The narrative around ADHD is often limited to deficit-focused language, but we prefer to frame it around harnessing strengths. Adults with ADHD can exhibit exceptional skills and productivity, especially when their tasks (1) align with their intrinsic interests, (2) involve high stress or challenging environments, or (3) include novel and varied elements (Ginapp et al. 2022). In other words, when people with ADHD are able to match up their environment with their strengths, they are often highly satisfied with their work, and can attain high levels of achievement.
One of the remarkable skills often observed in adults with ADHD is the ability to hyperfocus on tasks that are of genuine interest. This can go beyond typical levels of focus to a kind of “super concentration” where people are completely absorbed in a task and completely able to tune out everything else. In the context of work or school, neurodivergent individuals who are able to spend time on tasks that align with their interests can really excel.
Another valuable skill that many people who have ADHD report, is the ability to thrive in high-stress environments. Stress often has a bad reputation, but for adults with ADHD, it can act as a “turbo-charge.” Some examples of these types of situations include the ability to work under tight deadlines or to keep calm in chaotic environments.
A third super-skill that individuals with ADHD often report is the ability to generate highly creative solutions to problems. People report seeking out novelty and variety, and so roles that require adaptability, quick learning, and a range of responsibilities can lead to creative problem-solving that can be particularly satisfying.
While it’s important not to overly romanticize ADHD, it’s equally important not to ignore the strengths that can and are often leveraged by individuals with ADHD. By aligning tasks with intrinsic interests, embracing stressful and chaotic environments, and working on creative solutions, adults with ADHD can not only find fulfillment but also excel at work, school and other endeavors. Shifting towards a more neurodiverse understanding of strengths can lead to both more fulfilling careers for individuals with ADHD as well as increased innovation in workplace settings.
Going with (Your) Flow. 8 ADHD Superpowers and How to Tap into Them:
- Creativity. If you are someone that thrives when you get to “think big” or “out of the box”, think about careers that embrace your creativity and high level, innovative thinking. You are less likely to be happy in a position where you are in charge of lots of mundane details. Some examples might be: graphic designer, illustrator, writer/author, musician/composer, advertising creative, marketing specialist.
- Hyperfocus. Are you someone that if you get really interested in a topic, you can do a deep dive and produce high quality, detailed work? Careers that pull on that strength may be research scientist, software developer/programmer, editor, artist, photographer or data analyst. It is also common this hyperfocus does not “turn on” whenever you decide it should. A position in which there are flexible working hours for when you cannot focus, versus when you may get a burst of hyper-focused attention may allow you to harness this strength more optimally.
- Energy/enthusiasm. If you’re someone that feeds off the energy of a crowd, talking to others, or motivating others, careers such as motivational speaker, event planner, sales, fitness instructor, actor could be a good fit!
- Multitasking. Do you thrive with a more structured schedule and juggling multiple things at the same time? While excessive multitasking can be counter-productive, many individuals with ADHD find themselves naturally gravitating to multitasking within their daily lives. Without structure, this can lead to many undone tasks. However, if harnessed for good, project management, executive assistant, event coordinator, or restaurant manager could be a great fit.
- Risk taking. Do you have high tolerance for risk? Sometimes combined with creativity, individuals with ADHD can be well suited for entrepreneurship, venture capitalism, performance (e.g., acting, extreme sports, stunts, athlete), or journalism/reporting.
- Sense of humor. Having an acute sense of humor can be a wonderful strength for individuals with ADHD. Consider stand-up comedy, comedy writing, improv, cartoonist, entertainment critic.
- Flexibility. Individuals with ADHD can often thrive in high-pace environments where they need to make rapid decisions. Careers in emergency response, crisis intervention, counseling, or healthcare professionals might be a great fit.
- Problem-solving prowess. Oftentimes individuals with ADHD have a knack for seeing connections between things that others don’t, noticing details and solving “puzzles”. Detectives/investigators, forensic scientists, user experience research/designer, market analysts could pull on those strengths.
Remember that these are just ideas to get your creative juices flowing! They are by no means comprehensive or should be seen as limiting – what types of roles fit with your superpowers?