ADHD in the Workplace — Part II
Welcome back to the 2-part series on ADHD in the Workplace!
Last time we took a look at the common workplace issues experienced by those of us with ADHD including time management, distractibility, organisation, punctuality, interpersonal relationships, and staying on a structured career path.
We learned that these issues stem from problems with our executive functioning, and explored some strategies on how to make positive changes and request reasonable workplace adjustments. If you missed it, you can read it here!
This time we're looking at choosing a career that is likely to be fulfilling for you, as well as how to deal with more serious workplace issues by getting external help. Finally, we will take a look at how to know when it's time to move on, and how to do so gracefully.
Choosing a Career
What is the best career for someone with ADHD? The one you love. Passion and interest is what keeps us motivated, so finding a career that suits us in this regard is key to workplace success and satisfaction.
A good way to work this out is to brainstorm it. If you're able to brainstorm with someone who knows you well and wants you to succeed — a parent, sibling, partner, or friend — then all the better. They will likely give you insights you hadn't thought of.
Firstly, visualise what a "great" job might look like to you. Perhaps you want something that uses your hands, has you move around a lot, or has a flexible shift pattern. Maybe you would love to work with children, or a high-adrenaline job such as a firefighter. Rate each factor out of five for how important it is to you.
Make a list with two columns, one for things you love, and another for things you're good at. Don't worry if you feel like you're not good at anything — you're likely to underestimate your skills, besides, you can always get better at something if you practice it.
There may well be something — or more than one thing — that appears in both columns. This is an area you could look at developing into a career. Put asterisks next to these.
If nothing appears in both columns, take a look for things that are similar, or could be linked. For example, if you are good at speaking in front of a group, and you enjoy telling people about new things you've learned, perhaps these could be linked as a career in teaching?
Once you have some possibilities, get in touch with people who are in those careers already to get as much advice about their position as possible. Offer to buy coffee or lunch in exchange for sharing their experience and advice. Make sure you ask them good questions; what are the biggest challenges they face? What skills are vital for the job? What qualifications are needed? If the job still sounds good to you, you can devise a plan for how to get there.
You may well need specific training, or to take certain subjects at school. Any necessary work experience can usually be done around school hours (or in the summer holidays), or if you're already working, part-time courses for retraining or volunteering for work experience may well be possible.
Getting External Help
If your workplace is a source of stress, if you feel unfulfilled or dissatisfied in your job, or if you're dealing with a toxic interpersonal relationship at work, it's a good idea to seek some external assistance to help you deal with the situation as professionally and effectively as possible.
There are different types of assistance available. Some is aimed at helping you to navigate your legal rights at work or deal with destructive interpersonal relationships professionally.
Other types are geared towards helping you cope better with the emotional or mental stress of an unsatisfactory work environment. Finally, there are options to help you discover and work towards career goals, identify your strengths and turn them to workplace assets, and develop strategies for coping with personal and professional challenges in the workplace.
Citizen's Advice in the UK provide assistance in a number of areas of life, including work-related issues. They can be a good place to consult if you feel as though you could benefit from some knowledgable, impartial advice.
Acas is another UK organisation which is workplace-specific. It provides support and advice to employees and employers alike to promote harmonious relationships at work. If you are experiencing conflict or a destructive workplace relationship, Acas can help.
Workplace coaching allows you as an employee to develop strategies, systems and routines to better manage challenges at work, while exploring strengths you can utilise to contribute to the company you work for. It can also help you work out your long-term professional aspirations and goals.
Therapy or counselling provides a constructive outlet for workplace frustrations and allows you an opportunity to be heard and understood.
Medication often helps you manage both your workplace tasks and your emotional wellbeing more successfully, making it easier to cope with.
Mindfulness. Both at work and at home, as intervention or routine, mindfulness practice can help you better cope with stressful situations, allow you to assess your goals more clearly, and improve your wellbeing.
When it's Time to Move On
Often, implementing workplace adjustments and helping ourselves manage our ADHD traits is enough to raise job satisfaction. But in some cases, we will come to the conclusion that our current career path is the wrong one, and need to make some big decisions about the direction in which we're heading. The challenges of ADHD are present at this stage, too.
Due to the propensity of ADHDers to the "thrill" of a new job giving way to boredom, it would be pointless to quit a current job only for the same thing to happen again. Be honest and strongly consider if a new position would be a good long-term solution, or merely a short-term one.
It can be difficult to trust our judgment or know that the same issues won't crop up again, so it's advisable to plan and research as much as possible before jumping ship. As we learned earlier, it helps to visualise what a "great" job might look like, then find careers that match. Contact people who are in those fields already, and offer to buy coffee or lunch in exchange for sharing their experience and advice.
If it really is the right decision to leave, take it slowly. We are liable to quit jobs on impulse, but this is very rarely a good idea. Remember, it's almost always easier to find a new job whilst still employed. Unless there is an immediate threat to your mental or physical wellbeing, take these big decisions slowly and with plenty of advice from good authority.
Hopefully you are in a career that you enjoy. If not, hopefully you can now recognise the difference between a job that you generally enjoy but could be improved, and a job that is toxic for you.
If a job really isn't the right fit, and no remedies seem to be working, take care when moving on.
Take no impulsive action unless your wellbeing is seriously at stake. Consult with a careers adviser, your family, loved ones, and yourself. Think about what fulfilling jobs might look like, and search for something that matches it as closely as possible.
Do some research before making the leap, especially by contacting people who are in those positions already. Any necessary retraining or experience can usually be done part-time alongside your current job.
Take as much time as you can to make these big decisions, and here's to a happy, fulfilling career!