike is a job seeker with ADHD who is having difficulty staying motivated during the job search process. To get the support he needs, he enlists the help of a friend who checks in with him regularly and provides accountability. With the help of his friend, Mike is able to stay on track and make progress in his job search.


Consider accommodations

Rachel is a job seeker with ADHD who has difficulty with organization and time management. To help manage her symptoms, she requests accommodations in the job search process, such as extra time to complete applications and specific guidelines for scheduling interviews. With these accommodations in place, Rachel is able to manage her symptoms and successfully navigate the job search process.


What if I need help finding work?

If you're struggling to find work because of ADHD or other executive function challenges, know that you're not alone. There are steps you can take to overcome these challenges and find a job that aligns with your strengths and interests.


One of the most effective ways to do this is by working with an executive function coach. A coach can provide personalized guidance, support, and strategies to help you navigate the job search process and succeed in the workplace.


If you're interested in learning more about executive function coaching, reach out to a coach in your area or do some research online to find the resources and support you need. With the right tools and support, you can overcome the challenges of ADHD and create a fulfilling career.


About the author


Sean G. McCormick is a parent, husband and international executive function coach. He is the founder of Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business which guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.




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EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

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