I’m unprofessional and not detail-oriented — but I still need to earn a living

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question.

I am not a detail-oriented person. I’ve had jobs where I was responsible for things like making sure that a packet of materials was the correct color paper, or following a 94-step process perfectly many times. I. Just. Cannot. It’s not a question of effort. I’ve written protocols, attended coaching sessions with superiors, shadowed, put up reminders in the working area: no dice. If a work product needs to be exactly right on the first try, I’m not the one to do it.

I also have terrible impulse control that gets worse under stress. I once told a remote team member at the beginning of the pandemic who mentioned she was home alone for the first time in months that if I were in her position I’d “take my pants off! Get comfortable!” Additionally, I come from a religious tradition that emphasizes equality of all people, so I can have moments where I treat people more like equals than like professionals in a working environment. I used to have a role where I asked people very intimate questions about their sex life and gender and, if asked, would share my information that I thought was measured and appropriate but that my supervisors did not. I was recently fired from a temp job after including a picture of Heidi Klum’s worm Halloween costume as the usual picture in an all department “all done” email.

Yes, I have severe ADHD. Stimulants only make me want to clean, but I’ve found a medication that helps a lot with the impulse control, which I think will improve general professionalism.

I’m ready to transition from “hilarious fuck-up” to “high-achieving eccentric” with a high income and a stable career. I have a lot of skills and an interesting resume: global research, project management, quantitative and qualitative research, published as first author and data analyst in a field where that’s unusual. Supervisors usually get a huge kick out of me until I cross a line. I turn in work on time that meets the requirements given. I often have innovative ideas for projects that I’m on which either save money or improve efficiency. I’m a quick learner, great teammate, and (my mom tells me) smart.

Without capitalism and student loans, I’d like to be a shepherd who does wildfire prevention with goats. Unfortunately it turns out that as you get older, huge upheavals to your life become less feasible and take more time.

What are your suggestions for workers who struggle with the norms of corporate professionalism? What are reasonable accomodations I could ask for that would help with inattention to detail? How do I figure out what kind of work I’m well suited to?

I’m going to throw this out to readers for ideas.

Read an update to this letter

{ 792 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    There’s been a lot of misunderstanding of neurodivergence below, in ways that I don’t think will be helpful to this letter-writer.

    A request: If you do not have a strong understanding of neurodivergence, please pass this one by. Thank you. (Note that I’m posting this 2 hours after it went up, so earlier comments hadn’t been subject to this request.) I’m going to be moderating all comments from here on out to enforce this.

  2. Presea*

    If you struggle with the norms of corporate professionalism, and your dream job is something more hands-on and outdoorsy, I’d ask you to interrogate yourself about why you’re looking for a corporate professional career in the first place, honestly! For a lot of people, being chained to a desk all day is just not the life for them, and there’s no shame in that.

    If you’re dead set on the white-collar world, though, freelance consulting or temping might be a great place to start. It’ll let you try a bunch of different things pretty quickly and with relatively low stakes. With freelancing in particular, you might lose a client here and there if you make a mistake, but if you’re your own boss you literally can’t be fired from the job as a whole. You get to negotiate deadlines on equal(!) terms with your clients, and set expectations upfront for how iterative and interactive you want the process to be; essentially, rather than framing yourself as “someone who can’t get it right the first time”, market yourself as “someone who thrives in a collaborative environment doing iterative work”.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I was going to suggest freelancing – easier to find clients who jibe with you and you can’t be fired. But that does require some self-motivation to FIND the clients, market yourself, and get the work done.

        1. LJ21983*

          I had a chuckle at this. I’m a self-employed consultant with similar issues to OP and I write off thousands of dollars in income annually because I run the invoice and just don’t send it to my client. (And that’s not including the clients whom I’ve just not charged/logged time for because I knew I wouldn’t have it together enough to add their name to my accounting software just to invoice them for a few hundred bucks) Ultimate first world problems, I recognize, but also a bit wild that my executive functioning can be so poor as to cost me thousands of easily-received dollars annually and I just kind of keep doing it.

          OP, if you take this route, hire someone to do your admin work for you!

          1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

            The ADHD tax :)
            The amount of money I’ve written off in life, as a regular person as a consultant, is fairly staggering.

            1. Fledge Mulholland*

              Thank you for giving a name to this. I have lost so much in birthday checks I never cashed, late fees for bills I can afford to pay but don’t in time, etc. etc. I would not do well if my paycheck was so dependant on me and not automatically deposited in my back account.

              1. yelena*

                The “Adhd tax” is a very useful concept that also refers to the fact that it’s often wise for us to add a “tax” to the up front cost of things that make our lives more manageable (ie paying extra for pre-cut food, buying backups of the same item because you might not be able to find it when you need it, paying someone else to do stuff we know we likely won’t do on time etc). :D

                1. Vio*

                  I do all of those things and never considered if they were ADHD symptoms… I had considered that I might have ADHD based on some other things though but am still awaiting a diagnosis… long waiting times in the NHS.

                2. sundae funday*

                  Unless I have a specific recipe that I’m making on a specific day for a specific purpose (like if I was having someone over for that meal), I buy all my vegetables frozen and pre-cut.

                  I’ve been lectured that I should just buy them fresh, cut them up, and then freeze them. But like, no. They would rot in the refrigerator. The only thing that’s going to make me cut up a vegetable is a plan to use that vegetable immediately. I’m definitely not going to pre-dice onions and then freeze them to save a few cents when I can get them frozen and diced already….

            2. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

              I go to an ADHD clinic for meds management and therapy and GOD BLESS THOSE PEOPLE they have an admin on staff who, for an additional fee, takes care of ALL the billing and coordinating with your insurance, and whatever else needs to be done to get your bill done. I’m sure that was added after losing patients bc they couldn’t figure out billing. LOL

          2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            Suddenly, the amount of time I’ve spent trying to convince vendors to invoice my company so that I can *pay them* makes more sense…

            Still confused when it happens on six figure payments but there are limits to what I can comprehend.

          3. whistle*

            There are many options for fractional financial services that would cost less than the money they would bring in for you! I just spoke with a woman who places fractional CFOs/accountants/bookkeepers. She has a client with $40K pending in AR and all she had to do was a place an AR consultant to run the list and collect the money. Even if that person only brought in 1/10th of that, it still pays for itself.

          4. Worldwalker*

            Been there, done that, even when I really, really needed the money. I didn’t realize other people did it too — I thought it was just another example of how my brain doesn’t brain right in some ways.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I highly recommend Geneen Roth’s Lost And Found. It’s about her personal and women in general’s relationship to money, and how self-destructive it can get in order to not have to face dealing with financial matters. Her personal parallel was how she used money in the ways she used food during decades of disordered eating, but I don’t think a person has to have that particular issue in order to get a lot out of the book.

          5. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I would be willing to send out those invoices for a modest cut of the boodle or a per invoice price. I’ll even throw in the postage and cute little corporate window envelopes. I am willing to do that for others. I am pretty well organized, honest, and could use the extra cash. Sincerely…

      1. Hamster Manager*

        Yeah I dunno, freelancers get less grace when they mess up than salaried people do, and you are personally in charge of WAY more processes directly related to your take-home, it doesn’t sound like a good match for LW to me.

        Temp maybe, but with freelance I’d proceed with caution, unless they find an agency to work through.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          I agree; I think maybe for this LW, a temp agency would be a better option, as they take care of all the detail-oriented stuff for you. They bill the company and pay your salary, they take out the taxes, etc.

          I’ve temped and it does have the advantages of freelancing with the plus of the agency being your employer, so you don’t have to worry about taxes and billing.

        2. MKL*

          That’s an interesting point… I’ve actually seen the reverse in my industry (west coast tech world.) From the tech vantage point, I’ve seen eccentricity more tolerated from high performing free lance consultants than from employees. It’s almost as if management feels obliged to enforce corporate norms with employees in the way that they don’t with an independent consultant. Freelancers definitely get waaay less slack when it comes to deadlines and deliverable problems but OP says they handle deadlines and deliverables well – they struggle with impulse control and professional norms. Given that, and given the comment about having niche skills that would transition to lucrative work, I would recommend…
          1) Hire a fractional executive assistant and a fractional bookkeeping/invoicing resource to handle ALL the paperwork. Every single email gets looked at by your EA. Every single piece of contractual paper work from the pitch to the contract to the invoice gets handled by the bookkeeper. You’ll need to spend time training them on your workflow, writing sample communications and coaching them on tone but should be able to move to reviewing their communications fairly quickly. In the executive assistant interviews, be explicit that you want someone who has enough industry experience to be able to let your quirky voice shine through but catch anything outrageous.
          2) Spend some time with industry contacts brainstorming the most progressive, most flexible and most quirk-friendly niche in your world. There are some geographic areas (hello West Coast and NYC) and some industries (looking at you marketing and telco) where expertise + signature quirk has been an effective combination.
          3) Consider leveraging that signature quirk with the support of your new exec assistant or a PR person. Depending on what industry you’re in, you may be able to build a speaker/writer/social media presence that harnesses your voice in a useful way.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      If you struggle with the norms of corporate professionalism, and your dream job is something more hands-on and outdoorsy, I’d ask you to interrogate yourself about why you’re looking for a corporate professional career in the first place

      If the LW wants an outdoorsy job, one good place to start looking is for positions with their state’s Department of Conservation or if their state has any sort of environmental agency with positions in the field.

      1. Watry*

        Or even your local Parks department. It can be very physical work, but my friend with severe ADHD says sometimes that’s better.

      2. Chickadee*

        Seconding this. Parks have three basic routes, all of which do outdoor work at the intro level: natural resource management (eg biologist, requires bachelors degree), interpretation, and maintenance. Interpretation requires the most public interaction so may or may not be a good fit. I don’t have much experience with maintenance, but natural resource management is generally tolerant of neurodivergence. The main downside is a lot of positions are low paid and seasonal – permanent positions are very competitive and come with more office work.

        (If LW is genuinely interested in fire stuff, getting a certification for controlled burns is a huge resume builder.)

        1. Elise*

          OMG, not interpretation, please! I manage interpreters, and I have a hard enough time not saying inappropriate things myself without having staff say them!

      3. Colette*

        One thing I would suggest. Before pursuing an outdoor job, think about whether you want to be outside. It’s easy to think it would be nice to be outside on a sunny spring day. Would you also want to be outside in freezing rain/snow/sweltering hot weather? On cloudy days where the world is grey?

        Make sure you want the life, not the dream.

      4. Lisa Simpson*

        In some municipalities, trash collectors get paid serious bank, and they also sometimes have short workdays. Where my parents live, the town lets them go home once they finish their route. The guys* RUN down the block collecting trash while the trash truck travels at the speed limit. It looks like a videogame speedrun. It’s comical.

        (*I’ve never seen a woman collecting trash there.)

      5. Steve, Ex-Mechanic, Current ADHDer*

        I used to think so highly of our local parks and rec system, until one of my friends was employed there as a laborer for almost a decade. The level of back-biting and dysfunction she encountered was a genuine shock, on top of the way that the city strategically dangled r e a l j o b s to keep talented and passionate people in part-time positions with no health insurance or PTO for years. Please, please, please talk to people who have worked IN YOUR LOCAL parks department before making this kind of jump.

