Parents ask me all the time, “How can I help my child choose the best career for them? What are the best jobs for people with ADHD? Will my child succeed in the future? Will they be able to support themselves when they are adults? Will they get a college degree? Will they get a job? Will they be able to afford to live on their own?”
Careers and ADHD
I firmly believe that Career Development should begin early in life and be part of children’s formal education. The goal need not (and should not) be to choose a profession early on. We want to help children be excited about their future and feel that they can visualize themselves post-school. It’s not about deciding which exact Career they want, but rather realizing that learning of all types can open doors to future opportunities that they can feel good about and enjoy.
I have known ADHD Coach Lynn Miner-Rosen for many years. Lynn recognized years ago that teens and college students with ADHD often have a tough time staying engaged in school when they are so uncertain about their future. She developed her coaching skills and credentials to include Career Development, Job Search guidance, and On-The-Job support for teens and adults with ADHD, Executive Functioning deficits, and other learning challenges.
I thought it might be helpful to ask Lynn to explain a bit about what she does and, more specifically, explain how parents can support their children and teens while growing to find their “way” or choose their passion for becoming successful adults.
Cindy: How can parents help their teens begin to navigate career options?
Lynn: Navigating career options can be challenging for young people, particularly today when there are so many different pathways leading to various career outcomes. I encourage parents to start having conversations with their teens about what they might want to do when they finish school as early as when they are in 9th or 10th grade. Even if your teenager has already planned to attend college, exploring all of their options early will help them focus and prepare for the future. This will also guide them in choosing senior subjects and colleges that are relevant to their aspirations. Not everyone will attend college or hold down a job that requires a higher education degree. Many jobs do not require a four-year college degree, but the best paying jobs require some formal education or training after high school. The most important thing that jobs need is for the job holder to be willing to work and have the right attitude. In other words, be ready to learn new skills, get along with coworkers, and do the best job possible.
Cindy: What can parents do when their children are young, to support them and encourage them?
Lynn: It is essential that young people (with ADHD or any other challenge or disability) do not miss out on the very important experience of work. They should start young to experience the satisfaction of contributing to their families and their communities and being independent and economically self-sufficient.
One of the things that parents can do to help build that success is to help their children develop their natural talents. Often these talents are the first steps toward a paying job later on. Drawing, writing, building models, programming computers, or landscaping yards – all of these can grow into a paying job. Talent speaks for itself and can sell itself if given the opportunity and a record of their accomplishments.
Cindy: I always recommend that parents encourage their children to interview adults in their world starting even as young as kindergarten – They can start with their parents, and then expand to include others – aunts, uncles, storekeepers, their doctors, etc. Encourage them to ask questions such as: What do you do each day? What do you like about your job? What prepared you most to do this work.
This process will help them start thinking about how they feel about different work environments, activities, and opportunities.
Cindy: How old should my child be to start working?
Lynn: Even children as young as 13 should be expected to work, contribute to the home, or volunteer! They could be someone’s assistant, volunteer to do tasks for neighbors, ask to be a teacher’s assistant/helper, organize papers at your office, file books at the library, fundraise (along with a group, e.g., Girl Scouts), assist a coach or team, help create a spreadsheet, tutor younger kids or walk around and volunteer to wash cars for $1.00.
Parents must also help young people learn the skills needed to find a job and keep a job! I want to be honest with parents; these skills will not be taught at school or college. They learned at home. For example, meals with the entire family provide opportunities to learn social skills. Other helpful activities include playing board games to learn how to take turns or sit still for a longer time, be polite to others, do chores, and get along with siblings and other family members. Young people need your help to learn how to fill out a job application, how to shake hands and greet people, how to organize papers, and how to dress. These are small beginning steps but set a foundation at a young age for a “job focus” mentality as they get older.
One of the BIGGEST mistakes I see is parents not insisting that their kid get a job… even just volunteering, as young as they can and certainly through college. Working at a summer camp is one of the best starting jobs for young people! Getting good grades will NEVER be ENOUGH to get a good job, especially for students with challenges. Learning how to act in a business environment, be responsible, communicate with people, and speak on the phone professionally can start at a young age and will be an extremely valuable skill for the future.
It is not always that easy. Some young people know exactly the path they want to go on and what they want to major in college and afterward. That is not always true for ALL students. I hear from many families that their son or daughter does not know what they want to major in or what they want to do after college.
Cindy: What Career is best for a young person with ADHD?
Lynn: Great question and one that I get asked all the time. Despite what you hear on the internet, there is NO list of the “perfect jobs for people with ADHD.” Choosing a career is a huge concern for most high school and college students. Think about the amount of time they will be spending on their job in their lifetime. Most people are at their job, approximately 70% of every year. Students should NOT underestimate the importance of selecting a career that is a good fit for THEM! It will take time, forethought, and organization. Also, there are so many judgemental stigmas attached to ADHD, which might dissuade a young person from a career path they are interested in because “they are not good at math” or “that is not for people with ADHD” or “you will not be good at that,” etc.
