You are starting a career...with ADHD!

Your days of intense study and reading are coming to an end. You are graduating soon. Or, you may have already started your job search. You may believe that your attention deficit disorder (ADD) may never impact you again. However, ADHD can follow you through your career. We suggest you avoid these five things while starting your career with ADHD.

we promise we're not making this up

The data shows that attention deficit disorder affects adults as well. Kentucky State University and an article by Kathleen Nadeau for the Journal of Clinical Psychology report that professionals may have effects of AD/HD across the lifespan. While many children outgrow ADHD by adulthood, many adults meet the diagnostic criteria well into their thirties and beyond.

The following five strategies may cost you your job and career. Avoid the following:

acting "as if" you don't have AD/HD

Picture of a crosswalk stop signal to remind us to stop and thing to avoid doing these five things while launching your career with ADHD.

In some instances, successful professionals discover well into their career that there may be an explanation for poor performance in one area of their career. They discover a late diagnosis of ADHD. Others decide, after graduation, to stop taking medication or to abandon strategies to ensure academic success.

Others may advise them to just "get it together". However, the need for appropriate coaching, support, and medication remains across the lifespan. You may not have an understanding of how ADHD may be affecting your career.

starting a career is a big step

You need to understand the impact of ADHD on your career to create a plan to compensate for it. When starting your career with ADHD, you benefit from knowing strong areas. Design a career path that leverages your strengths. Seek out career consultants that know how AD/HD affects your current workplace. Good support reduces job performance issues and lessens stress in relationships. You may still need to use medication while working. And you might benefit from continuing to work with a counselor.

going it alone

Picture of person walking alone to remind us to not go it alone while launching a career with ADHD

Successful individuals rely on mentoring, coaching, and building a team around them to enhance their own results. Millennials have been coached throughout their lives and actively seek out mentors. So why do we believe that the solo method will solve our workplace frustrations?

First of all, let's remember what we do when we're upset. when we are upset with our job or career. Sometimes, we can't think straight. We may lack the perspective needed to honestly assess our own role in the difficulties. Furthermore, we may need to have someone's feedback to help focus on our needed changes. A supervisor may be more open to reexamining poor job performance if the employee demonstrates a commitment to change. A neutral third party, like a career counselor, mentor or support group can help you direct your energy toward improving your job performance.

finding support after starting a career

Finding team members that compliment your weak areas can also let your strengths shine at work. Being a strong team player with an honest self-assessment may vault you to become promotion-worthy. Contact a mentor you trust to help you feature your strengths while developing a system to offset your weak areas.

letting the ADHD control you

Students learn in K-12 years that the phrases "ADHD", "lazy", "not motivated", and "behavior problem" can be used interchangeably by the very people who shape identity in youth. Yet you might be in danger of sabotage to your future if you have taken these messages to heart.

And how could you have avoided those messages? Not easily. When these messages affect your identity, you need to "reframe" your message to yourself. Focusing on your strengths can be difficult if the words, "I am lazy/unmotivated/forgetful/incompetent" float around in your head.

However, successful professionals have worked to change their internal talk. They recognize that, "yes, weaknesses exist", but they have replaced those old messages with new ones that truthfully report their own successful experiences. If you find your own life overrun with old recordings from teachers long ago, work with a therapist to list your own successes. Develop a plan to accomplish your goals and have someone coach you. Have your friends remind to you the times that they enjoyed being with you. Recall positive words from your old bosses. Remember how much you have to offer. Finally, list your accomplishments and review those frequently to improve your outlook.

choosing the wrong career area


Many times professionals who completed their education chose a suitable career. But they work in the wrong area for them. At first, you feel compelled to keep the job you landed upon graduation. Or worse, you found out after starting your career with ADHD that the job does not fit. Staying may increase your risk of losing your job due to poor performance. One area of the job may not be suited to you or the whole job may focus on your weak areas.

When you work with someone outside your job, you can review your job history to find patterns. Have a mentor in your field help you find an area that maximizes your strengths and interests. Consider self-study or working with a coach to develop a career transition plan. Then follow the steps toward your next job.

focusing on your weak areas

Career professionals know they have weak areas. If you are unaware of the areas that make your boss squirm, find out. Objectively review e-mails. Reread your performance reviews to develop a plan to compensate for those areas. An honest look can empower you to make critical changes.

That does not mean the focus turns to self-criticism. Mistakes are meant as an opportunity to learn. Taking responsibility to improve involve getting the guidance needed. That said, you may need to follow several paths to obtain the best result.

starting your career with ADHD

At the end of it all, you may discover that your job (or even your career) is a bad fit for you. If you would like to discuss your options, call for a free 15-minute phone consultation.


Nadeau, K. G. (2005), Career choices and workplace challenges for individuals with ADHD. J. Clin. Psychol., 61: 549–563. doi:10.1002/jclp.20119

Price-Mitchell, M. (2012), Helping Children Thrive With LD/ADHD. Psychology Today.

Tidball, J. (2012), Smooth transition: Researchers helping freshmen with ADHD succeed in college find it helps to plan management strategies before coming to campus. K-State News.


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