        It’s one thing to feel “chained to a desk,” but from there to outdoor labor in all weather conditions can be… well, not that anyone with ADHD would ever engage in black and white thinking, lol, but sometimes it’s helpful for me to talk things over with a partner or trusted friend, who can help point out the middle ground I flew over in my rush from one extreme to another

      6. Divergent*

        Used to be a landscaper, now a forester here. Also definitely autistic and maybe adhd? I’d never want to run a business, but working for small businesses as a landscaper (especially if there was a garden design/project management/installation component occasionally to keep it interesting) was really great for me. It was varied enough, but without too steep a learning curve; the physical activity kept me focused in ways I can’t be in an office; I had to think about all scales at once, which my brain loves; and landscapers seem to accept “quirky behaviour” pretty well. Honestly I won’t say that shepherding an occasional crew of landscapers doing an install isn’t exactly unlike shepherding goats. ;)

        Forestry is less great for me: more money, it’s salaried, but it’s very political, lots of people interaction and making sure a huge number of stakeholders are involved in the process as best as can be, and a surprising amount of desk work.

    3. Susan Calvin*

      I’m all behind your first paragraph, not so much the second – as someone with similar… inclinations to the LW, even on a much more manageable scale, freelancing is literally my worst nightmare! Staying on top of every aspect of marketing, scheduling, and billing, on top of the actual work? Having to make good first impressions basically every day? Having zero support-and-accountability network? I would burn out, go bankrupt, or starve within a year.

      1. BoksBooks*

        I second this. OP, get thee an outside job. Also try the parks department, forest service, bureau of land mgmt….

        1. Ama*

          And just a reminder, outdoor monuments also need employees! Many federal monuments are under the National Parks Service; state and local monuments will depend on the location.

          I’d also look at nonprofits that run community gardens or sustainable gardening/farming locations.

          1. nora*

            Or for-profits! I own a farm and it’s the best fit for ADHD I’ve ever found, and several neurodivergent staff members (most with ADHD but also some others) have also found it a good match for their skills and needs.

            1. Divergent*

              I’m very interested to know how the business end of this works for you! I overproduce for myself and gift and donate the rest because the whole food safety/permitting/licensing/marketing/taxes of a farm seem overwhelming to me.

          2. Sun in an Empty Room*

            Going to have to say that attention to detail is absolutely CRITICAL in every federal job I’ve ever seen (including outdoorsy ones) and there is a very low tolerance for error in many positions… Outdoor work may be a great fit but I don’t know that a federal or other government position would be.

            1. LMEmployee*

              I work in a land management government agency and attention to detail is VITAL even in the outdoors roles, it just may be a different type of attention required than a desk job, which might be good or bad for OP. But yes, it’s vital, not just to make sure you’re getting your training and certifications done, but their are safety policies to be followed to the T or someone’s life could be at risk. Yes, even in something “simple” like lawn care – there’s still big equipment involved after all.

          3. D*

            The mining industry offers a huge variety of jobs from white collar to fully outdoors and everything in between. And can pay extremely well. If you need something with high stimulation maybe mine control operator? Its an office job and your analytics background would be an asset. Can be an absolutely hectic role!

            1. Wilbur*

              I don’t know if something in mining is right for someone that doesn’t believe they can do something right, even with all the right procedures, tool, etc in place.

          4. yelena*

            Most of these kinds of positions don’t pay as well or have the same benefits as while collar jobs. And it’s not a matter of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. ADHD folks are often incredibly brilliant and valuable on a team, the struggle is finding a role and company that can accomodate for our differences.

            1. Mine adjacent*

              The janitors at our mine make $35/hr which at 40 hrs per week is about $70,000/yr. Not too bad, especially for our relatively low cost of living area. Operators make $40 and don’t require extreme attention to detail and generally have a high school education and are eligible for overtime which means they’re generally making over $100k a year.

      2. Alanna*

        Yes, I also am on the same spectrum though perhaps not as quite as far along it as LW, and even hiring freelancers/contractors is a big weakness of mine, because of the follow-up, attention to administrative detail, and deviation from the normal workflow needed; having to do that work regularly sounds like my actual nightmare.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, I’m sure there are people with ADHD who make freelancing work but it would definitely not be my first suggestion here. That would leave OP solely responsible for quite a lot of things that it sounds like they would prefer not to have responsibility for.

    4. Sun and clouds*

      I was also thinking of a job with a physical component/lots of movement. My impression of LW is that they like and are good with people but a more causal setting would be ideal where professions norms are more relaxed but also where people are comfortable telling coworkers to tone it down if things start going off track. Best of luck!

      1. Retired Merchandiser*

        You won’t get rich doing it, but merchandising might be a good option to consider. After you’re trained, you pretty much work by yourself on your own timetable.
        I kind of fell into this work after the place I worked closed and realized it was just right for me. You stay busy, and even though there’s detail, unless you’re resetting a section with shelving and such it’s not so nitpicky and you can usually take the amount of time you need.

    5. Ariadne Oliver*

      I agree, freelancing is probably a good idea, or perhaps just a more creative line of work.
      I work in a large-ish company doing (and hiring for) just what the OP has experience in (global qual/quant research, data analysis, writing), and have to say that the issues that OP cites would just not fly with this kind of job. Attention to detail and the ability to independently produce a quality, finished product — honestly, those are some of the most important things I look for in that role (and as an interviewer, are actually part of my go-to answer to Alison’s ‘magic question.’) And that’s beside the question of whether people appreciate working with a ‘hilarious f-up’ on their team.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Freelancing is often a huge challenge for folks with ADHD because we typically need SOME external guardrails to support us. It’s definitely not impossible, but it can be really easy to go wrong if your mistakes result in you not making rent. I would caution OP to factor that into their considerations. There is a goldilocks zone of structure in the workplace somewhere between no structure and highly corporate structure.

        1. Zap R.*

          THIS. People say “Just freelance!” but I need the boundaries, guidelines, and low-stakes social interaction of a traditional workplace.

          People also like to say “Just find a job where you can be creative!” which is easier said than done. And even if I did find a unicorn job with exactly the right combination of characteristics I’d need to succeed, I’d still have an executive functioning disability.

          OP, I’d be really cautious about freelancing.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            Going through a temp agency – or even one of those agencies that places creatives – might be a better option for OP. The agency will take care of the detail work that can challenge ADHD’ers (taxes, etc.) and will do the legwork of finding positions.

      2. Stitch*

        The problem is OP’s coworkers probably don’t find their stuff funny. OP has to stop thinking of themselves as the “hilarious f-up” and realize that sexual oversharing and lack of boundaries isn’t funny.

          1. Anon4This*

            As someone with severe ADHD, believe me, this is not an assessment we carelessly make about ourselves. Our friends and loved ones are never hesitant to cheerfully remind us about what lovable, hilarious fuck ups we are every time the opportunity arises. It’s not even meant to be malicious- NT people seem to think it is some kind of affectionate compliment when it is actually just another teeth grinding reminder of how we can barely function in even the most rote & menial of tasks required to function in modern society. It’s as frustrating, condescending, and insulting as the constant refrain of “I don’t understand why someone with your [obvious advantage] can’t/won’t/doesn’t want to live up to your full potential” and not an image we WANT to be associated with.

            1. afiendishthingy*

              Yep – that was definitely a self-preserving self-deprecating quip by OP. I used to have a “joke” at an old job that I was “skating by on my personality”. I was fundamentally unsuited to the role and we all knew it by the end, but I did have some good relationships there. basically…. it’s not actually a joke. OP thinks they’re a fuck-up who happens to make people laugh until they misjudge where the line is. I promise you they’re not happy about that.

            2. Siege*

              Yep. I got tired of it being a hilarious joke in my Toastmasters club that I can’t estimate time (because I have no experience of it passing!) so I did a whole speech on what ADHD is and … got the feedback that my speech went over time and I should respect the time of others. After I spent 20 minutes explaining that I cannot do this and it’s not that I don’t want to or don’t understand the point. So I guess I’m just going to stop giving speeches because I am so tired of NT people acting like this is just a silly quirk I’m refusing to change and actually I don’t have a disability, I just like to pretend I do for ExposureBucks or something,

              1. Jaydee*

                I feel so sorry this happened to you! I also have ADHD and can’t for the life of me keep a speech within the allotted time. And a big part of my job is speaking/presenting. The one thing that has helped is having a visible timer or someone in the audience with cards to show how much time is left. Sure seems like that would be something your Toastmasters group could do to actually help you rather than just pointing out the obvious problem that you clearly weren’t already aware of.

                Imagine if someone with a stutter or lisp gave a speech at Toastmasters? Would their feedback be “try not stuttering” or “try pronouncing your r’s and s’s correctly”? If a blind person gave a speech would they get feedback that they should make better eye contact? If a person who uses a wheelchair gave a speech, would they get feedback that standing up would help them project better? I mean, I can definitely imagine some people being that clueless. But hopefully most people would realize these are things that the speaker truly cannot control and the feedback might then shift to either other things or to ways to work around or accommodate the speaker.

                1. Siege*

                  Yes … see, the problem with that is that telling me I have five minutes left tells me nothing at all about how many of my planned points and examples I will get through per minute, because I can’t estimate how much content fits into the time I only know is passing because someone is telling me, so I have no way of knowing when I need to stop giving points and go to a conclusion that the traditional timing method doesn’t already tell me.

                  And, of course, my only actual point was to add another example of the ways in which many people with ADHD are treated as silly people doing a comedy bit, and that it is painful to be treated as though we’re that but also stupid and unable to come up with our own solutions.

              2. Sickofdoingtheboringstuff*

                What do you think the appropriate response to your going over time would be? For example, I have a student this year who will talk over everyone in class discussion. I know this is part of his asd, but other students continue to deserve airtime and to have their ideas listened to. It can’t just be a one-way understanding that he has trouble with social norms due to his divergency and the remaining students must accept the negative consequences to their own work.

                1. Siege*

                  I mean, my solution isn’t working, so I have no idea. I’m just planning to stop speaking because I’m tired of repeated feedback that what I have to say in a forum I have been given isn’t welcome. And, of course, there’s also the fact that giving a speech in Toastmasters is not the same as facilitated discussion on a single topic, so I have no ideas how to make that fair until and unless the person himself (in your case) decides to rein himself in.

                2. Kuzco’s Llama*

                  For longer toastmaster-length speeches, I’ve seen success with visible timers and/or cards. Yellow card = one minute left = finish the point you are making but don’t make any new ones. Red card = you are at time = finish your sentence and that’s it. Or some variation therein. The trick for me was translating “one minute left” (a unit of time that means nothing to me) to “finish this thought and do one wrap up/thank you sentence” (an action I can take that will prevent me from going too far over time). You may have already tried this – just sharing what works for me.