It is VERY important to let your kids know that you will support them in a positive way, no matter what they choose (yup – no worries if your 12-year-old wants to be an actor or a limousine driver). Encourage your kids to learn all about that profession. Encourage them to explore ALL the possibilities out there – without shame, judgmental comments (it is too dangerous for you to be a firefighter, I won’t allow it), or telling them they can NOT do something. Let them know they can do anything they want to do.
Regardless of developmental stages or job status, individuals often experience anxiety about their career paths. It is vital to NOT push our kids into a direction that WE want them to go in. Parents can start at an early age to help their children LEARN WHAT DIFFERENT CAREERS ARE!
- Read books about what people do (without your personal bias, please).
- Let them spend a “day at work” with a family member.
- Notice and talk about what people do every day.
- Encourage your kids to learn more or be curious about what people do.
- Have your kids join you when you volunteer.
- Have them help out at the store or the office for an hour on the weekend.
- Share with them exactly what Uncle Steve does. Is he a lawyer? Educate your kids about what a lawyer is, what they do, why they do it, and why they love what they do without commenting if that would be good or bad for them. Even if “it is not for them,” it is still good for young people to realize what they like and what they DON’T like.
ADHD can really get in the way – NOT because of hyperactivity, inattention, or because they love video games. Choosing a “career” or “job” is a real anxiety-causing topic and should be handled in a very positive/NON-judgemental way in childhood. Young people often silently struggle with FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, and compare themselves to their friends and other people they see that “seem” to be doing much better than them or have a clear idea of their future.
Cindy: Is career anxiety a real thing?
Lynn: Yes! Career anxiety refers to negative emotions experienced before or during the various stages of the career decision-making process and during job performance. A little anxiety can help prepare students for career-related tasks. If the anxiety is overwhelming and excessive, it is no longer helpful. Parents need to understand the career exploration process’s emotional aspects because emotions affect how young people approach the career-planning process and the decision-making process. Some young people with ADHD make hasty career decisions to relieve their anxiety.
The career decision-making process requires individuals to focus on themselves by observing, self-reflecting, and monitoring themselves and their fit within an uncertain job world. Self-reflection helps individuals direct attention to possibilities and alternatives, which can help teens form a sense of control and think about the big picture: “How can I prepare for the transition to the world of work while exploring future scenarios and possible future careers?”
Cindy: How does Career Coaching help?
Lynn: First, coaching can help with career anxiety by:
- discussing how to think and talk about careers.
- exploring how to communicate who they are and what they want to do.
- discussing interests, strengths, dreams, previous achievements, and the potential positive outcomes and rewards of career-related tasks.
Second, many high schools and colleges do not spend enough time on this huge life-long decision. All colleges will tell you that they will “take care of the career part” and then leave it to the student to make the first step into a career counselor at school only to hear “Complete your resumé and come back,” or they require the student to disclose their ADHD to get extra support. Much of the staff in many college career offices are not trained to work with kids who are typically “TWICE EXCEPTIONAL” and cannot offer the best advice and encouragement.
Cindy: What is the best advice that you can give parents of teens?
- Try to NOT put YOUR judgment about a career or job on your kids.
- Encourage your child to take assessments about interests, skills, strengths, and personality in high school or college.
- Talk to your teen about what they want to do – their ideas about their future may differ from yours, but it is important to remember that a happy worker will always be more satisfied than one who is stuck in a career they do not like!
- Talk to them about what THEY are passionate about as they are far more likely to stick with something if it aligns with their passions.
- Encourage them to use the internet to “investigate” the career paths of people in the public eye or people they admire.
- Talk to them about YOUR career journey and how you got there. I also suggest talking with other family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues and associates.
- If your teen is specifically interested in a field, HELP them find potential events/talks/seminars/tours that they can attend to find out more.
- Talk to your teen’s school about work experience opportunities. The opportunity to TRY and experience a typical day in the workplace will give them a great taste of working in a particular field.
- Lastly, encourage your teen to “try it out – you never know.” Remind them that people have to start somewhere when starting their Career, even if it means making a few changes in their path to the top!
Opening your teenager’s eyes to the possibilities is essential in helping them choose the right path for them. The earlier they start doing this, the better!
Lynn Miner-Rosen is the founder and CEO of LMR Coaching and the creator of the ADHD Job Squad™, where she helps teens and adults overcome confusion, career anxiety, and self-doubt so they can thrive in a career and life they love. You can find out more about ADHD Job Squad™ by Clicking Here or reach Lynn at [email protected]