ADHD is sometimes unfairly thought of as a flaw, with a great deal of emphasis placed on what we find challenging, or the ways in which we are different from others. Many of us have been labelled as lazy or treated as though we’re not capable of certain things, when in fact we are capable with the right accommodations.
The good news is that employers really do benefit from diversity and inclusion. Moreover, they are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to help neurodivergent candidates, both at the interview stage and, should they be successful, in the workplace itself. With this in mind, let’s look at how to present ADHD as a strength to employers.
It’s important to remember that no two jobs are the same – which is great, because no two people are the same either! ADHD folks sometimes work better in fast-paced roles with variety, so don’t be disheartened if repetitive work isn’t for you. Many recruiters expect versatility from their candidates. If doing a little bit of everything appeals to you, remember this is not a weakness but a strength in the right contexts.
Being easily distracted is one of the key indicators of ADHD, and executive dysfunction can disrupt our everyday lives. Without downplaying this, there will be occasions where you are required to suddenly switch your attention to something else, or see the bigger picture. In the workplace, this could be an urgent email, a phone call, or even a full-blown emergency! Some people with ADHD say they respond well to a crisis. If you can relate, it’s worth mentioning this as a strength on your CV on in an interview. You don’t have to say you have ADHD if you don’t want to. Just stating what your strength is, and evidencing this with an example, will suffice.
Novelty, innovation, and creativity
ADHD brains crave novelty. As mentioned above, this can lead to us becoming easily distracted, or getting bored with monotonous work. But there are upsides to this, too. Wandering minds can be the first to stumble upon a solution. We think outside of the box, making imaginative connections between seemingly unrelated things. When managed well, ADHD can prompt us to solve problems and seek new challenges. While we’re not keen on repetitive ongoing tasks, we’re often the first to embrace change, making us resilient and flexible employees.
If you were labelled ‘impulsive’ as a child – or at any point on your ADHD journey – you are probably aware of the stigma around ADHD. But while impulse control can be more difficult for ADHD folks than their neurotypical counterparts, this does not mean you are unfit for the workplace! ADHD impulsivity can manifest as effective decision making, initiative and efficiency. Employers don’t want to work with someone who is hesitant to a fault. Keep this in mind before you write yourself off.
There are plenty of myths surrounding ADHD, and my personal favourite is that we can’t focus on anything, at all, ever. But when we’re in the zone, we’re staying there until someone or something drags us out. For me, this is devastating when I have to go to bed at night, but it has its perks when it happens at work. It might sound at odds with our habit of switching tasks, but our energy and focus comes in peak and troughs, and riding these waves can help us work to the best of our strengths.
While I’ve focused on presenting ADHD traits as strengths, you may feel differently, and that’s okay. Perhaps you have had to find alternative ways of doing things, or made accommodations for yourself. This is a strength in itself, so don’t write yourself off too soon. I often feel I have learnt organisational skills the hard way, but in doing so I learnt what works for me, demonstrating perseverance I might not have shown otherwise.
While I love that we are working towards a world where neurodiversity can be embraced, I don’t want to imply that ADHD is a ‘superpower’ or without its challenges. If you are struggling with your concentration, energy or mood, prioritise managing these with the help of a healthcare professional. Services such as Access to Work offer support to those in paid employment. Additionally, ADHD UK have created a welfare pack for people with ADHD in the workplace. If you are seeking diagnosis, you can ask for a referral through your GP, or you can ask to be referred to Psychiatry UK under Right to Choose.
Finally, if you have disclosed a disability or mental health condition to the university, you can book a Careers Plus appointment for specialist careers advice.