ADHD/ADD getting in the way of finding a job?

Sep 12, 2019 | 20-Somethings, Career Launch, Career Management, Internships, Uncategorized

This is my 17th “Back to School”, or should I say “Back to Work”.  In other words, it’s my 17th Autumn in the career coaching business.

Job Seekers get all nostalgic

When you work with young adults who are looking for jobs and careers in the workforce for the first time, this time of year seems bring out their nostalgic sides. They almost sound old and wise. They smile as they remember long trips to Staples, wandering around with Dad trying to find the elusive but mandatory yellow folders for the picky science teacher. They fondly remember their new backpacks each year, and being dropped off to middle school on their first day, and they definitely remember having to get up earlier than they ever have, to get to high school on time. For 20-something career starters Jos A. Bank is measuring and tailoring pants, barbers are cutting off summer locks, and young commuters are figuring out how they are going to handle a 60-minute drive!  All is a swirl of newness, excitement, adventure.

Job Search can be scary though

But not for all 20-Somethings.  It’s only energizing and powerful for those who have successfully landed their first job, moved out, and kicked off a promising career. For the others who are still searching for direction and/or a job, it can be a rough time of year.

Why do some job seekers land easily and why do some struggle with their job search?

After 17 years of career coaching, helping 20-somethings launch into self-sufficiency, I believe I have enough evidence to support just a few theories on why some launch and others struggle. For each one of course, someone out there reading this will argue the opposite, but I have an N=700 and can honestly say that I have identified similarities in parenting, personality, motivation and financial literacy, which are common denominators one way or the other.

For today, I’d like to focus on one main area that I’ve noticed.

ADHD – Learning Differences when searching for a job or searching for career direction

I’d say that 40% of my clients have some kind of learning difficulty; ADHD is the culprit in most cases.  This one frustrates me because I see ADHD not as a hindrance, but an opportunity – though one that has never been embraced or leveraged properly. The results of this missed opportunity are usually anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, all of which greatly hinder progress in education but more importantly in the launch process.

I’ll explain using “Sam” as an example.  Sam was 24 when he walked into my office.  He was seeing a therapist, taking Adderall when he felt like it, and had been working in a sales role for a financial services company for three years, earning just about enough to live on his own.  His self-esteem was low, and he felt as if he was never going to have a career he enjoyed, one that would make him enough income to have the life he wanted. He had been raised in an upper middle-class family by two professional parents. He was the middle of three children. For Sam ADHD manifested mainly through a lack of ability to organize in the absence of rules, structure and timelines. With too much fluidity he failed to meet deadlines, became disorganized with document flow and failed to meet goals. He also lacked client follow-up skills.

Here’s where the frustration comes in.  Sam didn’t understand his own challenges, but he also hadn’t come to fully realize his natural proclivities, his strengths if you like.  He was incredibly personable, often a personality trait that is developed to counter balance a lack of more traditional, book-oriented skills. Charm my way into people’s hearts and the fact that I can’t organize my way out of a paper bag will melt away!  Sam also had a wonderful sense of how to engage people in a way that felt truly passionate, only it wasn’t for the product he happened to be selling.  Finally, Sam was a deep thinker which led to a great deal of self-reflection.  So how did things work out for him after he had spent 2 months working with a career coach:

  1. We worked on a good amount of assessments and uncovered his natural gifts, his values and his interests.
  2. We established a lifestyle budget for the current year, five years from now and 15 years from now.
  3. We identified 10 possible career paths and knocked one on the head at a time. Eventually we ended up with two.
  4. Sam spent 2 months researching both ideas and landed firmly on the idea of alternative energy sales which offered him unlimited income potential, a product he could really get behind, a great training program, and a mentor who would give him structure and encouragement.
  5. We packed him up with an All-Star LinkedIn profile, a short, medium and long pitch for different kinds of networking activities, a list of awesome answers to interview questions, and finally a personal presentation style that made just about everyone he met smile and nod their heads. In a word, I spruced him up mentally, verbally and visually!
  6. He landed. He now earns six figures and loves his job!

This project took 4 months.  It’s not an easy one, but with patience, diligence, transparency and courage it is absolutely achievable.

Needless to say, Mom and Dad miss Sam stopping by to do laundry twice a week, but not as much as you’d think.  And I believe the feeling is mutual!

Here’s a short but insightful article (with great tips) by Peter Shankman.  “Having ADHD made me more successful. Here’s how you can be too.”

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