I’ve had a bunch of jobs: a teacher, a university instructor, a resident director, and a radiation trainer in Afghanistan. Now I have my dream job. I’ve had trouble with careers all of my life because of my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

For those of you new to that term, I have severe ADHD and it doesn’t let me “keep track” of life. I’m the guy who says he’ll check the mail and I’ll find myself in the hallway wondering what got me there.

After I spent five years in college studying becoming a teacher, I realized in about 12 minutes when I had my first classroom that I’d made a colossal mistake. I knew that having a routine every single day with the same students would be the end of me. I lasted three years.

It wasn’t until I became a substitute teacher where everything was different every day, did I come alive. Something random? A challenge? My ADHD lit up like the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Square. I then started a quest to look for careers that would let me use my ADHD to my advantage.

But what made the difference? What are the components for people with ADHD to love their career?

Chaotic: ADHDers love chaos. It’s the water we swim in. It’s the air we breathe. Now we tend to generate it if we don’t have enough of it. I started looking for work that was chaotic, like being a resident director: I loved working with college students; you never know what you are going to get with them. Some nights we were having pancakes and the next night I’m breaking up some “festivities.” I was never bored and they kept me on my toes.

Developmental: Another advantage of working with college students is that I was able to pick up new skills and develop. I sat on a various number of committees, learned software and how to cut keys like a locksmith. We ADHDers need a career that is going to offer a variety of skills to gain and develop. We want to “level up” as much as possible as quickly as possible. Make sure your next career has development opportunities: classes, seminars, or conferences. If they don’t, make sure you find your own way to develop in the skills your company is looking for.

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Challenging: I was a resident director for a number of years, but needed a new challenge. A friend said that his company needed a trainer to work with soldiers, training them in radiation safety. He also dropped a bombshell and said the training would happen in Afghanistan. So as any ADHDer would, I said, “Yes.” I barely even thought about it. It was challenging, very challenging. I learned a lot and had a stretching experience. I don’t recommend heading to war when it comes to finding a career, but you want one that puts you out of your comfort zone once in awhile.


Evolving: I have my perfect career now. It is not only chaotic, developmental and challenging, but nearly every week my career changes. I work in technological sales and my company changes about every six months. I have to learn something new and adapt to a new environment. I know that the second I’m bored with my job, something is going to radically change and it will be as thrilling as day one.

When you are looking for a career and you want something that appeals to your ADHD, you will need to make sure it’s going to go through this little list to make sure it’s a good match. There is nothing worse than looking around on your first day and say, “This is it?”

And there is nothing more rewarding than looking around on your first day and shouting, “This is it!”

Ryan McRae is the founder of The ADHD Nerd, a blog dedicated to helping people with ADHD be more productive, focused and happy. He has spoken all over the world, including Afghanistan. He is an Apple fanatic, voracious reader and lover of things pumpkin flavored. If you would like his free book, Finding Focus with an ADHD Mind, simply get it here. He can be reached at [email protected]

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