                  For someone repeatedly talking over others, you might try a set of rules to structure the conversation, and then facilitate discussion to enforce those rules.
                  i.e., nobody can talk over others & if you do you’ll be asked to write down your thought and wait your turn; raise your hand to be added to the list of speakers in order; he who hold the conch shell has one uninterrupted minute to speak; etc. Providing an alternative action (raising hand to be added to speaker list, writing down thought) as a part of the rule can be helpful to know where to put your energy next.
                  And then, every time any student talks over another, a deliver calm but consistent “Michael, please hold your thought until Michelle is done speaking.” Repeat every time, calmly and consistently, like a function: if f(x)=y, then the function of speaking over another is a reminder to wait. It’s not a punishment, just a structure for fair air time.

                  The structure of having rules can be more helpful to NDs than expecting adherence to social norms, and the consistent reinforcement lends weight to the structure rather than picking and choosing the most egregious offenses (shades of grey that we NDs don’t always see).

                  Again, you may have tried this or it might not apply to your group size or setup, just sharing what I’ve seen work in group dynamics that include ND folks.

    6. Moonlight*

      Freelancing is actually a nightmare for a lot of people, like myself, who are neurodivergent because we already struggle with things like needing consistency, stability, etc. freelancing can be a nightmare because you’re having to do marketing to promote yourself, constantly taking on new projects, you have to do things like budgeting etc. – you’re not just focusing on whatever your job actually is.

      But yeah I agree that white collar jobs aren’t for everyone. Part of the problem that I have encountered is that a lot of things are “white collar”. Working in academia, government, start ups, nonprofits, and corporate jobs all have similar vibes… there might be a significant difference to someone else, but having working on pretty much all those areas OR knowing people who do and have told me a lot about it, I know that issues around detail orientation, impulse control, and general “eccentricity” can be problems pretty much everywhere unless you’re lucky enough to find somewhere that loves taking advantage of neurodiversity.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Yeah, it depends so much on one’s specific ND experiences. Freelancing meets my ND needs for a highly non-traditional schedule, lots of novelty, and control over my environment and how I work, but it works against my executive function stuff around business management.

      2. nora*

        Even within those settings it’s so dependent on leadership and team dynamics! I switched from one academic department to another at the same university, in a similar role. In the first department, eccentricities abounded and even had more casual workplace norms in clothing, etc. And in the next, I definitely got cultural whiplash. Everything about it was more formal and restrictive. There was a grandboss change and that lessened somewhat, but I went for a really long time feeling really lonely; there were zero work friendships and everyone kept to themselves.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Ooh, this reminds me of the infamous “Halloween Town” letter. That was a business run by ND people who mostly hired ND people.

    7. PhilG*

      I was thinking Park Ranger or Wildlife Department type roles. And that role might qualify for public service loan forgiveness.

    8. PsychNurse*

      I was thinking the same re: outdoorsy jobs! Park ranger? Honestly, a low-paying job that you can keep consistently and do 40 hours a week without getting fired is going to net you way more than a series of office jobs that you get fired from.

      1. LMEmployee*

        I would not recommend ranger jobs as something that can be easily got or held consistently. They’re pretty competitive, and sometimes the best way “in” is to accept that you need to work many years as part time seasonal to get equivalent “time in grade” to qualify for permanent roles. And the way “in” to those seasonal roles is a creating a federal resume, which notoriously require a high level of detail and editing to get through the system.

      2. Chirpy*

        Park ranger actually requires law enforcement training. You may be thinking of park naturalist/ interpreter.

    9. Nom*

      Your first paragraph is on point! TBH, the white collar professional world is not the end-all-be-all that our culture makes it out to be. There are plenty of physically active jobs that pay a living wage and offer good benefits.

      For example: My brother-in-law is an arborist employed by a city government. He gets to climb trees and plant saplings and drive big trucks and chop up wood with a chainsaw. He works 9 months per year and has the winter off, and still earns a solid annual salary. Is he going to become fabulously wealthy doing this? No, but he earns enough to lead a solidly middle class life, and he gets to ski all winter.

      If OP is genuinely interested in doing wildfire suppression with goats, that is actually a viable career path. If not, it sounds like they have field work experience that could readily translate into other career paths that aren’t solely office based. Our culture fetishizes the office job but that is not the only kind of work that is valuable—and reasonably compensated.

      1. triss merigold*

        Yeah! My first thought when I saw the goat thing was, hey, there are businesses you can do and earn money from that aren’t pretty traditional white collar stuff. Learn to shear sheep and alpacas, work on a farm, learn a craft (woodworking, for example, but there are lots of others) and get a partner who is better at liaising with clients while you do more of the actual hands on work. It might be that some of these aren’t enough to keep student loans paid, but it’s worth looking into them.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Depending on the type of details OP has trouble remembering, an apprenticeship to a trade might be a good career path. Maybe not working with electricity or other “must be correct the first time” fields, but I know plumbers and similar are in high demand and well-paid.

          1. Holly*

            I was going to say this, I have a friend with extreme ADHD and she’s found good work in the trades, I think doing construction. It seems to me like it would be a good outlet for all that energy and there’s lots of oversight to make sure things go well (in terms of details and adhering to rules etc).

            1. metadata minion*

              Yeah, as someone else who struggles with detail, there’s a subset of detail-oriented jobs that you’d think I’d be terrible at, but which are actually perfect for me because they realize nobody is going to do this crucial thing perfectly every time so there are checklists and double-checks and other safety measures.

          2. Tiger Snake*

            However (and its frustating that we have to say, but it does need acknowledging) apprenticeships are harder to obtain as you get older. They’re oriented to young, just-out-of-school types not just culturally but in the way they’re structured from a pay and legal standpoint. Getting ‘mature apprenticeship’ options is hard because there’s just fewer of them.

            Which is not to say the OP shouldn’t go for it. Its absolutely a viable option and a good career path. But its probably going to be a lot of effort before seeing the payoff. Its a great option, so long as the OP considers it very seriously about whether this actually does suit her and where she wants her life to go, rather than jump on the bandwagon of the internet.

          3. Stefanie*

            I’m glad to see this mentioned.

            My husband switched from physical therapy to being an electrician. He has ADHD and he’s great with the details of an electrical system, whereas the constant paperwork and documentation in his physical therapy career exhausted him and burned him out after a while.

            There are project manager or office roles within these kinds of companies that could possibly be a better fit than in other types of offices as well.

    10. Clobberin' Time*

      Thank you. I have worked with people who I’m sure would describe themselves as “high-achieving eccentrics” and who everyone else around them would describe as “problematic loose cannons”. Some of them remain in their ‘high achieving’ jobs because they’ve successfully dug into a position where they can force those working for them to compensate for (and often take the blame for) their deficiencies. Unless LW is a born-on-third white guy with a cohort of similar men willing to help them fail upward, I would not recommend this path.

    11. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      A friend who found teaching public school oppressive managed to find a gig with an outdoor training program for young people, where they are thriving. Might be worth a look.

    12. JSPA*

      The LW already is temping. The LW wants a job that pays well. The LW does not want the major life-upheaval of their fantasy job. (Not to mention, lack of attention to detail is easily fatal in the backcountry.)

      LW, we don’t know enough. Are you intensely on-task the first time around, then lose focus as soon as repetition sets in? Or scattered from the start?

      Do you have the financial acumen to parachute in as a financial investigator? If you’re excellent for 3 to 10 days, rinse-and-repeat, that could be a fit.

      How desk-y and how much money? I’ve worked with some realtors who fit your self assessment. That’s a job where people expect you to be pulled in every direction, and to respond based on who’s blowing up your phone most insistently. (So long as someone else is prepping the sales contract).

      How about industrial food plant inspection? Would the 95% that you get right, be the key 95%? Would being at a new site every few days push you over the edge, or click you into hyperfocus?

      In general, “I am the person with the incisive creativity and the clipboard among the hardhats” might be the “white collar job in blue collar world” scenario that stops you from staring into space and frittering time, in the face of “too much sameness.”

      1. Aerin*

        The specifics of your flavor of ADHD are indeed really important. Like, for me I struggle with incremental progress, but thrive on solving problems where I can see immediate results. And some weird switch flips for me when I am solving problems for other people vs. solving them for myself. So I was great at stage managing, or when I did guest control/special events at the Mouse, instances where having an immediate solution is usually preferable to having the best possible solution and the problems are highly unpredictable. The fireworks cancel halfway through so we need to get the viewing area rope down rightthissecond? Doesn’t matter if it’s wrapped around me rather than the bone, at least it’s off the ground, just get to the split and we can redo it once the street is clear. Duct tape that dress together if the zipper is stuck during a quick change, as long as she doesn’t miss her cue. I lived for it.

        This translated pretty well to a desk job in tech support. It provides a similar sense of immediacy and variety (and a similar dopamine hit for being the one who ensures the show can go on, even if the show is running reports). And my current role has enough structure that I don’t have to guess what I should be doing right now, but not so much that it’s stifling.

        So LW, you might benefit from doing some really deep thinking about the things that make your brain light up in all the right ways, and get
        specific as possible. Is the appeal of being a goatherd the outdoors? The solitude? The low stress? The caretaking? Each of those might suggest a different career path. Being specific will also help you figure out what you need to look for in a workplace, since that can make as much or more difference than finding the right field.

        1. Presea*

          Indeed. I don’t know how many people will see this at this point, but I want to specify that I was writing my comment from the point of view of someone who also has ADHD and other neurodivergencies and who found a career that works very well with my brain by way of contracting. I think your comment gets at the heart of what I actually meant by my advice to freelance/temp much more eloquently; I was mostly thinking that freelancing and other things like that could help the OP try several fields hands-on.

    13. Some Dude*

      I know a fair amount of folks who couldn’t handle corporate life and now are dog walkers or landscapers or park rangers or facilities managers or other jobs that are more hands-on and not in a desk all day. Heck, sometimes I think of doing that.

      Also, as someone who is sometimes A LOT, I think there are ways you can temper your A LOTness to keep it more professional. Not talking about sex/race/politics/drugs/your personal relationships, for example.

    14. TG*

      I love this – you sound offbeat and unique and I think you need to market yourself, maybe as your own boss.
      Consult and/or freelance.
      Honestly maybe restaurants are your thing as they seem to be good places for a pretty open culture.
      Also try work on making your weaknesses stronger…it sounds like you do adapt when you see the need.

    15. Erin*

      Former hilarious fuck up with scorching ADHD here. I had the realization that I wanted to channel my energy into more productive things about 15 years ago.

      Cognitive behavioral therapy saved me. Yes, I’m medicated, and that helps. However, getting those behavioral impulses under control was something I desperately needed.

      It was time and money well spent, and when I’m feeling those old outbursts bubble up, I now have ways to cope and dial them down. You definitely are not alone, and I wish you much luck :)

  3. Butterfly Counter*

    Student loans or not, I think you should find something more aligned with being a shepherd who does wildfire prevention with goats. It sounds like it fits your energy level and puts you further away from coworkers you could potentially harm with your overstepping. I know you don’t mean it, but you are causing harm with your oversharing, questioning, and inappropriateness. Also, it sounds like a kind of passion for you. Once there, you can see where it takes you. Maybe there’s a way to profit that no one has thought of before?

    1. Observer*

      and puts you further away from coworkers you could potentially harm with your overstepping. I know you don’t mean it, but you are causing harm with your oversharing, questioning, and inappropriateness

      This is SO important.

