How does ADHD affect college students after they graduate? ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and the “real world” aren’t always a perfect match. For anyone who’s overcome the challenge of the disorder throughout their school years, entering the workforce and finding career success is the next major hurdle to face. That’s because some of the key skills required for many jobs — time management, organization, staying focused on a task, and being detail-oriented – are the ones that those with ADHD struggle with on a daily basis.
In fact, many adults who seek treatment for ADHD often do so because they are finding the working world difficult to cope with, according to an article in ADDitude Magazine. They might have conflicts with managers and co-workers, change jobs frequently, or feel frustrated about their seemingly dead-end careers. For every ADHD adult who’s floundering, however, there are those who’ve found success and happiness by playing up their strengths to compensate for their shortcomings.
Here are some ways for those with post-college ADHD to find success:
Become a scheduler. Keeping to-do lists and scheduling tasks is a good way to break down each project into smaller, more manageable chunks. Designating a specific amount of time for each item on your list can be helpful for those who tend to lose focus, or the opposite – hyper focus on one thing at the expense of other items. Writing everything down, or adding to an online calendar in which you can set reminder alerts, can also help you keep track of meetings, when to follow up with clients, or any other items that require reminders.
Be open with your supervisor. While disclosing your ADHD to your employer is a personal decision, having a frank conversation to explain why you are more productive under certain conditions can be just as effective. For instance, you might ask to move to a desk in a quieter part of the office, or ask to start your work day a bit earlier when there are less ringing phones and cubicle chatter to contend with. Most bosses will try to accommodate workers who are trying to find solutions for doing a better job.
Minimize clutter. A messy workspace can be a distraction to anyone, especially to someone with ADHD. Make it your first order of business in the morning, or the last thing you do before you leave, to file away papers, put away unused supplies, organize files on your computer desktop into folders, etc.
Work closely with your team. Checking in daily or weekly with a co-worker or your boss to go over the progress of tasks and projects, and develop priority lists if you’re working on multiple things can help keep you on track. It’s also a good practice to make sure that everyone is on the same page as far as workflow. Along those lines, having a mentor can be very valuable over the course of a career, so try to align yourself with people who are willing to help you succeed.
Choose rewarding work. Doing something that you’re passionate about, especially if it’s in a position that brings about new challenges everyday, can help keep those with ADHD motivated. On days in which the workload is particularly challenging to get through, plan a reward for yourself. For instance, after you finish the presentation you’ve been working on, you can take a 10-minute walk, enjoy a cup of tea in the break room, or just enjoy a few minutes with your headphones on and email off.
Embrace your creative and leadership sides. Although you might work very hard to concentrate on the tasks you have in front of you, give yourself time to cultivate new ideas, brainstorm, and imagine. Some of the world’s greatest leaders and innovators had ADHD, and many studies have shown that creativity is one of the upsides of the disorder. Employers say leadership skills are lacking in today’s graduates, so learn how to harness the positive attributes of ADHD to your benefit.
Chances are you’ve learned many of these strategies already if you were able to earn a college degree. Try using some of the above techniques to help stay focused, and choose employers and careers that offer a culture and atmosphere that allows you to do your best work, and you can go on to great success like so many ADHD adults before you.
About the author: Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based writer specializing in education, careers, parenting, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Circle, Parents, Woman’s Day, and more. She has also assisted with visual content like this infographic from MidAmerica Nazarene University. She has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.