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Choices about school studies and job in relation to ADHD

Mikk1 profile image

The different branches of studies (at school or university) could be divided for sure according to our preferences and interests, but also according to the possibilities that they give respect the job that follows the studies.

So when it was time to choose what to study, we neglected what we were not interested into, but maybe we also discarded what would have given difficulties in finding a job. There are different ways of thinking about this obviously, someone follows blindly the loved subject, while someone not completely, because worried about the relating job possibilities.

This was just an introduction for the questions.

Are you happy about what you studied at university and the job that followed?

If you would have known before about ADHD, would you have changed choice? How?

12 Replies

Well, here's my college & university story.

I like a lot of subjects. Generally I like math and science (mostly physics, computers, engineering, and psychology). I also enjoy art and have an appreciation for design. (I think of myself as a sort-of "renaissance man.")

I started at a university studying Aerospace Engineering, dropped down to a community college studying Computer Information Systems, then another community college studying Architecture, back to the first community college studying computers again, then later another community college studying Mathematics (wanting to be a teacher then), and still later another university studying Computer Engineering.

5 schools, 5 majors, 9 years of undergraduate education spread over 22 years... still no degree.

At the last university, when I ran out of financial aid, I had to get a job. I wound up working at that university in the information technology department for the next 10 years, and now I work in IT at a hospital.

I had no idea that I would like working in IT until I started working in IT. I think that my computer studies definitely prepared me well to do what I now do, but at my last school the Information Systems degree (in their college of Business, not their college of Engineering) would have better prepared me for IT. When I was studying Computer Engineering, I thought I would end up working on the computer industry somehow.

Throughout my adult life, I've mostly worked in customer service roles. The area of IT that I excel in is the customer support role. I'm a born troubleshooter. I'm motivated by serving people and solving problems.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020, at the age of 45.

I do plan to return to college to finish school, probably in Information Systems, but maybe in Data Analysis (which I've taken a strong interest in over the last several years...I love data that tells a story, I call myself an "information junkie"). I found a school with both as options for a Bachelor's degree, which I could complete online at my own pace.

I also have a strong interest in UX (user experience design), which combines my interests of computer data, design, psychology, and customer service. UX degrees seem to only be offered as a Master's or Doctorate degree.

"Are you happy about what you studied at university and the job that followed?"

Yes and no. If I could rewind back to the 90s, I would have studied web design and become a web developer. (I may have heard about UX design much earlier, then.) I started college in 1993 (the same year that HTML first became available, so there would not have been any web design degrees available). Or if I had kept with the Computer Information Systems major and started in Information Technology much earlier.

"If you would have known before about ADHD, would you have changed choice? How?"

My life could have been very different if I'd known I have ADHD much earlier. I think I would have done much better in school and career. However, I've learned a lot about life and about people by going through the struggles. I hate to think that I might have gotten a big head if things came easily for me.

Mikk1 profile image
Mikk1 in reply to STEM_Dad

Thank you for telling your story.Much more complicated than what I was thinking about ... :)

STEM_Dad profile image
STEM_Dad in reply to Mikk1

Most are not so complicated. Maybe only a small percentage are as complicated as mine.

My story is a life lesson in living with undiagnosed and unknown ADHD. (Most people who had the struggles I've had probably would have given up on school. I'm still determined to get a degree someday.)

Some of my general observations about other people I've known of with ADHD, in college and career, are:

1) It is definitely possible for a person with ADHD to get a degree of their choice in the major of their choice. This includes advanced degrees. A person with ADHD may or may not need: a longer time, more effort, special accommodations, and/or assistance from education professionals (instructors, counselors, tutors).

2) People with ADHD tend to excel in areas of study and work that they have a strong interest in.

3) People with ADHD are capable of working in any career field. Many people with ADHD find ways to accommodate their particular ADHD traits in the work that they do. (This can sometimes lead to innovative changes in the organization that they work for.)

4) Many people who have ADHD are entrepreneurial in their approach to work, noticing unmet needs and finding ways to meet those needs.

Hmmmmmm ... great question. I studied politics in college. At the time I LOVED politics. I thought I had all the answers (or would soon develop them) to the world's problems. My entire education was to show the opposite: that solving big problems can be hard.

