Even 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.
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