Maybe more important than asking what is the right job for you, is who is the right boss? When I worked on a TV show at CBS studios, I may not have had the perfect job, but I did have the perfect boss and it was the most stable, lucrative stretch of employment I’ve ever had.
The culture of a work environment can have a huge impact on an employee with ADHD and it is important to remember that the culture is set by the person giving the orders. Knowing something about the leadership at a prospective place of employment may tell you more about how good a fit the work will be for you than how interested you are in the product or if you ever intended to do that line of work.
Understanding what type of management style works particularly well for people with ADHD will give you a sense of what to look for on your next job hunt.
How well does the management implement structure that will be supportive of keeping you on track? My supervisor at CBS had a superior sense for how much structure to put in place: not so much that I felt micro managed, yet enough so that I always knew what I was supposed to be doing and how long I had to do it.
Some externally supplied structure makes up for what isn’t being provided by your executive function. It makes it more likely that you’ll meet deadlines, stay organized and get more done. When the leadership does that thinking for you, you’re freed up to focus on the job at hand.
Take time to notice what amount of routine is right for you and get a sense of whether or not your boss is likely to give you that support.
As an ADHDer, you may have a conflicted relationship with structure. You’re aware that it’s absolutely necessary to keep you on track but you also want to break free from it whenever possible. The genius of my boss at CBS, was that she also knew how to incorporate breathing room into a routine so that it didn’t become crushing or make the work tedious.
The right boss for you needs to be someone who can manage your spontaneity and creativity without being threatened by it. Your gift for lateral thinking will be one of your best assets and your boss will be aware of that. He or she will be open to your new ideas and be able to pick out the ones worth implementing.
How much flexibility will you need and will your boss be open to making that a part of your role?
Your best employer will have another less obvious characteristic and that’s self-knowledge. In order to be able to balance structure and flexibility as well as manage a team including you, this person needs to have a good sense of their own strengths, weaknesses, character and motives. My boss at CBS was the soul of unassuming humility and easy going self-confidence. Nothing rattled her because she knew exactly what was important to her and what was not. She was exemplary at her role as a supervisor and would later be elected president of the Union Local but her new role didn’t change her management style.
While these are key attributes to the making of a great boss for someone with ADHD, there are many other qualities that a great boss might possess. Consider the times that you have been most productive under a person’s leadership. What characteristics did that person have that worked well with your ADHD traits?