By Dan Matthews
For adults diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), working in a professional environment or even attending college can oftentimes be frustrating and stressful. Trying to thrive in an office setting with ADHD can feel like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Typical desk jobs often involve organizing work tasks, attending lengthy meetings, and just about every email you write or memo you send requires a great deal of focus and attention. This can all be especially difficult for adults with ADHD as symptoms tend to include difficulty paying attention, losing important items like keys or paperwork, and discomfort sitting or standing still for lengths at a time.
Despite these challenges, adults with ADHD still manage to be hard-working, successful employees. However, this doesn’t mean that those with ADHD should stop finding more strategies and resources to utilize at work.
Have More Confidence in Yourself
When preparing to graduate from college, those with ADHD might be worried about their future career. Not only is job hunting typically stressful, but it’s hard not to be anxious about the hiring process when you’re unsure what to disclose about your ADHD and when. Interviews can seem particularly daunting when your ADHD makes it difficult to be an active listener, or you frequently interrupt others, or you struggle to focus while answering important questions.
Maryville University’s career guide for students with disabilities recommends when preparing for your next interview that you decide beforehand if you want to disclose your ADHD. You’re not required to do so under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it could be an opportunity to quickly address your disability and then spend the rest of the time talking up all of your amazing qualifications and strengths.
Furthermore, as Maryville University goes on to explain, “During the interview, practice the art of effective communication: Be attentive, upbeat, and level-headed. If the interviewer expresses ignorance or bias regarding your disability, don’t show anger. Instead, educate them about your abilities and accommodation needs. Demonstrating confidence in your ability goes a long way toward proving you are the right fit for the job.” While it can be nerve-wracking thinking about all the ways your ADHD could interfere with your job prospects, you should keep in mind that there are a lot of positive aspects to having ADHD that can make you an enticing candidate to employers.
Focus on Your Strengths
While you might struggle in areas such as organization and task management, it’s important to recognize the ways that ADHD can help you in the office. Healthline outlines the benefits of ADHD in the workplace:
- Energy: Some people with ADHD often seem to have an endless supply of energy, which is perfect for channeling into your work and responsibilities. When everyone is ready to call it quits, those with ADHD keep pushing on.
- Spontaneity: Sometimes, you can turn the impulsivity common to ADHD into spontaneity that can positively affect your work. Being more open and willing to try new things means you are likely to bring unique, fresh ideas and solutions to the table.
- Creativity and Inventiveness: Living with ADHD (or any disability for that matter) often gives people a different perspective on life. This can allow you to approach tasks and situations with a more thoughtful eye and find inventive ways to complete a task or showcase a new project.
Living and working with ADHD is no walk in the park by any means, but sometimes you might find yourself focusing on the negative aspects more often than the positives. However, by elevating and harnessing our strengths, it’s easier to achieve our goals, even if it’s not in the most conventional way. In fact, studies have shown that many entrepreneurs have ADHD and actually benefit greatly from the intuitive decision making and persistence that often comes with ADHD. When you change your perspective of thinking your ADHD hinders you, you might find that your weaknesses are actually your strengths.
While you don’t have to be the kind of entrepreneur who starts a new business or creates a crazy new contraption, you can be an entrepreneur within your own workplace. Try speaking up more often at work and share your thoughts and ideas. You can ask to join a new project and highlight why you’d be a good addition to the team. You can email your co-workers about a last-minute addition or detail you just thought of for the presentation you’re all preparing for. Bring your uniqueness and perspective to everything you do at work. When you stop letting the worry about your ADHD hold you back, you might find that you were the very thing standing in the way of progressing in your career.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Of course, no matter how hard we might try, some jobs simply aren’t suited for us and our needs. Especially when you have a disability, finding a workplace where you can thrive is important to your overall success. There isn’t one career or job that is best for those with ADHD because with the right interest and engagement, anywhere can be the place for you. While no one enjoys doing work they hate, people with ADHD might have an especially difficult time. It’s even harder to focus and complete tasks when what you’re doing is boring, confusing, or requires staying in one place all day.
Learning more about your interests and passions will help you find a well-suited job. Make a list of everything you enjoy. Do you enjoy writing? Do you enjoy doing intense research? How do you feel about calculating numbers all day? Looking at your interests, as well as your dislikes, is likely to show you where your strengths lie. You can then apply to jobs with those particular duties and tasks, and avoid the ones without them.
If you’re not in a position to be picky with your job choices, consider bringing your own twist to your workplace. Make those dragged out meetings more interactive and energetic with quizzes, trivia, or even role-playing. Actually make team-building exercises fun with games, dancing, maybe even a kind of puzzle. Bringing your unique perspective can make most jobs a bit more bearable. It would also be worth considering seeking professional counseling if you find yourself struggling in your current workplace. Medicare even covers mental health services so there are different avenues you can take to get the help you need to flourish in your job.
Working with your ADHD, not against it, in the workplace is essential to your overall success and mental health. Whether you’re job hunting now or have been in the same career for decades, there are plenty of ways to utilize your abilities and minimize your weakness. It might take some trial and error but having confidence in yourself will help keep you on your feet and ready to tackle the next challenge.
Author Bio: Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.