      OP, you say that your religious tradition has a strong impetus to treating people as equals. That generally means that it also has strong negativity towards harming people. What you are doing IS harming people. Perhaps if you really grasp that, it would help you with this set of issues, perhaps with the help of a coach or therapist.

      1. Emily (she/hers)*

        Yes, treating people as equals and treating them as professionals in a working environment are not at all mutually exclusive. I think LW needs to get some more help to move forward.

      2. demzzz*

        I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the religious tradition OP grew up in is Quaker (or a similar church), which not so much has an emphasis on equality (which it most certainly does) but rather *informality*. Teachers in Quaker schools are referred to by first names, some of older Quakers still use “thou” and “thee” instead of you, because that used to be the informal version before it was dropped entirely. There’s not a lot of leadership within those church communities. If I am right, there are particular Quaker organizations that are focused on service work, as well as retreats that might be helpful. And yes, I think something like cognitive behavior therapy might help quite a bit.

          1. Ruthie*

            I’m a neurodivergent Friend! Given the unique perspective we share, I wouldn’t necessarily endorse some of the suggestions here to go into freelancing/run your own business. At least for me, that would be near impossible. And not just because of the admin tasks (which I am disastrous at), but because negotiating and charging people is deeply uncomfortable to me. My personal values are pretty incompatible with being an entrepreneur. Have you ever considered a relationship-based role? This could look like coordinating partner engagement for a nonprofit, direct community outreach, training, counseling (like first-time homebuyer programs), or Membership management. There are likely admin pieces to each of these, but success is really defined by how you relate to other people!

        1. MigraineMonth*

          As a warning, Quakers orgs tend to have very passive communication style. For example, I was taught that the traditional way of saying “We shouldn’t put A on committee X, that’s a terrible idea” is “That Friend would not have occurred to me.” If you have trouble picking up on subtle cues or have a blunt communication style, it can be a minefield.

        2. Sandgroper*

          This is what I thought too. Specifically Quaker (or “Friends” as they are commonly known in Australia), and it made me think of other work avenues. If this person identifies deeply still with their Friends tradition, then they probably would be happier working in an environment that includes a more egalitarian and community focus.

          I’m wondering if … while retraining for something else, the OP might like to work in something like NFPs that focus on out of school programs, nature and environmental protection, pastoral and spiritual care (if they can reel in the questions), or sex and street work education. Take that strong spiritual guidance to places that authoritarian control is less and use it to build a better world?

          It probably means a step down in income, but if the OP has an unstable work history then the best financial future is probably to establish consistent income and work. Then branch outwards.

          I’m sorry OP. Neurodiversity is quite the kick in the pants, and the corporate world really does like cookie cutter staff. It’s great if your cookie cutter mould can squeeze into the gaps but for people with severe ADHD I suspect it’s not the place for you.

          What about in the future exploring things like being a ranger (not sure the equivalent in America – in Australia in metro areas they do the animal control, parking enforcement and community squabbles for local councils, but they can work for Parks and Wildlife protecting and managing national parks etc as well), or a street chaplain working with street kids or similar – in Australia at least both of these are surprisingly well paid roles in niche industries that would give you lots of outside time, lots of human contact, and the ability to change tasks often.

        3. maggie*

          Having worked in a Quaker institution for almost a decade, this was my first thought as well. Some Quakers take the equality aspect to an extreme that other people would read as over-familiarity and inappropriateness. Quaker Voluntary Service is one of the organizations you’re probably thinking about that could be an option for OP to explore other types of work and live/work in an environment that matches their values.

    2. Adds*

      That’s what I was thinking as well… maybe something along the lines of working on a ranch or a farm or maybe something with a Forestry Department or Wildlife Management or a Department of Natural Resources, or maybe being a park ranger somewhere? Granted there’s probably not a lot of money in being a farm or ranch hand (which might work out ok, depending on lifestyle), and government jobs usually require a bit of finesse and aren’t necessarily easy to come by but it might be something to think about.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Not to keep boosting my industry, but there’s a lot of work in Parks & Rec at state and local levels as well as in nonprofits and even for-profit companies that do similar work or contract with Parks & Rec orgs. Federal jobs may be a little more difficult to come by, but outside of that we have tons of open positions and I recommend anyone interested check out the job board at our professional association, NRPA.

        1. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

          Another thing to consider with federal jobs is that it can sometimes take up to a year to get hired, even in non-classified positions.

          1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

            For true! Gov’t hiring is so protracted, and the higher up the pyramid you go the longer it gets. It took me nearly five months from applying to offer for my current job and I’m just municipal. I was also an internal hire for a very motivated supervisor.

        2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          If OP is in an urban area, there are also county and city park departments, plus various not-for-profits doing everything from greenspace development to wildlife rescue. There are positions that aren’t hands-on, such as finance and logistics, that wouldn’t require specialized “outdoorsy” education, but still put a person in that world.

    3. Jane Brain*

      There are shepherds who hire out sheep as eco grass cutters / wildfire prevention. You probably need a bit of entrepreneurship to get something like that going, and I don’t know how well it pays, but…

      1. Janeric*

        Here they’re mostly immigrants from Peru/Ecuador on H-2A visas — they’re hired by people in the US who maintain the herd and coordinate. They technically have to be paid at least minimum wage 24 hours a day while they’re with the goats but I haven’t talked to any herders who have gotten paid for anything other than active hours. (Wage theft? In my American agriculture? It’s more likely than you think!)

        I guess if LW has access to some acres for grazing when the goats aren’t on the job and/or speaks Spanish or Quechua, it might be feasible? I think fodder is about to get a lot more expensive though, so I wouldn’t want to get my feet wet in that business now. The visa process is also pretty detail oriented, if they wanted to hire skilled shepherds. I also don’t think project management of goatherds in the current environment would be a good fit for someone with a strong sense of equality.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Depending on if the herders are doing the job through force, fraud, or coercion, it also might be labor trafficking.

        2. Dinah*

          You sound like you already know way more about this than I do, but coming at this from the immigration services perspective: if the herders you know feel okay about it, you may want to connect with a farmworker aid group to possibly report the wage theft to DOL or CIS or consider other action.

          Also, as Butterfly Counter said, if the issue is severe enough to constitute peonage it could be a trafficking issue leading to a T visa. It’s happened with H-2B workers.

    4. Janeric*

      I have a similar personality to the LW with a similar abstruse sense of humor, and environmental compliance for construction was a good fit for me. It’s less of a “94 step process needs to be executed” job and more of a “there are about a dozen things that COULD go wrong and if they do you have to think on your feet. Strong PM skills are a plus, If you show up in time and don’t punch anyone you’re not getting fired, everyone starts over sharing on like day three on the site, you’re outside the hierarchy, and sometimes you get to work with goats doing weed control or rescue frogs. Also the US infrastructure is under maintained and most of it was built before current environmental regulations so it’s a growing field. You DO have long hours and early mornings, which is why I’m talking about it in the past tense.

      1. MansplainerHater*

        and construction environmental compliance pays really well (good salary + per diem on top).

    5. Not A Girl Boss*

      I used to work with a bunch of wildfire firefighters, and later with oil rig firefighters, and honestly reading this I thought “you’d fit right in with that group.”

      There are lots of esoteric jobs out there that would be a good fit for your personality, bring you in contact with people who share your personality, and pay pretty well because weird hands-dirty jobs tend to pay well.

      Honestly, can you just watch a bunch of old episodes of Dirty Jobs and see if anything strikes your fancy?

  4. OrigCassandra*

    Some parts of academia tolerate much more weirdness than the corporate world generally will. I’m living proof — me and my unnaturally-dyed hair and my fat body and my in-your-face-nerdy apparel.

    There’s no shortage of jobs for data analysts and project managers, though I will say some of the offices where data analytics is most common are rather more corporate than the atmosphere in a typical academic department.

    If there’s a university near you, consider adding its job board to your web peregrinations, if only to get a sense of what kinds of jobs are available that you might enjoy.

      1. len*

        Yes. Speaking as a research professor, someone who can’t pay attention to detail and struggles to maintain boundaries with research participants would not be a good fit. Those might be the two most important traits in the role, data analysis can be taught.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I work in an academic environment on projects which have trained project managers (ie, not random faculty pushed into the task), and these are the people who compensate for the rest of us who are very bright but easily distracted by cool ideas and resistant to organized processes. They’re the ones who poke us to properly file and complete JIRA tickets, make sure that individual people aren’t overloaded with tasks, track and enforce deadlines, keep lists of outstanding details, make sure that the git repository is up to date and properly merged, occasionally text people to remind them a meeting is starting…

        I love project managers because they’re great at the stuff I’m terrible at. I’m also not a research professor because while I’m good at high level technical work an analysis, I work much better when there is someone above me providing deadlines and structure.

    1. Mr. Cajun2core*

      With your research skills, I am thinking possibly in academia doing literature reviews, finding articles, etc. I am thinking of a research assistant to a professor. There are some out there that a quirky enough to be able to tolerate you. I had a job once where basically the professor said, “Find me all articles containing, X, Y, and Z keywords.” I would look them up and send him the articles. The pay wasn’t great but it sounds like you can already do this. One problem though would be if the professor would expect you to format articles the professor is submitting. That requires very much attention to detail.

    2. CRM*

      As a former University data analyst who worked at three different universities, I would absolutely not recommend that line of work for OP. The environment was far more uptight and conservative (in terms of professionalism, not politics) than any other industry I have worked in. Also, attention to detail was crucial and mistakes were heavily criticized. I often interacted closely with University leadership, which doubled on the pressure.

      1. CRM*

        That being said, I think that OP might thrive in a research environment (either in academic or for a nonprofit). It’s my experience that researchers are more tolerant of weird personalities, and there are usually built-in opportunities to check for mistakes/errors in detail. Obviously there are some research areas that may require more attention to detail and professionalism, such as medicine and biochem, but there are many other areas that would probably be a good fit for OP. They already have a publication on their resume so it would be that much easier to get their foot in the door. And once you get established somewhere it’s nearly impossible to get fired, especially if you start publishing and teaching. You can definitely make a career out of it.

        1. OPe*

          It’s so funny to see commenters discourage the exact fields I’ve worked in: medicine/healthcare/public health, law, and biotech.

    3. Emily (she/hers)*

      I work in the staff side of academia. Yes, there is more tolerance for weirdness, but typically only for people who are very, very good at what they do. There’s also quite a lot of nuanced politicking that one needs to do to get ahead. LW could probably get and keep a lower-level job though (maybe $30k-$40k annual salary), and there’s certainly stability.

    4. Catwoman*

      I work in university data analytics. You may consider getting into the development side of data analytics in academia. It sounds counterintuitive based on what you said about attention to detail BUT this side of data analytics has a lot of redundancies kind of baked-in. Nothing goes in to production without code review and it’s a fairly collaborative environment. If you genuinely like this kind of work and it generates enough novelty/variance to keep you interested, I would think about it. The developers also rarely interact with stakeholders directly so there’s a higher tolerance for “weirdness” and more of a buffer for inappropriate impulses.

    5. Think of The Manager*

      I manage an analytic group at a major academic medical center and my first thought was “LW would fit in here in so many ways” but my second thought was “and would likely drive their manager over the edge”.

