In a department of one, maybe you’re ADHD?

Usually unique

Have you ever found yourself the only person in your company doing your job, the only person in your “department”?? Has you work life had moments like these:
  • There are four other sales people, each with the same sales plan but yours is different and specialised
  • You work with six other partners in your firm but your role is more complex, eg not just clients but systems too
  • You are a manager in a multi-national but with no direct reports, a “trouble-shooter” or new ideas guy
  • You were meant to be doing billing administration but found yourself developing programs to speed it up and not get bored
  • You’ve been made redundant or let go when management wasn’t really sure “what you do”?
Do you sit in the middle, a jack of all trades and master of none? Are you full of ideas, quick to identify and resolve problems but your execution and follow up let you down? You may be ADHD.

No one else does quite your job

These hybrid skills are highly characteristic of ADHD. We find ourselves doing a job that no one else does, possibly one that we devised or evolved from another. It’s a job that requires a mixed skill set of skills, a mix of technical, marketing, people, forecasting, presentation, sales, persuasion and advocacy? Maybe we are renaissance people?

I think my unusual career progression is actually fairly common with ADHD. Out of twenty jobs, there have been only two occasions where I was in a team doing the same job as my peers

In my first position as computer programmer, I sat alongside and coded in a similar fashion to colleagues for about a year, before my growing disinterest moved to a unique position managing our new computer systems. For one year at IBM I shared a sales plan with others but that was it, the other six years I was on a solo mission of some kind. I left IBM to head up a new team in a new hybrid sales/consultant/evangelist role, then began setting up start ups, always doing my own thing.

ADDvantages

I have coached many ADHD adults with similar stories, diverse jobs, often finding themselves in a unique role that demands people, technical, problem solving skills. I think we do well in these roles, they hold our interest, we link people and systems. I have coached several professional trouble shooters with ADHD. Most of us have radars set to notice and fix issues. We see the big picture, and hate inefficiency.

Dis-ADDvantages

Hybrid roles are a good fit for ADHD but there are dangers too from being unique:
  • Lack of visibility in organisation
  • Easy to consider roles redundant when no one knows what is involved
  • Working between other departments, providing the glue and solutions is fragile to shifts in the organisation
  • Often no direct reports as no heads for “irregular” departments
  • Other more “structured” employees may resent your freedoms and be critical

Entrepreneurial

Of course one of the roles where one gets to use a complete breadth of skills from creative, marketing, sales, product to management is in running start-ups and small companies. No wonder, according to the Economist,  we are 6x more likely to start a business that an “average” person. Entrepreneurship is the perfect hybrid role, starting in a department of one. Just make sure you have some admin support!
ADHD Coach, Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is an ADHD Coach, writer and founder of SimplyWellbeing. He has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of experience in coaching hundreds of ADHD executives, business professionals and creatives, and previously running a large ADHD support group and an ADHD diagnostic clinic. His business expertise comes from a twenty years career in software, from programming, through marketing, sales and running a few start-ups. His ADHD insight is personal, with decades understanding his own ADHD experience and in bringing up his ADHD daughter. He has published his writing primarily via this website, with interactive ADHD courses in development.

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