Remarkably, although work life dominates the waking hours of most adults, little research has focused on ADHD (ADD) as it affects how people function at work. Nor has much attention been focused on the choice of college major or career for young adults with ADHD (ADD). Too often, we seem to leave young adults and older adults with ADHD (ADD) on their own as they make major career decisions.
The cluster of executive function challenges often associated with ADHD (ADD) in adults can lead to numerous difficulties. Impulsivity can cause an employee to over-commit or to double-schedule. Restlessness and hyperactivity may lead to inefficiency because an employee frequently leaves his or her desk, finding excuses to move about. Memory difficulties can cause someone with ADHD (ADD) to be seen as unreliable. And patterns of procrastination, so common among adults with ADHD (ADD), can lead coworkers and supervisors to see the employee with ADHD (ADD) as immature, unmotivated, or worse, as attempting to manipulate others into doing work for them. Difficulties with planning and organization can frequently play a role in poor workplace performance. An employee with ADHD (ADD) may avoid beginning a challenging task because they have difficulty with organizing the task and knowing where to begin. Rather than prioritizing, an employee with ADHD (ADD) may impulsively jump from task to task without finishing anything. And the general messiness that so often accompanies ADHD (ADD) is not only a very public display of disorganization, but also greatly increases the challenge of keeping track of and completing the multiple tasks many jobs require.
On the plus side, many with ADHD (ADD) are skilled at generating new ideas. Some adults with ADHD (ADD) who fall more toward the hyperactive end of the continuum have characteristics that make them well-suited to being in a fast-paced career. Some have good people skills in addition to high energy and do well in a career in politics, sales, marketing, entertainment, or television. Others with ADHD (ADD) have a strong need for a creative outlet and are drawn to work in design, film-making, web design, or some other aspect of the visual arts.
Unfortunately, it still remains difficult to find career counselors who know how to take ADHD (ADD) challenges into account in order to assist a young adult starting out in a career or an older adult who needs a job or career change to make good choices.
At the Chesapeake Center, we have a strong interest in helping individuals at every stage of their career — in choice of college major, in career direction, in job application, in career changes at mid-life and in career decisions at any point along a career path. We can provide career testing as an integral part of our test battery for ADHD (ADD) and/or learning disabilities. We can also provide guidance to adults who have encountered difficulties on the job to make changes in the current job situation or to make choices to change jobs or careers.
Dr. Kathleen Nadeau, The Chesapeake Center’s Director, has focused for many years on career issues and ADHD (ADD).