    6. Data/Lore*

      As an analyst, and a parent to a child with ADHD that even when medicated resembles Tazz from Looney Toons in terms of energy level, it is not a job I would recommend to someone with ADHD. The sort of work done as an analyst is not something a person whose ultimate passion is wildfire management with goats would thrive at- using my anecdotal experience, there’s not enough variation and movement to stimulate a brain running on ADHD, and I’d expect to see a lot of unregulated behavior and tics as a result (inappropriate comments, boundary crossing behavior, impulsive speech or actions, etc is usually a sign my child is not regulating energy or emotion well and we need to evaluate what is going on and adapt something).

      1. turquoisecow*

        Data analyst here and yeah it’s super detail oriented, and I don’t have ADHD but I find it hard to focus on it for long because it can be quite tedious. Not something I’d recommend for someone who has trouble being detail oriented.

  5. Anon4This*

    I do not want to armchair diagnose so I won’t go into details, just ask are you sure ADHD is the only thing going on? The impulse control issues could be something else that a different diagnosis and medication could help with.

      1. Future silver banker*

        My bank account seconds this… my sister calls it “bat shopping” because every day with no fail I’d be buying something random after 11:30 PM when my ADHD meds wear off

      2. Emily (she/hers)*

        True, but ADHD also has comorbidities like Oppositional Defiant Disorder and bipolar disorder. (I have ADHD myself.)

      3. Fishsticks*

        Married to a man with ADHD, have two kids who almost definitely have severe ADHD but are currently only being talked about as moderate, and I’m on the autism spectrum. Impulse control issues are absolutely the bane of my entire household’s existence, and impulse control is absolutely one of the hallmarks of ADHD.

        Calling it “attention deficit” was never accurate. The attention is there. Just hard to control exactly where it’s going.

        1. 1LFTW*

          Calling it “attention deficit” was never accurate. The attention is there. Just hard to control exactly where it’s going.

          Thank you for this. I was well into my thirties before I found the right medication and was finally able to “pay attention”. As in, I could finally direct my attention to where it needed to be, of my own volition. I was like, oh, *this* is what “paying attention” is!

          Impulse control can look like different things in different people. Ditching work, lots of traffic violations, overspending, oversharing, or browsing the internet instead of prepping for a meeting are only a few examples.

        2. RagingADHD*

          I’ve always liked the alternate phrase “attention dysregulation disorder” and wish it would catch on. I can hyperfocus like gangbusters, it is just random and unpredictable.

        3. Lily*

          Truly. I have loads of attention. So much so that it can go in several (unhelpful) directions at once!

        4. Tau*

          I got diagnosed with ADHD last week and this is what kept me from seeking out help for ages. Not only did I already have an autism DX which I thought explained everything, but I never felt like I didn’t have enough attention. More that it just plain didn’t go where I wanted it to. Add to that relative lack of hyperactivity and it’s no wonder it took me to my mid-thirties to get here.

        5. Siege*

          The pathologization of ADHD is the pathologization of what annoys NTs about it, not about what actually marks it as a condition. Your comment about attention deficit is correct: it’s just that what we pay attention to annoys NTs because it’s not the things they think we should be paying attention to.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Not entirely. I can’t pay attention to the things I personally want and need to pay attention to, and it is a problem in my life.

            Not because of what other people think. Because it interferes with me doing things I want to do, enjoying things I want to enjoy, and having things I want to have.

            The idea that ADHDers can pay attention “when they really care” is a myth. Mental & emotional engagement that stimulates the brain is not the same thing as one’s own values and personal priorities. There are a lot of things I care about deeply that don’t flip the focus switch, and a lot of things I find trivial or annoying that do.

    1. ES*

      As a person with ADHD, LW has textbook severe ADHD. Other comorbidities of ADHD manifest because of the ADHD not the other way around. If you aren’t super familiar with ADHD, it is easy to get this concept flipped.

  6. Kaiko*

    Love this question. It sounds like consulting, if that’s feasible in your field, may be one way to select for clients and colleagues who won’t punish you for your goatherd sensibilities. Building a team that not only tolerates but values eccentricity and a sense of humour will probably be better than trying to round hole your square peg.

    That being said, definitely take the feedback on oversharing or topic appropriateness – a goofy approach marries well with excellent work (at least in my experience), but you can burn a lot of goodwill by crossing boundaries.

    1. Catsforbrains*

      Yup. As a former consultant and terminally casual person I recommend it to LW if you find a company culture that feels right for you. It sounds like you’re great at synthesizing, talking to people (even though there’s some work finding the right social norms there), and seeing the big picture.

      Do you have any friends or peers whose jobs you admire? In terms of figuring out what’s out there I find if my friends are welcome and considered appropriate at work, I stand a chance too. Finding a good fit with company culture is hard. Good luck out there!

    1. ecnaseener*

      The reason you’re getting pushback on “just get your issues handled” is that ADHD isn’t curable. It’s a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a mental illness (not that those are easily curable either!). Sometimes it goes away in early adulthood, but if it doesn’t, it’s lifelong. If you’re very lucky, you can find a treatment that reduces your symptoms to an extent, but otherwise you can’t make them go away – you can just manage them.

      1. Fishsticks*

        It can be really tough to get people to see the difference between “have a problem with this particular thing sometimes” and “my brain structure is literally made to create a series of difficulties when it comes to the structure of modern society where I live”. People really struggle with seeing that bigger picture.

        1. Boof*

          It’s a spectrum… just like someone who is short can compensate for some skills in basketball, they’re still always going to be beat by someone with equivalent skills but more height (I think??) and better off not setting their sights on the NBA – focus on some other sport if they really want to be an athlete – same thing with attention. There’s some things that are easier for other people and at a certain point it’s better to focus on something that doesn’t hammer your weaknesses instead of pretending those weaknesses don’t exist, or trying to strengthen the weaknesses when they can only be shored up so much and/or maybe there’s something that is just plain easier. There’s no prize for doing life on hard mode.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    Also from a religious background that emphasizes equality here: I think you’re confusing equality as people with equality as coworkers/employers.

    Treating someone with some deference because they’re your supervisor/manager/boss doesn’t mean you think they’re a better person than you/your coworkers/anyone else–it means that you recognize that this is someone who is at a different level within the company than you are, who has different and often more complex responsibilities, and who has the right to give you reasonable orders in a work context.

    If my supervisor asks me to make a zillion photocopies of [whatever] it’s not that she thinks she’s too good to do it herself–it’s that it’s literally part of my job, while she handles other things that are part of her job but not of mine. If I ask my coworker whom I sorta-supervise on certain projects to do things X way, it’s not that I glory in bossing her around, it’s that this is a skillset that I have and she does not, and it’s my job to convey this process to her and make sure she understands it. Nicely and respectfully, but nevertheless.

    You may also be assuming that other people have the same motivations you do and won’t take advantage of you if you fail to assert authority where you should, or maybe you don’t really want that authority and this is a good way to avoid it? I’ve been a supervisor before and I hate it–I’m perfectly happy to do my work and let someone else manage me along with everyone else. And that’s fine. But it would not be fair for me to take on a supervisor position and then not do it because it made me uncomfortable.

    1. Army of Robots*

      “I can have moments where I treat people more like equals than like professionals in a working environment” doesn’t sound like “I’m insufficiently deferential to the hierarchy” to me, though; it sounds like the LW has confused “equality” with “I must talk exactly the same way to my coworkers as I do to my siblings and frat/sorority mates”.

      1. Renna*

        I think OP is confusing Equality with Equity. The latter is the greater virtue. Equality, after all, involves treating all people the same way *rather than treating them differently so they can end up with equal results.*

        I love the fence metaphor. Bunch of people are trying to watch a baseball game over a tall fence. If you give everyone a small box to stand on to see, that’s equality. The 6’4″ man has no need of it and the little kid is still staring at the fence because it isn’t enough for him. Give the tall man nothing, the middle-height person a small box, and the short little kid a ladder and then they can all see over the fence. That’s equity.

        1. C*

          Change the fence to a chain-link or something else that’s see-through and no one will have to stand on anything

      2. Giant Kitty*

        ““I can have moments where I treat people more like equals than like professionals in a working environment” doesn’t sound like “I’m insufficiently deferential to the hierarchy” to me, ”

        I’m AuDHD and my issues with higher ups at work have ALWAYS been of the “I’m insufficiently deferential to the hierarchy”. It’s actually a pretty common feature of neurodivergence to view people in authority as equals and a LOT of people don’t like it.

        I was always able to rein myself in at work (I took drama in school and viewed my “work persona” the same as playing the character of “Excellent Employee” on stage.) I learned my manners as a kid and am ALWAYS polite, respectful, and professional at work as well as warm & friendly. I did not give anyone reason to have issues with my behavior, and my direct managers usually loved me because I was a good worker as well.

        And yet…even being perfectly polite, respectful, & professional around the people who want power over others isn’t ENOUGH. They KNOW when people see them as equals instead of being “above” them- and they resent it to hell and back. I’ve had these kinds of people *go out of their way* to make shit up to fire me over, because there was nothing in my actual behavior or work product they could find fault with to do so. One was so angry that they not only fired me on the basis of wild nonsense they had completely fabricated, they then used this fabricated story to ruin my reputation through the entire company by using it as an example/object lesson/cautionary tale of “bad employee”. All because I was not intimidated by them when they came to my store and acted like a glassbowl, including making one of my employees cry (and this made me more angry than getting fired & lied about.)

        1. Lasslisa*

          Thank G-d for engineering culture where they at least give lip service / try to value unvarnished technical judgment. You still have to have a filter for “the purpose of this meeting is to answer the auditor’s questions, not to answer all MY questions”, but that was possible for me to acquire, and “I shouldn’t contradict this person because they’re my manager, even if they have the facts wrong” is hilariously inconceivable. Why wouldn’t they want the right facts?? In engineering, they often do.

    2. Observer*

      You may also be assuming that other people have the same motivations you do and won’t take advantage of you if you fail to assert authority where you should,

      That’s really important. But also, sometimes not asserting authority hurts people – including the people you have authority over. Even cultures that place a high value on consensus have a point where “the busk stops”. Sometimes someone needs to be the one who is making a final decision, allocating work, or managing behavior.

      Places that don’t have that or pretend to not have that tend to be very difficult places to work (and live).

  8. Whomst*

    I cannot relate to your problems and have no good advice, but I must say you sound like a very fun and fascinating person and I wish I could be friends with you.
    (My poor advice is that you become a boss and hire someone to clean up after you – I know many paralegals where their job is to follow behind the lawyer and clean up their work to be presentable, and I have had many grand-bosses whose assistants do the same thing.

    1. Observer*

      No. Please do NOT become a boss. Someone who doesn’t understand boundaries and the basic parameters of what is and is NOT proper authority is a nightmare boss.

      The OP doesn’t sound like a bad person. But they DO sound like someone who should not be managing anyone.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Agreed! Given what the OP described, becoming someone’s manager or boss sounds ripe for a situation where authority would be unintentionally misused.

