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With ADHD, Choosing the Right Career Makes a Difference
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by Victoria Roche, MSW, PCC

How do people decide what job or career is best for them?  The process of career exploration for an adult with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex process that takes time.  It demands a good amount of self-exploration, commitment to the process and being open to options you may have never have considered.

If you have struggled in a job that is just not the right fit for you, or if you have completed your education and have no clue which direction you should take, you can begin to figure out what career options are best for you by asking a few (seemingly) simple questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want to do?
  • How do I find a career that’s the right fit for me?

Who Am I?

The journey to your perfect career begins by piecing together the various components that make you the unique and special individual you are.  To feel fulfilled in the work you do, your career/job must be aligned with who you are.  The following questions begin to paint the picture of who you are: 

  • What are my interests, both personal and occupational?
  • What are my strengths and abilities?
  • What are my personal preferences and the characteristics that describe my personality?
  • What are my challenges?
  • What are my values, that is, the things that are most important to me?

These are some of the tools you or your career coach might use to help you discover your authentic self:  

 

1)   Interest Inventory Assessments:  These assessments are taken online or using paper and pencil, posing a variety of questions about occupations that may be of interest to you.  The report typically delivers a short list of recommended occupations for you to explore further.

2)  Skills Assessments: These assessments identify your skills sets by asking you to complete checklists that indicate the work skills you possess.

3)   Personality Tests: These help you to become familiar with your personality type and personal preferences.  Many of these assessments identify your personality type and attempt to describe your personal characteristics and preferences. There are number of personality inventories, but one of the most popular personality assessments used in career counseling is the Meyer-Briggs.  Results can help you make better career decisions.

4)  Values:  As you learn about your values, the things in life and the work environment that are most important to you, you’ll be in a much better position to choose a career (or a job within a field or career) that are the right fit for you.

5)   Challenges: Unfortunately, you’re probably already well aware of areas where you struggle.  It can be helpful, though not essential, to consider past test results (psychological, academic, neuro-psychological) that describe strengths, weaknesses and challenges.

What Do I Want To Do?

You and your coach get to play the game of private investigator.  The number of questions to ask is unlimited; however, here are a few that will render some valuable clues about your strengths:

  • What things are you committed to and passionate about?
  • What are some of the accomplishments of which you are most proud?
  • What types of things were you naturally good at as a child?  What activities attracted you?
  • What activities give you the most satisfaction?
  • What activities give you energy and which drain your energy (Energy producing vs. energy draining tasks/activities)?

This phase of the process involves examining the list of occupations supplied by the Interest Inventory Report.  Eliminate occupations that do not fit, keep ones that sound interesting enough to explore further and add some ideas of your own.  Then work with your coach’s or career counselor’s guidance to research your options.

The Right Fit

We cannot generalize about certain occupations being well suited for people with ADHD.  The ADHD diagnosis tells us about a set of symptoms people have in common, but it cannot and does not tell us anything about your best-suited career choices.  To explore career fit, we need to consider some of the following sample questions:

  • Which occupational choices do you find personally motivating?
  • Are you someone who works best on solo projects, or someone who is energized by working with others in a team or group?
  • What type of environment do you find most suitable? 
    • Do you prefer a small or a large organization? 
    • Do you prefer a structured day with set hours or flexible work hours? 
    • Do you prefer an environment where you move around physically? 
    • What level of risk taking are you comfortable with? 

You will be asked to prepare an inventory of job tasks in which you identify tasks you are good at or that feel natural to you versus tasks you are not so good at or prefer not to do.  This exercise helps to identify your strengths, which can be useful for job interviews and evaluating whether a particular job is right for you. 

Getting Help

Gathering all the information together and getting it organized can be accomplished with a Career Coach or Counselor with training and experience working with adolescents and adults with ADHD.  They can help you assemble the information into a personal profile, analyze the information, guide you in exploring your career options and help you move forward with a plan built on action steps that will help you meet your career objectives. 

Victoria has worked with ADHD adults for 20 years.  She’s a member of the American Career Development Association and has partnered with Wilma Fellman, veteran Career Counselor and noted author of "Finding A Career That Works for You,” a guide for ADHDers, to offer career services training for ADHD Coaches.

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