Careers for ADD Explorers
"The brain is a wonderful organ. It
starts the moment you get up and doesn't stop until you get into the office." --
Robert Frost (who was expelled from school for daydreaming)
There is no such thing as a "good
career for someone who is ADD." That's because there are so many different types of
ADDers. For example, there is the sensation seeker; the absent minded professor type; and
the quiet and reflective idealist. No single ADD list can speak to all these different
types of people simply because they all have ADD, though many have tried. One list
published in a well-selling book actually told ADDers NOT to go into the sciences, even
though a high number of creative scientists and inventors were probably ADD.
So here's what I recommend:
First, find out what your MBTI temperament type is by taking the Keirsey test. Once you know what
your temperament is, you should learn all you can about it and about how your temperament
relates to other temperaments. I find the book Do What You
Are by Tieger & Tieger to be great armchair reading and enlightening. This
book will help you figure out your temperment type. It then gives you in-depth profiles of
three people with your type and rewarding careers, and then analyzes exactly what these
three careers have in common that makes the work fulfilling for someone of your type.
For example, ENTPs (my type) are energized by novel problem solving but get bored
easily, so a job with descreet "projects" or "problems" helps.
There are lists of recommended careers, too (entrepreneur was recommended for me).
I've also posted a small amount of information below for
most of the temperament types from Keirsey's book "Please Understand Me."
The book "Do What You Are" is a much better resource for careers, but I didn't
have the book when I first wrote this page. For a quick summary of Jungian/MBTI temperment
typing and a link to take the online test, see Temperament Definitions.
- Careers for NT
Rationals (INTP, ENTP, INTJ, ENTJ)
- Careers for NF
Idealists (INFP, INFJ, ENFJ, ENFP)
- Careers for SP
Artisans (ESTP, ISTP, ESTJ, ISTJ)
: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success
by Nicholas Lore. I've been told this book is written by an ADDer
and is the second best selling book on careers in the world. The book shows how
traits that are liabilities in one career might be an advantage in another.
"It is the perfect book for people with ADD because the author (who is my husband,
the director of Rockport Institute, and is an ADD person himself) has worked with far more
ADD people making career decisions than anyone else on the planet. As far as he is
concerned, ADD is a perfectly natural combination of traits, and not a disorder at all."
This book is quite involved and requires you to set up a
notebook for yourself. It's for the person who is willing to roll up their sleeves and
spend some time to figure out the best career path.
Careers for the
NT "Rationals" (INTP, ENTP, INTJ, ENTJ)
Rationals are natural born scientists and
engineers, and are referred to as "the knowledge seeking" person. Many ADD
Rationals do OK in school (but may underachieve) and they often go on to college. One ENTP
has a webpage which says something like "I quit high school to play in a rock band,
and later went to Yale to study physics." NTs judge themselves based on their ability
to perform (whether it be getting things done or coming up with solutions) and are
therefore unusually prone to performance anxiety. ADD probably increases the chance of
this happening, since it can interfere with the ability to get things done.
Be aware: once a subject is mastered, the
NT is likely to move on. This is true even for NTs who are not ADD. Figure this into your
thinking. Are there future lateral career moves you can make to maintain interest? A
related, but somewhat different career? A different type of company to work for? Don't
berate yourself because you put so much energy into becoming good at what you do, only to
find yourself oddly depressed with your job. Expect it to happen and plan for it. Use your
love of logic to figure out a chain of possible career or job moves rather than expecting
to find one and stick to it.
In "Please Understand Me," David
Keirsey says that "his early start and his persistence enable the NT to excel above
the other styles in technology. And, as the intellectual ability of the NT increases, the
tendency to seek the sciences, mathematics, philosophy, architecture, engineering --
indeed, anything complicated and exacting -- also increases. These occupations, therefore,
are heavily populated by NTs."
An NT child with ADD might learn to dislike
school and not go on to college. But of all types, the NTs probably benefit most from
college, because an advanced degree allows them to pursue the complex subjects which
interest them most.
The worst career for an NT is one involving
routine, excessive rules, boredom, simplicity. NTs are known for breaking any rule which
is illogical and which interferes with getting the job done. NTs are full of ideas. A
career which does not allow the NT to utilize their creativity will soon become
frustrating and boring.
Some more specifics from "Please
- "ENTJs will usually rise to positions
of responsibility and enjoy being executives."
- "ENTPs are good at innovative projects
and can administer them well if dull routine is not involved. They usually are outstanding
teachers, continuously devising new participative ways to make learning exciting for the
- "The INTP is the architect of a system
and leaves it to others to be the builder and the applicator...They are, however, often
excellent teachers, particularly for advanced students, although INTPs do not always enjoy
much popularity, for they can be hard taskmasters."
- INTJs "can be outstanding in scientific
research and also outstanding as executives who generate a plethora of implementations of
The NT ADDer: In general, careers which are good for an NT are also good for an NT
which is ADD. The specific setting or job is likely to make a difference. For example, a
large company with a lot of red tape may be unbearable to a particular NT/ADD engineer,
while starting up business might be quite satisfying. There are science jobs involving
research and science jobs involving tons of paperwork. The real trick is in avoiding the
job with lots of paperwork (or at least delegating that part of the job).