    2. Sunshine*

      I want to be friends with you too.
      I could see some of these situations being off-putting without the details of your letter. It makes me think of how sometimes in elementary school we explain special needs to the class to help the group support and accept a student who would benefit. Not that you should (or that it would necessarily be appropriate in all circumstances) but it might be helpful to have a few advocates in your workplace.
      And I think there are lots of roles that are better for general success vs specific details. It’s just finding the niche. Your writing is fantastic.
      Good luck to you!

  9. lifebeforecorona*

    I googled the worm costume and I can’t stop laughing. I have nothing to contribute until I stop.

    1. Anon4This*

      I honestly can’t understand why they would get them fired. It’s hilarious and weird, but there’s nothing offensive about it.

      I really want to make a worm costume now, LOL.

      1. lilyp*

        Yeah at my work that would’ve been odd but not a big deal. But the standards are looser for letting temps go, and if it was a large department and an update email that’s typically serious I could see it being enough of a sign of bad judgement to be a dealbreaker for some people.

    2. Help Desk Peon*

      I shared that worm costume on our work slack lol. But we have a channel we created to share exactly that kind of weird, funny stuff.

  10. Constance Lloyd*

    I have a cousin who is a park ranger. He spends half the year hanging out in the woods and occasionally fighting forest fires on the Canadian border and half the year in Antarctica. I think there are many roles that don’t involve Antarctica, if massive sheets of ice aren’t your thing. The pay is not stellar, which is an unfortunate drawback, but he has never been happier.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      This came through while I was typing my comment below but seconded! I’m in Parks & Rec in an administrative role, but I have so many coworkers and people in my network who sound exactly like OP.

      The trouble is you can’t do this kind of work and also have high income and be considered high-achieving. Parks & Rec folk don’t command a lot of awe, but it’s honest, interesting, varied work.

      1. WS*

        Not necessarily – specialist firefighters, for example, can earn a lot, and they often have a full work year by swapping hemispheres so it’s always summer where they are. There’s a lot of analyst work there, too, in terms of planning and resource management.

    2. Stitch*

      I also have a cousin who’s a park ranger though and he does have to host big groups occasionally and coordinate with others.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I don’t think that’s necessarily a deal breaker. I don’t think OP should NEVER be around people. Hopefully their new med is helping with the “saying inappropriate things without thinking” part, and I think just having a job where the primary focus isn’t communications-related and they’re not in an office talking to others all day would help.

        1. Stitch*

          I think where I land is that OP should find a better fit but they also have to acknowledge that they have to keep trying medications and therapy. I have a sibling with a similar issue and it took a few tries to find both medications and a doctor who worked for her.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            I did not in any way get the sense that OP didn’t know they would have to continue treating their ADHD.

      2. ecnaseener*

        That should be fine for LW, I’d think – they like people and say they’re a good teammate. An overly-casual manner isn’t a big problem for a park ranger, I’m guessing.

        I have heard that park ranger jobs are hard to get, or you need specific education, or something…but there’s other similar jobs like nature center guide and whatnot.
        (This part is a bit cynical, but govt-run jobs aren’t the worst idea for someone who keeps getting fired for things that govt infamously lets people get away with.)

        1. Stitch*

          I kean my park ranger cousin has a biology degree, is a certified ski instructor and through hiked the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails. It’s really not easy.

          1. Chickadee*

            A law enforcement background is only necessary for law enforcement rangers. (Who claim they’re the only “true” park rangers but everyone else rolls their eyes at that.) Natural resource management requires a bachelors degree (or Masters if you want to go higher up the chain), interpretation may or may not require a degree (I haven’t worked in that division), and maintenance doesn’t require a degree.

          2. BearFeet*

            You absolutely do not need a law enforcement background unless you’re trying to be an LEO. There are lots of other park ranger jobs.

        2. A Nonny Mouse*

          As someone who was an interpreter/environmental educator at nature centers for many years, it isn’t a job that anyone can do. You work frequently with children, so some of the incidents OP mentioned would be an immediate dismissal. But it was a wonderful career – I was outdoors for over half the day, always learning new things and on the go, fascinating co-workers.

    3. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

      Yes, definitely consider a career in the outdoors OP, since you seem interested. Herds of goats or sheep can be used to combat invasive weeds in areas with difficult terrain and/or sensitive soil. With your background in research, I think you’d be great at researching and implementing invasive weed control or fire management. Do both and you really could be a fire fighting shepherd.

  11. wondermint*

    My first instinct is to tell you to try sales or customer success. Your approachability and unfussyness could work with the right person trying to onboard onto a service.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I would have to disagree heartily with this. Approachability is a great quality in a salesperson. A tendency to cross boundaries is very much not. Sales and account management is very much about reading the room– and reading different rooms differently. And knowing when it’s ok to be friendly and when it’s not.

      1. Bess*

        Agree–I’m a more casual, kinda snarky person–I’ve had someone in a sales role misjudge, and say some kind of offensive terms that made me pretty uncomfortable. Depending on what’s being sold, the customer can also feel pressure in those situations. There’s an informal style and then there’s a faulty filter–I think they’re different.

    2. urguncle*

      Definitely would discourage customer-facing gigs if there’s an issue with professionalism or impulse control. Customers will make you want to write and send the “well here’s what I think about you!” email all the time.

    3. Pierrot*

      I worked in sales/customer service and had a boss who had some of the issues that LW described (this was at a small business that she owned). She got a lot of pushback and negative reviews from customers– there were other issues, but I think boundaries was a big one. Working in customer service, boundaries are really important, as is impulse control. I’ve neurodivergent and have ADHD but my symptoms manifest differently than LW’s. I found that I was able to succeed in the customer service field but it was very exhausting to maintain the correct persona at all times.

  12. Amy*

    I’m not sure if you were joking but my neighbor has a goat business (goat yoga, goat hikes, goat birthday parties – she has done two birthdays for my kids.) She told me she nets about 45K a year after taxes and goat business expenses. It’s in a fairly low-cost area.

    That said, it’s actually quite detail oriented with all the goat births, care and events. She had a kid (as in goat) drown last week when she overfilled a water through. But she loves the lifestyle in general. No vacations however.

      1. Rocket raccoon*

        Well, not really. A lot of animal husbandry is doing the same thing twice a day every day. You don’t really have to think about it, you just go down the list.

        The rest is responding to emergencies. Water line broke, animals escaped, etc.

        But animal husbandry is neither high status nor pay.

        1. Observer*

          A lot of animal husbandry is doing the same thing twice a day every day. You don’t really have to think about it, you just go down the list.

          True, but you need to make sure that you go down the WHOLE list, and get the details of each item right. Eg your list is detailed enough that it lists Feed the Rams, the Nanny goats and the Kids. But you may need to remember that there are pregnant Nanny goats and non-pregnant Nanny goats. And you need to make sure that you are giving the right food in the right amounts to each group of animals.

          Then there are the routine things that don’t actually happen every day. So, you need remember which animals are going to need need shots, or when inspections are going to happen, etc. You need to makes sure this stuff is done and documented.

          And even with emergencies, you often need to be detail oriented and get it right the first time. Like if a water line breaks, when you get it fixed you need to test all the places where the water flows to make sure that all is done.

          It’s not for nothing that the top of this comment threat mentioned a kid drowning because the trough was over-filled. You can’t just slosh water in without checking to make sure that it’s an appropriate amount.

          Animal husbandry might actually be a good field for the OP, but it would have to be in a set up where they only do specific parts of the over all work.

      2. J*

        My sister has severe, currently untreated ADHD. She is, frankly, a whirlwind of chaos at home, despite her best efforts. If she makes it from one room to another without setting down and losing at least item (her phone, her purse, the TV remote, etc.) it’s a miracle.

        She’s also the most highly valued (and highly paid) senior vet tech at her workplace. She monitors, feeds, and medicates animals all day, and she never makes a mistake, because her ability to focus completely changes when she is face-to-face with an animal. (This is not in a private vet’s office – this is a large nonprofit research facility, where her work is audited regularly by both her superiors and by government agencies.)

        ADHD is not an on/off thing, it’s a complex disorder, and someone with no attention to detail in an office environment isn’t necessarily going to be ‘scatterbrained’ in other environments. Movement, outdoor exposure, and face-to-face work with people or animals all can have profound positive impacts on how a person with ADHD processes and recalls information.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t assume that OP struggling with attention to detail in the white-collar office settings they described would necessarily translate to difficulty remembering details about animals. It might, but that’s a very different situation. Some commenters seem intent on telling OP that there’s no job they would be good at.

        2. Anon4This*

          Same here. I couldn’t do an office job to save my life but I LOVED being a vet tech and I was darn good at it.

          1. OPe*

            I have a master’s degree, a PMP, collected and analyzed original mixed methods data, published via peer review, been awarded tens of thousands of dollars of merit funding, conducted research on four continents.

            All work is work. But I’m not incapable, just odd.

            1. vrcounselor*

              Hi OPe,
              I wonder if you have ever inquired at your states vocational rehabilitation dept? In CA it’s called department of rehabilitation (DOR) but has different, but similar names in other states to work with people with disabilities on their employment goals. ADHD diagnosis and some of the functional limitations you’ve experienced in your job history should qualify you. They have professional rehab counselors (like me!) who can work with you on career exploration, fund job training/education if needed, allow you to try out different roles to find a match. I do not think you are incapable at all, just gotta find that sweet spot. There are also private rehab counseling services if you prefer that, might even be some that specialize in neurodivergence- I don’t have one to recommend but something to maybe explore. I hope you might consider exploring this route!

        3. Sue*

          Please know what a blessing this comment has been for me. Like your sister, I am a ‘whirlwind of chaos’ that was able to focus deeply when caring for people experiencing homelessness. This now makes a bit more sense.

  13. thatoneoverthere*

    Creative based fields, music and art fields maybe a space you fit into better. I say this because I worked in one and there are a lot of eccentric but brilliant people who work in those fields. A

    What about a more hands on, blue collar type of position? I have alot of people I am close to with ADHD and they are so much better off, when they are busy, active, learning and moving. There are a lot of those jobs that desperately need people in them and willing to learn and grow in the field.

    I wish you the best of luck. Please don’t discount therapy, meds and the proper help and support. ADHD folks are some of the most brilliant folks I have met and can truly make a difference in this world!

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I think an issue with creative fields is that so much of the work is freelance and self-managed, and as much as it seems illogical, we ADHD folks actually do need some external structures to thrive. Self-employment could easily turn into a nightmare. It doesn’t have to! But it’s something to be aware of.

      You’re probably onto something with hands on work, though. A really critical piece of living with ADHD is moving and engaging your body and that’s something OP should think about when evaluating their work life.

      1. Cyndi*

        Another issue with creative fields is that they often foster a personal, including sexual, frankness, that wouldn’t fly in other fields and that can enable cultures of harassment and abuse that people roll with, cheerfully or reluctantly, BECAUSE those people get written off as “eccentric” and “colorful” and objecting to their behavior would be “uptight.”

        So I wonder if they might not be the best environment for someone who’s had trouble with interpersonal boundaries in their career so far and is looking to get a better handle on them.

      2. Nela*

        Yep, as a self-employed person with ADHD, it’s a huge learning curve with many opportunities to go off the rails. But for me personally it’s still better than any permanent job.

