My Tips for Finding an ADHD-Friendly Career!

I’ve gone through 17 career paths and screwed up 16 of them.
No, I didn’t get fired from all 16, I technically only got fired from one. Usually I lost interest and quit before my performance slipped too much, the work was based on the number of deliverables I produced and none of them had deadlines so I just…stopped working, or they didn’t want to renew my contract (technically not fired since I worked my entire contractual obligation), or I moved (I did that a lot), or my ADHD became too much and I was encouraged to quit or drop out because it wasn’t a good fit (which made me feel like a failure who can’t fit in anywhere).

I’ve been through all sorts of work:

  1. teaching theatre at a camp (not stable/summer job)
  2. Teaching pathology at a college (adjunct work pays garbage - needed a living wage),
  3. video production (didn’t have deadlines so I didn’t feel an incentive to do anything, so I didn’t and then got bored),
  4. scriptwriting (ditto),
  5. freelance writing and
  6. journalism (too fluid and not stable enough, plus didn’t pay enough and people took advantage of my people-pleasing nature to get me to do free work for “exposure”),
  7. medical writing (too precise, zero room for careless ADHD mistakes cause even a small one might get your company SUED),
  8. epidemiology (ditto),
  9. biochemistry research (ditto),
  10. history of medicine research (no deadlines, didn’t feel an incentive to do anything),
  11. acting (no room for bad brain days in my experience, plus long days on set can get super boring),
  12. database management (got bored of it cause it was way too repetitive),
  13. telemarketing (ditto),
  14. tech startup content manager (ditto),
  15. medicine (required a level of precision I wasn’t capable of),
  16. nursing (ditto),
  17. copywriting (just right!)

Here are some insights I’ve gleaned. This is a general rule and my opinions, and might not apply to everyone in this group, obviously. This is just what worked for me.

  1. Make sure the job has deadlines. Otherwise we just won’t do the work.
  2. Make sure it doesn’t require too much precision. That’s sometimes fine when we are hyperfocusing, but we shouldn’t take a job assuming to be hyperfocusing all the time.
  3. It is ideal if the job has a regular schedule - for example, 9-5 MtoF most of the time. Routines are important for ADHD.
  4. Some degree of work-life balance is important, I find we brains don’t tend to do well under pressure. (We often do, but not well).
  5. Go for something creative because we brains excel at that, but not TOO creative. We do need a framework, if we don’t have one, our brains will run wild and it’s risky.
  6. Find a job that pays a living wage. Creative jobs are undervalued and therefore not well-compensated.
  7. Find a job that isn’t the same boring thing every day. We brains NEED to switch things up from time to time to stay interested.
  8. Find a job that has an allowance for “bad brain days” - ideally project-based with deadlines so that hyperfocus and brain fog could usually cancel each other out (and when they can’t, you can just take a sick day).
  9. If you’re extra rejection-sensitive or a people pleaser, avoid working with older kids or teens, they will take advantage of you because they can smell that from a mile away. Plus they can be super mean.
  10. We should go for stable jobs with stable hours and stable employment so that we don’t get anxious about where our next meal will come from. Freelance and ADHD tend to be a bad combo in my experience. Uncertainty is a huge trigger for me.
  11. Avoid long hours where you have to work straight through with designated breaks (like retail, for example). we need to be able to take breaks when we need them. That’s crucial for us.

I found my sweet spot in copywriting.

  1. It’s creative but not too creative since every deliverable has a brief that provides a framework that gives you more or less creative freedom depending on the project, but you usually have enough to keep things interesting but not too much that you freeze cause you don’t know where to begin.

  2. I work from home so it’s flexible but not so flexible that it gets me off my routine. As long as I attend all meetings, which are usually between 10 and 2, I’m fine. I can work any hours around my meetings as long as I meet my deadlines.

  3. Deadlines! Puts some fire under me to get stuff DONE! Adds that last minute excitement that drives me and so many other brains.

  4. it PAYS. If you work for an agency you literally never have to worry about money as long as you keep your job. You get paid a lot for the work you do because, well, you are kind of selling out a bit. But it’s worth it since it’s just a job, and you do generally have a say over which projects you work on.

  5. It’s routine-friendly. If i want to work M to F, 9 to 5, I can. Unless there’s a huge deadline or launch coming up, but that’s rare.

  6. Thinking outside the box is rewarded! Even if they don’t choose your idea, they will respect you for suggesting it. The mentality of “if you never try, you never know” is a great way to couch impulsivity lol.

  7. It’s stable unless you royally screw up.

  8. It’s interesting and the types of projects you’re working on are always different, plus you find yourself pivoting between a few projects at a time in various stages while drafting / waiting for feedback / making changes from said feedback.

  9. I get to WORK FROM HOME! Yay!

  10. You get to come up with cool ways to showcase cool things.

  11. Precision isn’t as emphasized as it is for medical writing, technical writing, and editing. If you make the types of mistakes I make (ie, typos and forgetting sections rather than misunderstanding actually concepts) it’s not as big a deal because editorial handles it.

  12. Copywriting is all about IDEAS. ADHDers are IDEAS people. People at my job measure performance by the types of cool ideas we come up with, something ADHD brains excel at. Plus, who better to create attention-grabbing content than people who struggle with attention and know what might get people to get bored or distracted. Careers that require a lot of brainstorming are usually the best for us.

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You have excited my :brain: to learn about “copyrighting” . . . Have heard the term . . . but never quite understood what a “copy-writer” does . . .

So thanks!

:sunglasses:

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Same, I have no idea what a copywriter is or does. Going to be looking that up as soon as I writing this, if I remember…

The insights are all excellent. My only addition would be that for some jobs, when you work in a team, sometimes others will be able to compliment your weaknesses, and vice versa. Much like your copywriting job has an editor to compliment your careless mistakes.

In high school I hyperfocused A LOT when I was doing computer programming. Learning programming was fun, but along with it comes a lot of creativity and problem solving. I am glad I didn’t pursue that as a career, however, as a programmer sometimes the creative and problem solving is done by others, and you are just there to implement (write code) for other peoples ideas.

Like you, I have had a lot of jobs. The majority of my work history has been contract work, and like you I would usually leave at the end of the contract because it became boring.

I chuckled a little at insight #9. :slight_smile:

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