Working with ADHD: Practical Tips for Adjusting to the Workforce

Shot of a young businesswoman sitting in an office chair holding phoneEven for individuals who do not have attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), the transition from an educational setting such as high school/college to the workforce can be difficult. With high school, the transition may not be quite as big depending on the type of job, since one’s daily life up to that point presumably has been quite structured. However, for individuals transitioning from college to the work environment, the transition may be tougher. In college, within reason, one gets to pick their schedule of classes and when they do homework. Being able to sleep in, stay up or be out late, and socialize easily are common during the college years.

Once in the working world, many young adults are surprised at the limited flexibility that some entry-level jobs provide. For example, many people have to be in an office during set hours, even if they are not given so much work that it would take them the whole shift to complete it. On the other hand, some individuals get lucky with a job where there is a lot of flexibility in when they can show up, take lunch or gym breaks, and leave for the day. At the same time, too little structure can make it difficult to adjust and be successful, especially when difficulties associated with ADHD—such as trouble focusing, difficulty sitting still, or other related symptoms—impede overall functioning.

Here are some practical suggestions to help ease the transition from school settings to the working world:

1. At the outset of a new job, get a clear understanding of your roles and responsibilities.

2. Get a clear understanding of what hours you are expected to physically be in the office, if you get a lunch break, if you are required to take a lunch break, and what you should do if you do not have enough work or have a specific reason you need to leave early (i.e., doctor’s appointment).

3. Adjust your life outside of work.

  • If you work out regularly, find a time that fits with your new schedule (i.e., before work, during lunchtime, after work). You may need to modify your workout routine or find a new one if it does not fit well with your work schedule. Organized classes may be a good way to keep motivated to work out when you have to get up early or are tired.
  • Figure out times to complete basic household chores such as laundry and paying bills. Decide if you want to do them before or after work, or leave them for the weekend.
  • Get used to not socializing every day. This can be tough to adjust to, especially if you are used to living in a dorm-style setting and having friends around. If you have friends who live nearby or make friends who live close to you, you can still strive to make plans regularly, but don’t expect to have plans seven days a week in most cases. Getting used to spending more time alone and entertaining yourself can be helpful.
  • Examine the time you spend staying connected with people when not face-to-face (i.e., using text messaging, talking on the phone, and connecting through social media). With a job, it may not be as efficient to be constantly returning text messages, emails, or be on social media during the work day. At the same time, spending your whole evening doing these things may take away time that is needed to get things done at home. Finding a balance between staying connected and getting things done is important.

This list of suggestions is not exhaustive. However, I hope it is helpful for you in better understanding a transitional issue in young adulthood that is not always focused on. These tools can also be helpful if your work schedule changes or to achieve more efficiency and happiness in day-to-day life.

For help with ADHD and related issues, contact a qualified therapist in your area.

© Copyright 2017 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey Heller, PsyD, Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Nance

    November 14th, 2017 at 8:33 AM

    I have always had a difficult time transitioning from one position to the other, but the hardest for me has been from the college classroom to the workforce. I guess that I was always so accustomed to having a whole lot of time on my hands, making my schedule what I wanted it to be and not what is dictated by someone else. That has been a challenge for me for sure, and I am still even a few years after graduating and a couple of jobs later learning to deal with that.

  • mary

    November 15th, 2017 at 11:18 AM

    Both of my grandsons went from having a whole lot of time on their hands to having practically none of their own when they went to medical school.

    Luckily they are committed to the process and want to succeed. I think that without that drive for success and the finish line in sight they may have struggled a little bit more with having very little time for their own wants and needs the past few years.

  • Carey Heller

    November 17th, 2017 at 10:58 AM

    Thank you for reading this article and sharing your thoughts.

  • SAM

    January 2nd, 2020 at 5:02 AM

    My family and I just discovered that my oldest son has ADD. He’s a Senior.

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