Careers for the NF "Idealists"
(INFP, ENFP, INFJ, ENFJ)
The Idealists are quite different from the Rational NTs
discussed above, and will generally prefer different types of careers. While the NTs
gravitate towards the sciences, most NFs do not find such objective and dry topics to
their interest. According to Keirsey, the Idealists are on a search for their "true
self" and want to make the world a better place to live by helping others. Integrity
NF types with ADD often get by in school and might even do
well, depending on their particular circumstances, but they are highly sensitive to
criticism and classroom setting. NFs are particularly prone to imaginative daydreaming,
even the ones who are not ADD.
According to Keirsey, "Novelists, dramatists,
television writers, playwrights, journalists, poets, and biographers are almost
exclusively NFs." These are the writers who wish to "inspire and persuade."
Note: Most of the personal ADD websites are undoubtedly written by NFs. This is somewhat
interesting because Intuitive ADDers often have reading and writing problems, even those
who consider themselves to be compulsive readers and writers! I've had several NF ADDers
comment that they took ADD medication so they could read better or write with less
editing. But it is not so much the "writing" per se as the release of ideas
which most attracts the NF. And ADDers are definitely full of ideas.
Idealists are also drawn to teaching, where they are highly
over represented. In the teaching field, they often end up arguing with the more common SJ
types about how things should be run, arguing on behalf of students or alternative
teaching styles. Other fields which NFs are often attracted to are psychiatry, ministry,
Like the NTs, the NFs are easily bored and often restless,
even those who are not ADD. NFs may plan for job or career changes from time to time in
order to keep things interesting and challenging.
More detail from "Please Understand Me":
- ENFJs "make superior therapists, charismatic teachers,
excellent executives, and personalized salespersons." To be avoided: accounting.
"Almost any people-to-people occupation where personal, sustained contact is
involved" will be best for the ENFJ. However, they "experience some degree of
restlessness whatever their jobs."
- "INFJs make outstanding individual therapists" and
"often select liberal arts as a college major and opt for occupations which involve
interacting with people on a one-to-one basis."
- "ENFPs have a remarkable latitude in career choices and
succeed in many fields."
- INFP "career choices may be toward the ministry,
missionary work, college teaching, psychiatry, architecture, psychology -- and away from
The ADD NF: The specific job setting is likely to make the
difference for an NF who is ADD. Most importantly, try and find a particular job within
your field which has a minimum amount of paperwork or be sure there is reliable support
staff. A career of successfully helping people should keep an NF interested in their work,
and an interested ADDer is a focused (or hyperfocused) ADDer.
the SP "Artisans" (ESTP, ISTP, ISFP, ESFP)
Artisans live in the moment, and have a
strong desire to act. These are the ultimate sensation seekers, needing to
experience that which can be touched, seen or heard, especially anything which is before
them now. If the Intuitive ADDer is a highly imaginative daydreamer, the Sensory
ADDer is natural born thrill seeker, impulsive, often with an apparent inability to plan,
to study, or to get organized. Unlike the Intuitives, they may have very good memory for
While ADD NTs and NFs hyperfocus on
concepts, the ADD SPs hyperfocus on action or hands-on activities. "The great
painters, instrumentalists, vocalists, dancers, sculptors, photographers, athletes,
hunters, racers, gamblers -- all need the skills which come only from excited
concentration on an activity for long periods. No other type can mobilize what virtuosity
takes: untold hours of continuous action" (Keirsey). Mozart, Teddy Roosevelt, and
Hemingway are examples of SPs who may have been ADD.
Artisans are attracted and do well in the
performing arts, construction work, operating machinery, the military, promoting
enterprises, driving ambulances and racing cars, hair stylist, detective, police, rescue
squads, or as professional athletes. As managers, the SPs may excel in a crisis situation,
but underachieve during calmer times. SPs may also become entrepreneurs.
School is not often enjoyed by the SPs.
Advance schooling may not be necessary considering the many types of "hands-on"
and action oriented careers which SPs prefer. Most SPs would be bored contemplating
abstract concepts like the NT or quietly helping people like the NF.
More details, from "Please
- ESFPs "avoid science and engineering,
gravitate toward business, and are adept at selling, particularly selling tangibles. They
can be effective in education, especially elementary school teaching, and can enjoy
nursing for it's drama."
- "ISTP is not in the least interested in
the clerical, interpretive, and "science" curricula that abound in the 20th
Century School." ISTPs are the master operators of tools and machinery.
- ISFPs have a much higher potential to become
great artists and musicians than other types. "The ISFP is attuned to color, line,
texture, shading -- touch, motion, seeing, and hearing in harmony. The senses of the ISFP
seem more keenly tuned than those of others."
- ESTPs are skilled at selling an idea or
project, and have "promotional, entrepreneurial capabilities."
The ADD Artisan: Reading some of the
literature on MBTI types, the term "ADD Artisan" almost seems redundant.
Undoubtedly, many SPs are pressured into careers which do not truly suit them, just as
they are pressured to do well in school. But when they find a career to their liking, they
are more likely to stick to that career throughout their life and become a skill
"artisan", while the N types more often experience a certain restlessness which
leads them to many career changes.