      3. afiendishthingy*

        Yep. I know I could NOT be self-employed. I’m autistic and inattentive ADHD, with my biggest challenge being executive function. I’ve really struggled with jobs that gave me a lot of flexibility in when and where to work, managing my own deadlines etc. I’ve done really well in my current role where although it’s 100% remote, we have set start and end times, and the work is mostly reactive rather than proactive (is that the right phrasing?) where I’m largely responding to things as they come in and a large part of our work needs to be done Now or By End of Day, not like I need to have everything done in 3 months, obviously progressing along the way.

        It is a drawback for me that it’s a sedentary job and I do miss the activity level of being on my feet a good part of the day in my previous 10-year special education career, but nothing is perfect.

        1. Parakeet*

          I am autistic and combined-type ADHD. My last job was a “reactive”/task-based job, and my current one is primarily “proactive”/project-based. I’d struggled before with some “proactive” jobs, but it turns out that having a reactive one for a while was great preparation, because now I just pretend that my largely-proactive job is a reactive one – breaking projects into bite-sized tasks and treating them, through how I structure my to-do lists (a habit from the reactive job), as things that have to be done Now or By End of Day on the days that I’ve slotted them for. I would never claim that it would work for everyone (you have to be able to maintain the pretending, for one thing), but it has worked better for me than I could have dared to hope.

      4. Anon Autistic*

        Same. I need the structure of regular employment – even as an introvert, I found that working from home full-time wasn’t good for me as I didn’t have the external incentive to, say, keep up with dental hygiene.

    2. gmg22*

      Second both of these ideas! I was recently diagnosed with ADHD and these are the kinds of questions I’ve been asking myself about career next steps, too.

    3. Annimal*

      Honestly, I’m in the arts and a lot of those brilliant eccentrics are a nightmare for everyone that has to work with them.

      High level jobs in the arts are still very much business focused – we may have more creative elements to them, but you still need to be able to manage a detailed budget and . Unless OP is already someone with extensive artistic knowledge and capable of being a creative/artistic director or something (which still involves long term planning, budgeting, and legal and financial negotiations, all of which also rests on the strengths of their relationships) AND has someone to do all the busy work for them, they’re going to be just as out of place in this field as any other.

      Also, most every good arts job truly comes down to people and relationship management, which primarily holds to the same value system as everyone else. Crossing boundaries is a surefire way to erode people’s trust in you and your work. I know you’ve worked in the arts, but for me it’s always been a workplace subject to all the same behavioral norms, unless you are a spectacular creative who is “forgiven” all their transgressions while everyone else cleans up the mess they leave in their wake.

      Can you tell I’m jaded as can be?!?!?!?!?! :)

      1. Light square*

        +1
        I’m always surprised when people think that arts folk are disorganised or… just waft around in a kaftan having ideas. That sounds like a nice, relaxing life! But arts people are generally paid to pull off ambitious projects with very pinched budgets, so I would say most of us are unusually practical and efficient.

      2. KT*

        Also, there are approximately 4 arts jobs available nationwide that pay decently well. All require 10+ years of experience.

  14. Becky*

    Additionally, I come from a religious tradition that emphasizes equality of all people, so I can have moments where I treat people more like equals than like professionals in a working environment.

    There is not a dichotomy between treating people like equals and treating people like professionals; it is definitely possible to treat someone like an equal and professionally.

    I am unclear if the job you describe where you asked people intimate questions about sex and gender if that was part of the job (such as a medical or counseling position of some sort). Assuming it was part of the job, answering back with your own intimate details (measured or not) isn’t treating someone like an “equal” it is treating them as a personal acquaintance/intimate acquaintance which is very different!

    Treating someone as an equal means treating them with respect and consideration regardless of the authority dynamics/professional/hierarchical differences at play. It means not being overly obsequious to those in higher authority but instead being confident in your role and skills and respecting theirs. It means being respectful to those whom you have authority over and treating them as whole people not workplace automatons.

    1. Becky*

      Additional thoughts:
      Treating someone as an equal can involve code switching–it still involves treating everyone with respect and consideration, but that can look different in a personal vs professional context.

      Treating your spouse as an equal is in a personal context and can look like conversations about division of responsibilities in the home, making sure each partner is comfortable with your relationship, having discussions about intimate things and respecting each other’s boundaries, not making gender-based assumptions about roles or responsibilities, etc.

      Treating some one as an equal in a professional context is going to look like listening to other people’s ideas rather than steamrolling them, respecting other people’s time and responsibilities, etc.

      1. WS*

        This is true, but part of ADHD (particularly if comorbid with autism) is that the code-switching can be extremely difficult to a) notice and b) perform. The OP may be perfectly aware of this concept and yet their upbringing along with their condition means that it’s a problem to put into practice, particularly when dealing with many different people in a day.

    2. Army of Robots*

      I wish I’d seen your comment before I said a less detailed version of this in reply to another comment.

      Imagine thinking that treating everyone equally means you have to treat a coworker *exactly the same* as you do your spouse, including physically — we hope everyone knows that’s a “no”, right? So build out from there.

    3. PsychNurse*

      I bumped on that too! I have occasionally met people who do interact with everyone the same way– i.e., they’ll share the details of their sex life with their mailman. It definitely makes them quirky. And it has nothing to do with religion or philosophy; it’s just an inability to understand that different types of relationships can have different norms.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the crying manager in the morning letter would have said she treated her subordinates as equals, letting them see her flounder.

    5. OPe*

      Someone upthread hit the nail on the head: “equality” is less the issue here than “formality”.

      1. Sparkle llama*

        I am Quaker, and find that due to the emphasis on equality (including not using titles, etc) I don’t naturally do things like saying Mr. Smith instead of Bob but I also work in local government which is fairly informal so it doesn’t come up much. I do sometimes struggle when presenting to council and needing to “respect the chair” but honestly that part of Robert’s Rules is tough for a lot of people.

        I tend to compromise on some of my Quaker values for city council meetings (I also stand for the pledge of allegiance but don’t say it). Maybe later in my career I’ll change but I am comfortable with the compromise for a meeting once a month. I think I would struggle if it were more common.

        1. Zee*

          I don’t naturally do things like saying Mr. Smith instead of Bob

          As an adult, I find it weird to call other adults Mr. Smith. (I don’t think kids should need to do this either, honestly). I’m grateful I’ve never worked somewhere with a boss who insisted on that. I think it’s a thing that is going away culturally, fortunately.

    6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      OP confirmed in another comment that he was raised as a Quaker, and someone else who is a Quaker commented that it is not just the emphasis on equality, but a major emphasis on informality in how they interact with each other and other people, that is a big part of the equation. So I think OP has been raised to treat everyone in a casual, informal, no barriers way. You are definitely right that he needs to reevaluate his understanding of equality and also learn to recognize where that is better achieved with boundaries and occasionally a more formal approach, especially in the workplace.

  15. bunniferous*

    For what it’s worth (and this is not actually a recommendation) a very large number of real estate agents have or at least show symptoms of ADHD. On the other hand if business is successful enough to employ an assistant that would be best of all possible worlds.

    My recommendation is to look for career fields/companies where being eccentric is acceptable and find ways to use your skillset there. Or maybe create your own? And for real, the right kind of assistant would be golden for you.

    1. Haven’t picked a username yet*

      I have worked with several real estate agents in my life and I can’t say that in my experience the OP would be success Gil there. To me the biggest challenge they face is the lack of boundaries/knowing what is appropriate. That wouldn’t fly for that profession, or many in the sales space.

    2. Bee*

      The front-facing part of real estate seems like it might be a good fit for this person, but the backend is HUGELY detail-oriented and requires correctly filling out a lot of paperwork with the ability to really ruin things for your clients if you mess it up.

      1. Bess*

        Yeeeeep…you pay the realtor fees not to have someone show you around houses (IMO) but to have someone who can both navigate the interpersonal aspects of the transaction (owners, agents, etc.) AND handle the detailed contract stuff. OP does not sound like they would really be suited to either.

    3. SunnyDD*

      I think OP needs to address the boundary-crossing and harassment parts of their eccentricism first, because not everything they mentioned falls under “quirky, fun eccentric”. Real estate would be a terrible choice – you need to be able to read people extremely well and adapt your behaviour accordingly, and you need to have impulse control to the max. You’re dealing with people in what can be very emotional times of their lives, when they’re about to spend huge sums of money. Plus, attention to detail is critically important or you could cost a client thousands of dollars. Yes, there are lawyers at the end, but during the offer stage, it’s the agent who needs to ensure things are covered off, and, for example, the fixtures that a client wanted to include in the offer, are actually listed. Or that the closing date was changed, or even that names are spelled correctly.

  16. I should really pick a name*

    if asked, would share my information that I thought was measured and appropriate but that my supervisors did not

    Especially in this comment, but throughout the letter, I’m seeing a trend where the LW doesn’t seem very concerned with WHY they see something as appropriate but their supervisors don’t.
    This is definitely an area to dig into. If their natural impulses don’t align with workplace norms, I think either making significant effort to understand those norms, or moving to a workplace that aligns more with their own norms would be a good stating point.

    1. Dover*

      100% accurate. I’m excited for OP to find an awesome role that harnesses their unique perspective, but every role absolutely requires understanding and adapting to the norms of the workplace, or at least where you can bend those norms. One of the most interesting people I know wears fraying khakis and sneakers even in formal business situations, but his insights are so valued that he can get away with it. OP can probably get away with the worm photo in many places, but there are almost no modern workplaces where the sexual stuff would be tolerated.

      1. Alanna*

        Yeah, I have ADHD and have a lot of the same strengths and challenges as the OP. It is very hard to get your head around the fact that some things that feel like just your personality are actually holding you back and need to be addressed. Having ADHD is really challenging, many people with it feel bad about themselves a lot, and it’s really understandable to just embrace your Personality as a result — because lots of people with ADHD are an absolute blast as friends and even coworkers. There can also be a tendency to lean into some of our less attractive traits — I am actually very competent and respected at my job, but out of insecurity, I lean into presenting as “Oh, haha, I’m such an adorable mess, lol!” which is super not cute as a boss.

        But we really really cannot bring our whole selves to work. OP, you have to figure out for yourself who you want to be in the workplace. That persona can have lots of the traits you like about yourself, but it likely can’t have them all.

        It sounds dumb, but I actually find mantras or affirmations to be pretty helpful. A few of mine:
        Something can not come naturally to me and I can still choose to prioritize it.
        I do not need to be the main character in this interaction.

        Sometimes I try to gamify it. Can I get through a whole meeting without interrupting? Sometimes I approach it with curiosity: If I tell myself I cannot make one joke at work for the entire day, how does that change how I react? I think of it as learning what doesn’t work (telling myself not to interrupt, beating myself up over it) and what sometimes does (sitting with my hand slightly over my mouth as a cue; taking notes on what the person is saying and noting what I want to say in response), and also how masking that aspect of my personality sometimes is a drawback (I have some monologuers on my team, and I need to figure out how to get them to the point productively).

