Often, those of us with ADHD are told that to realize our full potential we need to find work that we’re passionate about; work that suits our ADHD-ness to a tee.
I haven’t yet read how to successfully navigate the leap from un- or under-employment to dream job. Surely it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers? If it were, we’d also be able to click our heels three times to cure ADHD.
So how do we make the switch?
Here are 6 tips on how to make the transition to our coveted field (and we all know how much we ADHDers love transitions! Yikes. And this one’s a biggie).
With ADHD treatment, you’ll be able to overcome or minimize procrastination, impulsivity, disorganization, and chronic feelings of being overwhelmed. You’ll also be better equipped to put structure into your life.
Make (and stick to) your first long-term gameplan by assessing what you’ll need to do, and writing down the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your worklife goals.
It’s a fine line between holding yourself back because of damaged self-confidence or low self-esteem and enthusiastically – but unrealistically – jumping in with both feet. The latter can set you up for failure, which is the last thing you need.
If a fear of failure stops you in your tracks based on a history of past disappointments, consider short-term therapy to sort through feelings triggered by the past and to re-build hope and enthusiasm for a brighter future, based on a solid foundation of ADHD education, successful treatment, and the new-found knowledge that you are wonderful, not weird (except maybe in a quirky, creative sort of way).
“What? Are you crazy!?” Why yes (in a good way) but that’s not the point.
It’s understandable if you suffer war-wounds from early school years. Lots of grown-up ADHDers do.
Remember: times have changed – and so have you!
Whether you’ve been traumatized by bullies or bad marks (or both), times have changed (and so have you). If your dream job requires academic upgrading, go for it! But look for a school that offers academic counseling, support, and accommodations for learning disabilities and ADHD.
Online education (also known as distance education) is also an option (and holds high appeal for those of us leaning to the more geeky side of life).
Distance ed offers the added advantage that you can do the work when you’re at your best. (Many ADHDers feel the most mentally alert at night; with distance ed you can log in and complete your assignments any time, 24/7).
Post-diagnosis, it takes time to recognize which ADHD traits are your biggest challenges. You also need to assess which ones come into play in your dream career.
Find out if there are work-arounds, such as having a bookkeeper for your small business or an assistant to keep you organized and punctual at your dream job.
Or, learn to manage the symptoms yourself if possible. Get strategies in place – and practice them. Once you’ve achieved consistency and built your self-confidence, it’s time to take a risk and apply for that dream job (or launch that business).
It’s not possible for most of us to suddenly quit our job and march off into the entrepreneurial or coveted career sunset. This doesn’t have to stop you from taking first steps.
Use your current position to notice where you’ve made improvements from pre-diagnosis days, building confidence for the next step. For example, I actually like working with the public now. Before my diagnosis, my ADHD social awkwardness, lack of competence in NSL (normal-as-a-second-language), irritability and defensiveness (a.k.a. the Douglas Fir-sized chip on my shoulder) often left me wanting to punch somebody before the end of the day (and vice-versa).
Other ways to transition slowly are:
1 ) Start your new work part-time in the evenings or over the weekends;
2 ) Find a hobby or volunteer position that will hone the skills needed for your career change and provide a network with others in your preferred field; or
3 ) If possible, decrease your current work hours to give you time to prepare for a full-time future in your preferred line of work.
As an author, I still work part-time hours for others to buy writing time for me.
Mid-life career changes have become commonplace. Yes, we late-diagnosed ADHDers have more challenges to overcome – but we also have more to gain once we’ve found our wings.
For us, the sweet taste of success is all the sweeter as we’ve had to wait thirstily, parched for decades in the desert of despair.
You owe it to yourself – and to the world – to take the plunge and pursue that passion for painting. Or poetry. Or politics. Or whatever your passion may be. Bon chance!
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Last reviewed: 26 May 2013