Anyway, I would have struggled no matter my major. I mean, as much as I loved politics, I still ran into the ADHD "lack of interest" thing. As soon as a professor would assign a book, I lost interest. If I discovered the book on my own, I had high interest.

I no longer even retroactively "wish" that I had been diagnosed. Because I don't know. I think my ego was quite fragile and I don't think I would have accepted the diagnosis. I would have seen it as a stigma and run from it, fast!

Unfortunately I had to suffer more of the slings and arrows of life and misfortune in order to reach a point where a diagnosis just felt right.

I was lucky enough to find something I’m passionate about. When I was a child, my career intentions ranged from vet, to computer scientist, to mathematician.

But I always loved learning languages. So in the last year of high school I decided to take a major in Languages and Translation. In Brazil, where I come from, there are mandatory college admission exams but each university has their own process. Students usually took 2-3 tests within a period of time. The university in my city would apply a 4-hour test for maths and science, and on the next day another one for languages, history and geography. It was insane!

From 16 to 23 years old, I’ve taken those tests 10 times. They were applied every 6 months. I've tried different courses including Portuguese-English, Portuguese-French and Japanese. I gave up for a while and then tried again. Almost passed on my last one. Then I finally decided to apply for a private college, which was paid but the tests were much easier. They had a scholarship and it was a teaching degree.

I’d never see myself as a teacher until I started teaching as a trainee. I got a job as an English teacher in a language school, got some private students, also taught Portuguese as a second language, and now I’m working towards becoming a teacher trainer. I realized that my passion for learning is what gives me purpose. I’ve learned strategies to cope with my ADHD and used some of them in my language lessons.

In the meantime, I learned marketing and graphic design in my volunteer work, which is also helpful for my teaching business. I’ve been reading here and there about business management and leadership. Now I’m learning music as well, and for me, it doesn’t matter what kind of work that I do as long as it has learning involved.

Many different roads in studies then ... My main curiosity was: if you would have known about ADHD before beginning studies, would you have changed your 1st choice?

I wanted to be an engineer. Failed out of math. Multiple times. Became an attorney. Struggled with attention to detail. Thing of going back to school to study math and engineering. Wish I was diagnosed and received treatment earlier. Diagnosed with ADHD at 39.

Mikk1 profile image
Mikk1 in reply to StillRunning

Maybe engineering is not a good choice if there are problems with details and math ...

StillRunning profile image
StillRunning in reply to Mikk1

Hmm. Yes. And, no. At least, math problems usually have a definite answer, as do engineering problems to a slightly lesser degree. Sadly, the law can be summed up by, and my apologies for the butchering, but the common lawyer saying that when a young associate starts working on a case they think the more important thing is the law, for a senior associate, the most important thing is the facts, but for a partner, what really matters is who is the judge. I think math and engineering could be good for an ADHD brain if a smarter approach was used to solving problems. My unsuccessful approach in college was to usually stay in the basement of the library as long as necessary to learn a math concept, which usually resulted in me staying until the library closed without me learning anything...

I'm just seeing this post, but wanted to add a quick two cents related to the topic of finding a job with ADHD. I've been working at established places for a while but in the end I found that working for a startup or small business was the best option for me. I feel a lot more connected with my coworkers and the company where I feel I am making an impact and not just a cog in the machine. I even work for a finance company which (to me) is pretty boring in itself, but as a product designer the exciting challenge is that I get to make it fun!

But I've found startups in general work with my ADHD because there's always new projects to do, majority of my work I don't find repetitive or boring. It's chaotic (I've worked at startups that are in the very beginning stages and those kinds of chaos are not fun though) but there are just enough systems in place for me to feel organized, but also if I make a mistake, then no one blames me because it's impossible to be completed organized at a startup since everything moves so fast! :) The fun part about the chaos is that it's also my job to start systems for the future, and then I get to decide how things work and not get annoyed by the outdated systems that exist for established places that don't like change.

This wasn't a direct response to your question, but it was a great insight for me after a lot of trial and error choosing a field I liked.

Yes... I excel in startups too, for the same reasons as you!! :)

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