How to Use ADHD to Your Advantage at Work

Martin Yate By Martin Yate June 22, 2021
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How to Use ADHD to Your Advantage at Work

​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Visit Your Career Q&A to see more. 

I got laid off because of the pandemic, but now that companies are starting to open up and hire again, I'm job hunting. Ever since I was a kid, I've been told that I talk too much and don't think before I speak, and managers have told me my focus wanders. It's been suggested I might have ADHD, and while it's difficult to admit, it seems pretty clear that I have a lot of the signs.

I think I should go see the doctor about this, but I have no insurance and money is tight until I get back to work. I'm wondering if there is any advice you can give me. 

For years, people thought that those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were significantly hampered. And leaving it untreated may likely have negative consequences in your career. 

I'm no doctor, so I can't diagnose you, but since I do have ADHD, I agree that the symptoms you mention are consistent with ADHD behaviors. But don't despair. ADHD can become one of your greatest strengths. 

Focus and Harness

When you focus your ADHD behaviors on meaningful goals, it can be a turbocharger for career success. Look at this list of famous, successful people who were diagnosed with ADHD: 

  • Presidents John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. 
  • Creative geniuses Salvador Dali, Walt Disney, Bill Gates and Pablo Picasso 
  • Entertainers Pink, Stevie Wonder, Mozart, and a host of others.  
  • Inventors Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Leonardo DaVinci. 

The list of our kindred spirits is endless. Read their biographies and you'll find you have something in common with their personalities. Major achievers in almost every field of endeavor have ADHD, just like us. 

Look at our ability to be hyper-focused. It took Thomas Edison more than 1,700 tries to invent the lightbulb. "I know more ways not to invent a lightbulb than anyone else in the world," he said once he had achieved his goal. We can be hyper-focused and witty, as well. 

If you suspect ADHD could be a factor in your life, try this online ADHD quiz. Then go to the doctor to see if your suspicions are correct. You could gain better control of your interactions with people and achieve better outcomes with what you take on. 

[Want to grow your professional network? Join us at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021, taking place Sept. 9-12 in Las Vegas and virtually.]

ADHD and the Real World

ADHD increases positive traits such as creativity, sensitivity and the ability to multitask. We tend to have lots of ideas and energy. We often have impressive intuition about people and situations. 

On the negative side, we are known to be both impetuous and, at the same time, have trouble with procrastination, which leads to struggling with deadlines. We can get bored easily and struggle to maintain focus and follow through on a task. 

But you can learn to channel these behaviors and be highly successful at work. That said, our biggest challenge is slowing down long enough to develop an awareness of how we are behaving and how we are perceived. And that's a pretty good place to start.

When you face the diagnosis and learn to manage and harness the power of ADHD, you can achieve great things. 

From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.­­

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