Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Career Choices and ADHD

guest blog by Chris A. Zeigler Dendy, MS


People with ADHD have a wide range of intellectual abilities and interests and therefore pursue a wide variety of vocations. There are adults with attention deficits in traditional careers such as medicine or law, as well as those with jobs that tap their creative and physical abilities, such as art, modeling, acting, electronics, music, computers, or auto repair. Some young adults find that college is not for them and that learning a trade has greater appeal.

For individuals with ADHD, finding a job that can hold their interest and commitment for a long time is critically important. Many prefer jobs that are active, include changes in routine, and involve a variety of different issues or people throughout the work week. Selecting the right career is crucial and will require more planning for someone who has attention deficits. And while this post primarily addresses teens and young adults with ADHD, the advice on making career choices and recommendations of assessment tools apply equally to older adults.

The career selected by a young adult with ADHD should maximize his or her strengths and minimize deficits such as poor organizational skills or lack of attention to detail. Keep in mind that some extremely bright individuals with ADHD excel academically in both high school and college. They may be skilled at many things and have trouble narrowing their job options. Or they may have trouble staying focused long enough to make a career decision.

Identify skills and interests

Identifying skills and interests should be helpful in finding a good career match. Students with ADHD can begin talking informally about these issues with parents and guidance counselors as early as high school.
What do you enjoy doing?
What special skills do you have?
What vocations match your strengths and interests?
What do you do with your spare time?
Are you outgoing and do you enjoy talking a lot? Work in sales might be a perfect choice.

College students can explore job options through career study and personal development classes. Students don’t have to declare a major upon entering college. During the first two years, most students take basic academic requirements anyway, such as algebra, English, and history. Some college courses offer an opportunity to explore career options and to make decisions about a college major. The curriculum may include vocational testing, career discussions, filling out job applications, strategies for job interviews, and writing resumes and letters for job interviews.

Another way to find out more about various careers is to talk with professionals who currently work in the field. Informal interviews can be lined up through personal and professional contacts.

Here are some additional steps a person can take to identify the most appropriate career.

Vocational testing

For students with ADHD, vocational interest testing can be conducted in high school, at a technical institute, or at college to help identify strengths and career interests. Guidance counselors can schedule such testing for high school students. In college or technical school, the student services office can help schedule the testing. Vocational interest testing is usually free for students.

The Strong Interest Inventory is one vocational test that some colleges use. Students answer questions about things they like or dislike. The scores give them a pattern of interests and show how their interests compare with those of successful people in different occupations. Scores are obtained for six general occupational themes:

  • Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Artistic
  • Social
  • Enterprising
  • Conventional
Approximately 115 possible occupations are listed within these themes. Learn more about the Strong Interest Inventory at www.cpp.com.

Computerized career programs

Interactive computer programs are available that explain various careers. For example, Educational Testing Services developed SIGI PLUS, which describes detailed aspects of numerous occupations, including work activities, settings, educational requirements, average income, top earning potential, average work week, and employment outlook. This computer software or simulator programs are available on most college campuses. Talk with staff in the counseling and career planning office at your college or visit www.valparint.com for more information.

Personality testing

The Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory test may provide helpful information to teens, young adults, or anyone involved in choosing a career. Individuals answer approximately one hundred questions about themselves and the way they conduct their daily life. Based upon their scores, one of sixteen personality styles will be identified. This test provides labels for differences in personality that we observe in work colleagues and family members on a day-to-day basis.

The Myers-Briggs identifies opposite extremes of four basic categories:

  • Energy preferences: Extrovert — Introvert
  • Perceptual preferences: Sensing (realistic) — Intuitive
  • Decision-making preferences: Thinking (objective) — Feeling
  • Lifestyle preference: Judging (goal directed) — Perceiving (flexible/spontaneous)

The Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory is an interesting exercise that may help individuals gain insight into their personality, how they think, make decisions, and live. The more a person understands about himself and how he relates to others, the more he may learn to get along better with people and be more productive at work. Many people are curious about who they are and what makes them tick; this test takes advantage of their natural curiosity. Learn more about the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory at www.cpp.com.



A longer version of this post appeared in Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue! 


Chris A. Zeigler Dendy, MS, has over forty years combined experience in a variety of professional roles, including teacher, school psychologist, mental health counselor, administrator, lobbyist, advocate, author, and publisher. She is the mother of three grown children and grandmother of three, all with attention deficit disorders. She has served on CHADD’s board of directors, executive committee, and President’s Council and was inducted into the CHADD Hall of Fame in 2006. Among her books are Teaching Teens with ADD, ADHD, and Executive Function Deficits: A Quick Reference Guide for Teachers and Parents (Woodbine, 2011) and Teenagers with ADD and ADHD: A Guide for Parents and Professionals (Woodbine, 2006). She coproduced the DVD Real Life ADHD: A Survival Guide for Children & Teens, featuring thirty teens speaking from their own experiences.

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