Making ADHD-Friendly Career Choices
by Wilma R. Fellman, M.Ed., LPC
What are the best careers for an adult with Attention Deficit Disorder?
What are the best careers for an adult with blue eyes??
We are living in an era of speed. We expect faster computers, instant answers to our questions, and simple, across-the- board, guaranteed results. Amazingly, we are rewarded for our high expectations by a generally positive outcome. Most of the time we get what we're after! The danger comes when we expect the same all of the time.
We need to make certain generalizations in order to communicate large ideas. When we speak of adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) we list common symptoms associated with this challenge, per the DSM IV definition. We outline a stereotypic "profile" that describes what we often see in that person. However, when we are asked to work with an individual with ADD in identifying good career options, we cannot use the same profile outline.
Not all adults with ADD are creative, as may be the norm. Not all adults with ADD work best in an entrepreneurial endeavor. For some, a highly creative, autonomous career is a terrible match. It is as hard to generalize a good career match for a person with ADD as it is to ask what careers work best for an adult with blue eyes! We need to start with the plusses of person, and add the challenges later!
How then, can we go about assisting those with ADHD in finding suitable work environments? How can we help them maximize the probability of success and minimize the possibility of failure? It isn't by an instant, quick, simple fix of stereotypic generalizations. We need to start with all of the strengths, and in so doing, ask the following 20 questions:
- What are the passions-those interests that really "light up" the person?
- What have been the accomplishments of this individual thus far?
- What personality factors contribute to ease of handling life?
- What are the specifics that feel as natural and automatic as "writing with one's dominant hand?
- What are the priority values that must be considered to feel good about oneself?
- What are the aptitude levels that maximize success?
- What is the person's energy pattern throughout the day, week, and month?
- What are the dreams of the individual and how do they relate to the real world of work?
- What are the pieces of jobs that always attracted the individual and how can those pieces be threaded together?
- How realistic are the related options in terms of today's job market needs?
- How much does the individual know about the related options?
- How can the options be tested out, rather than tried with the possibility of failure?
- What special challenges does the individual have?
- How do the challenges impact on the individual?
- How might the challenges impact on the work option?
- How might the challenges be overcome by appropriate strategies and interventions?
- How great is the degree of match between the option and the individual?
- Can we "test out" the degree of match before pursuing the field?
- How does one enter and sustain the work environment chosen?
- What supports can be in place to ensure long-term success?
If we help individuals collect this relevant data (which admittedly takes more time than a one-liner answer would require) then we have an excellent chance of directing the individual with ADD. We cannot accomplish the same results with the "cook book" method, which is trial and error at best. As with many difficult decisions, a trained professional who understands about individuality within the diagnosis of ADD can provide the framework in which to collect data, test out the options and provide appropriate support for the "journey."
What are the best careers for an adult with ADHD? What are the best careers for an adult with blue eyes?
Perhaps the better question is what are the best career options for a wonderfully unique individual with special challenges? Let's help them take the time to really get the job done and find what works best for them!
Wilma Fellman has over 16 years of clinical experience working as a Career Counselor. In her practice she specializes in working with adolescents and adults with ADD, with respect to making good career choices. She is the author of The Other Me: Poetic Thoughts on ADD for Adults, Kids and Parents and Finding a Career That Works for You: A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing a Career and Finding a Job.