Born to Explore!   The Other Side of ADD

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Books I recommend:


The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Nonconforming Child (Dynamos, Discoverers and Dreamers)


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Beyond ADD: Hunting for Reasons in the Past & the Present by Thom Hartmann


The Minds of Boys:
Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life

The ADD Nutrition Solution

More   books...



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.

ADD CareersSo 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.

  1. Careers for NT Rationals (INTP, ENTP, INTJ, ENTJ)
  2. Careers for NF Idealists (INFP, INFJ, ENFJ, ENFP)
  3. Careers for SP Artisans (ESTP, ISTP, ESTJ, ISTJ)


pathfinder.gif (6973 bytes)The Pathfinder : 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 Understand Me":

  • "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 students."
  • "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 ideas."

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 matters.

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, and acting.

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 business."

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.

Careers for 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 detail.

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 Understand Me."

  • 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.




All BTE pages were written by Teresa Gallagher unless otherwise noted and may be photocopied (but not reprinted) without permission.  BTE Web Design now creates websites for small businesses. Perhap "BTE" really means "Born to Entrepreneur..."