Studies have shown that adults suffering from ADHD have a higher rate of chronic unemployment than their non-ADHD peers, as well as higher rates of being fired or quitting a job impulsively. These findings suggest that individuals with ADHD are more likely to have difficulties maintaining employment, especially those without accommodations or any ways to manage their symptoms.
Looking to find a job that works with you? Keep reading to learn how ADHD affects your career and what types of jobs you may struggle with - and how treatment can help.
ADHD Symptoms That Can Complicate Your Job
Do you find that you struggle with certain jobs, activities, or even everyday functions? The hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and brain fog that occur with ADHD can affect all aspects of your life, including causing difficult symptoms like time blindness and executive dysfunction.
Time blindness is often thought of as a behavioral issue that causes poor time management. However, it is actually a disruption in neurological processing that often negatively impacts the ability of an individual with ADHD to accurately perceive the passage of time. Examples of time blindness include difficulty setting and sticking to schedules, over/underestimating how long tasks may take, chronic tardiness, and unawareness of approaching deadlines.
Executive dysfunction is a term used to describe a number of symptoms that occur as a result of a disruption in a person’s cognitive abilities, particularly those relating to managing one’s own thoughts and behaviors. Executive dysfunction often presents as issues with working memory, self-control, and task-switching, which in turn can result in disorganization, difficulty multitasking, trouble prioritizing tasks, and procrastination when attempting to perform non-preferred tasks or tasks that aren’t particularly interesting.
Those suffering from ADHD may also experience depression and anxiety, which can develop independently or resulting from neurocognitive disorders such as ADHD. Anxiety may make it harder to get restful sleep and can magnify the hyperactive symptoms of ADHD while depression can make waking up for work or communicating with customers and staff difficult.
ADHD can have a massive impact on your performance in the workplace, which is why it’s essential to know where you’ll thrive and what jobs to avoid.
7 ADHD Jobs To Avoid
Working with numbers can be hard, especially for those with ADHD, and the complexity of accounting makes them all the more challenging. Compiling and analyzing data, creating financial reports, preparing tax returns and budget forecasts, managing all of the company’s financial transactions, and monitoring accounts payable and receivable are only some of the many responsibilities entrusted to an accountant.
All of these tasks require intense focus and attention to detail, as a seemingly minor missed detail could have catastrophic financial repercussions. Because this job entails frequent, repetitive data entry, it may not be the right choice if you struggle with restlessness or difficulties sustaining attention with time consuming tasks that are not that engaging.
Planning big events like weddings or office holiday parties can be stressful, and that’s where event planners and coordinators step in. Event coordinators handle organizing every aspect of an event, which involves constantly communicating with and hiring multiple vendors, booking venues, and budgeting – and lots of attention to detail. This type of job also requires time management and structure that may feel stifling or be difficult for those who struggle with organization and sticking to a schedule. Schedule changes that occur can be unpredictable and disruptive and require quick decision-making, making this a high-stress career choice.
Surgeons have multiple extremely important responsibilities beyond performing surgical procedures that require intense focus and motor control. They’re also responsible for reviewing patients’ medical history prior to surgery, developing preoperative diagnoses and plans, managing an entire surgical team, and coordinating and overseeing follow-up care. Surgery is a very precise practice that can oftentimes last for hours, so focus, patience, and attention to detail are crucial, as well as the ability to work well under pressure.
Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers are responsible for safely directing the flow of air traffic in their assigned airspace, which involves both visual and radar monitoring of multiple aircraft at once as well as their speeds, positions, altitudes, and fuel consumption. An ability to multi-task and make quick decisions with a keen eye for detail is crucial to succeeding as a controller, which may be challenging for those with ADHD. Being an air traffic controller is a high-pressure job that also comes with a lot of responsibility, as the decisions you make may be the difference between life and death for the pilots and flight crews under your care.
Customer Service Representative
Customer service is primarily about solving the problems presented to you quickly to best resolve your customer’s complaint. Not only does this require quick thinking and attention to detail, but you’ll also need to be able to keep a level head while being met with rudeness or condescension, which means controlling your impulses. Customer service representatives spend long hours on the phone each day and this routine may prove to be understimulating and lead to restlessness, which in turn may affect your ability to focus and perform well.
Attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals spend a significant amount of time sitting at desks and analyzing complex, monotonous legal texts. This type of job requires high levels of concentration and focus as well as the memory and recall to be able to cite relevant and applicable law during a case trial. You may also be required to do additional research and analysis if a law is updated or amended, as precise wording can monumentally impact your argument in court, leaving no room for error. The structure, required organization skills, paperwork, and inflexibility of legal work can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming, which may negatively impact your performance and focus as an adult with ADHD.
Assembly Line Worker
As an assembly line worker, you are part of a larger group of employees working to manufacture a product on a factory floor, but with your own designated task or piece. You may work with machinery that requires calibration and operation, or you may work with your hands to connect components of a product. Either way, the environment of an assembly line is fast-paced and requires the ability to quickly quality-check your equipment and work with strong attention to detail while performing a repetitive task, which can be daunting if you struggle to manage your ADHD symptoms.
Take On Any Job With Medication Management by Done
Putting yourself in the right work environment is one crucial element of succeeding professionally with ADHD. If you choose a job that appeals to your strengths and limitations, you’ll have an easier time managing your symptoms.
However, there is nothing more important than receiving proper treatment for your ADHD. With the right treatment plan in place, you can succeed in any profession - including those mentioned on this list.
At Done, treatment begins with a free 1-minute assessment to see how we can help. You’ll meet with a board-certified clinician who will get to know you and your symptoms before crafting a plan for treatment, including medication management, so that you can have an easier time working at a variety of jobs. Ongoing care also ensures your needs are met and your treatment adapts to provide you with the best results possible.
Barkley, Russell A., et al. ADHD in Adults : What the Science Says. Guilford Press, 2008. (p. 276, 279, 290)