        What I can’t do is say, well, I just have to find a job where nobody cares if I interrupt them, because this is just Who I Am! And, yeah, to a degree, I hope my direct reports say “Alanna sometimes won’t let you finish a sentence, but she’s a great manager in other ways,” but that doesn’t absolve me from the responsibility of continuing to work on it.

        1. Zap R.*

          Oh my god, I relate so much. For me, being funny was a great way to distract people from my general weirdness so I purposely cultivated it. (I figured was better for them to laugh with me than at me.) The problem is that now I have a really hard time turning Funny Zap off.

          With ADHDers, so many things that seem like personality traits are actually defense mechanisms. Growing up, Funny Zap was a persona I could put on to deter bullies *and* diffuse tension in my emotionally volatile household. Whenever I feel the urge to make a joke at work, I try to ask myself if it’s because I’m anticipating criticism/discomfort/rejection. It’s hard work but it gets easier with time.

          1. Alanna*

            You nailed it re: anticipating criticism, discomfort, or rejection… a lot of what I think of as ADHD behaviors are actually behaviors rooted in insecurity — ADHD just makes it harder for me to stop doing them.

            The good news is that when I address the insecurity directly, or even just realize what’s driving it, that’s actually easier and more effective than trying to control the impulses.

            1. Zap R.*

              “The good news is that when I address the insecurity directly, or even just realize what’s driving it, that’s actually easier and more effective than trying to control the impulses.”

              This is it exactly. OP, this is excellent advice.

        2. Buffy will save us*

          This is not to say YOU need this, but as an Occupational Therapist with ADHD, if OP can find a vocational OT, that might be helpful. They used to just do people returning to work with injuries but now are branching out to neurodivergence. They can look at a job you are looking at and break down the activities into what skills are needed and if there are adaptations that can be done (like setting automatic reminders in your computer to cue you to do things) or other coping skills. Often we see a task but don’t think about all the little steps/skills needed. My big problem right now is I got promoted and now I have to sit in multiple Teams meetings which I have so much problem attending to. I find if I can cross stitch while sitting in the meeting my mind doesn’t wander.

          1. Em*

            I am neither an occupation therapist, nor a person with ADHD, but part of my job involves connecting the latter with the former, and I can second the recommendation — my clients tell me they find OT extremely helpful in terms of helping them succeed.

      2. OPe*

        The specific incident I’m thinking of was that I was administering a survey that was written in language that was supposed to appeal to the target demographic of the study. I’d be asking things like “Last time you got fucked in the ass, did he come inside you?”. A client saw my wedding ring and asked about it, we talked about marriage and non monogamy.

        Rightly or wrongly, it didn’t sit with me to ask people that kind of information and to deflect when asked much less intimate questions.

  17. old curmudgeon*

    Wow, am I married to you? Because you sure sound a lot like my spouse.

    One thing that my spouse did when they were struggling with many of the same issues you are was to go to Johnson O’Connor Research to learn more about their strengths and aptitudes, and very importantly, which career types those characteristics align well with. One thing my spouse learned was that they are in the bottom 5% of all the millions of people that J-O’C has tested in the past century for graphoria, which translates to “Clerical speed and accuracy,” and that they should never, ever pursue a career that prioritizes that skill.

    They also learned that they are in the top 1% for inductive reasoning and logic, and they got some very interesting career suggestions that would play well to those traits.

    So, never having met you, I think that rather than share a bunch of random career suggestions with you, I would instead suggest you invest the time and money (it takes two full days, and costs hundreds of dollars) to go through a process like Johnson O’Connor. At least for my spouse, that investment of time and money has paid off enormously in the decades since they did the testing.

    Good luck to you, and I hope you will update us all in the months and years to come!

    1. Gorgonzilla*

      Agree with this! Johnson O’Connor testing really helped me too. I liked the company I worked for but felt stuck in my role as an office manager, and my parents encouraged me to do the testing (and paid for it, thanks mom and dad!) The testing helped me to see I would be much more suited for something like teaching. I stayed at my same company but transferred over to the training department, and I love it.

    2. yala*

      Oof, that’s an expensive test. But it does seem like it would be a really good investment if you had the money and were trying to plan a career path.

      1. old curmudgeon*

        It is indeed an expensive test. But then think of how many tens of thousands of dollars some of us sink into college tuition, often without the faintest clue about how – or if! – we’ll ever use what we learn, and that kind of puts it into a different context.

        I think when my spouse went through the testing in about 1991 or 1992, it was around $600 for the full process, plus travel and hotel because we did not live in one of the cities where J-O’C has a location. The return they got on that investment was a 30-year career that was deeply rewarding in both monetary and intrinsic measures.

        Obviously, of course, your mileage may vary, and indeed if you are already in a career path that you find stimulating and interesting, it would be superfluous to dump money into aptitude testing. But for someone like the letter writer here, it could be a life-altering experience.

    3. Former Recruiter*

      I just completed this testing with Johnson O’Connor and found it interesting and helpful. The investment (a full day of testing cost me about $1k along with a post-testing Zoom meeting) was absolutely worth it.

    4. NothingIsLittle*

      It’s so strange to hear this as a suggestion because I’ve taken 3 different tests of this type (the extensive, expensive ones with programs to coach you on your results) and have not found it remotely helpful at any turn. I haven’t taken the Johnson O’Connor test, but they were all well-established and highly regarded. They still A: weren’t telling me anything I hadn’t figured out about myself on my own and B: felt a lot like pseudoscience.

      That’s not to say that they can’t be helpful for some people! Just that I wouldn’t recommend anyone spent the exorbitant price for one of these programs without already having some sense that the way they think about themself is compatible with the system.

      I’d suggest that anyone interested in one of these programs try some of the free, but well-reviewed tests (think Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, UPenn’s Character Strengths), and just see if they find that way of thinking about themself helpful and interesting. The results won’t be as targeted as the paid offerings, but it should save people spending the money and time on the tests/trainings if they realize they think it’s just glorified hot-reading.

  18. Gigi*

    Dude. Are we the same person? To add to the hilarity, I work for a notoriously conservative government agency. I once compared a well-done security clearance interview to a pelvic exam – “Quick, clinical, and both of you maintain the mutually-agreed upon delusion that one of you isn’t up to their wrists in the other’s junk.” I am so successful and popular, let me tell you.

    You have your ADHD diagnosis, which was, for me, the hardest part. Other than that, my best advice is to lean into your authenticity whenever possible. You’ve already identified all the things that make you special and organizations and companies out there need all those things, whether they realize it or not. If you can afford it, try an ADHD coach. They might be able to provide you with some tools to redirect. I’m a member of Smart Ass Women with ADHD on Facebook and I’m loving that community not only for the solidarity but also the useful advice.
    Best of luck to you, my brain sibling. Neurodivergents unite!

    1. Jennifer*

      Everything this person said. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my forties. Knowing that It’s just how my brain works and not that I’m secretly self-destructive has changed my perspective enormously. I’m an excellent first-drag writer. I am great at project management, motivating team members and creating processes. I can juggle many tasks at once for a short time. I’m not good at proof-reading, time management, consistency. This gets me into trouble often. So I plan for it. I ask for help on these areas and try my hardest to mitigate damage if my safe guards fail. I work with MBA and economists. I am the only ADHD person on my team. A Tigger among Rabbits. I do most of our soft skill stuff. Community meetings, working with other departments. Naming projects etc. I get teased a bit about being bad at math by the ‘big brains’ but I’m good at the areas where others struggle.

    2. HipSaluki*

      I have nothing useful to contribute to the broader conversation, but man if that isn’t the absolute best description of the clearance process I’ve ever heard…

    3. Em*

      Also a fed with ADHD. I have fun ADHD Em and much quieter ADHD Em where most of my energy goes to professional norms and tasks. Currently on a residential training course where I end up seeing my coworkers at all times of day, and they’re floored by the “switch flipping” between my work persona and ADHD Em that shows up after work hours, haha. No one understands the neurodivergence behind it.

  19. Junior Dev*

    Have you considered learning to code?

    It is still important to learn some level of professional behavior and interpersonal skills but I think if you 1) are clearly making an effort to be kind to people in general and 2) are technically skilled, you can get away with being a lot more eccentric in tech.

    As for being detail oriented/missing things, most software teams I’ve been on have had automated tools like continuous integration and code linters, as well as practices like writing automated unit tests and code reviews, to catch mistakes. It’s considered normal in that context to use tools and other people’s help to catch problems you individually cannot. I think something like test driven development is great for people like me (and it sounds like you) who are anxious we’ll make mistakes and not catch them.

    1. Scientific Programmer*

      I think tech is definitely a field where some eccentricity can be excused if you’re good in other ways. Particularly since OP already knows some data analysis and has some interesting experience, working at a smaller company might be a good match. I’ve definitely worked at some smaller companies where the expectations of professionalism were much, much lower, and where some boundary crossing is almost expected.

      I agree that although coding seems very detail oriented, and it is, it is not important to get it right on the first try – in fact, it’s very iterative. Obviously its not possible to know if that will be a good fit for OP, since I am not them and I don’t have their skills or their struggles – but overall, coding is actually very creative and messy, and I definitely wouldn’t describe it as needing it to be exactly right on the first try.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Yes, I very much agree. It seems like every other developer I meet has ADHD (I certainly do). This is probably one of the reasons automated testing was invented.

    2. DyneinWalking*

      I was going to mention the same thing! It would make sense given that OP already has knowledge in data analysis. Also, that kind of work could be done remote so office norms would matter a lot less.

      I massively struggle with attention to detail, too; and when I got enrolled in a B.Sc. course on my favorite area of science I very quickly realized that there’s no way I ever could succeed in a regular wet lab… laboratory courses were a nightmare. But I loved the rest of it and therefore decided to specialize in the -informatics part of my science. It meant that I required a few semesters more in my Bachelor’s and Master’s to fully make the transition, but it was definitely worth it.

      For the record, errors from inattention are still an issue… but because my work is done 100% on a computer, I make a point of checking and re-checking my work repeatedly and that seems to cut down my mistakes to an almost normal level (most important rule: always get at least one night’s sleep in between drafting something and deeming it ok to use or present). I take longer to code than it “should” take me, but so far I’ve been able to make up for it with my other qualities (extremely good understanding of the subject matter, creativity, “good nose” for what to focus on in a research area). It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad either and I reckon that (while I might leave academia) I will continue to work in my field.

      So, definitely recommend looking into coding. However, I’m not sure if it would be a good idea to do into software developing. I can’t speak from own experience here, but I’m not sure if someone with a much higher amount of careless mistakes would really be welcome in a developer team…? Even with the various tests, I’d be afraid that I’d cause way more bugs than I fix. What I like about my field is that it’s really ok to go for quick and dirty solutions – it’s more important that a script or program answers a research question effectively, not that it’s perfectly implemented (obviously you get a lot of bonus points if it does both, but in the end what counts is “does it do the science part of the job better than its rivals?”). Another point of concern against becoming a software developer: it generally takes me quite some time to “load a problem into working memory” (not sure how it is for OP), which makes me significantly slower. Not sure how well that would be received.

      Anyway, that’s just my perspective. Coding definitely has some advantages that make it one of the more suitable jobs when you are prone to making mistakes and struggle with professionalism, but if OP decides to go that route they should be careful with their choice of specialization.

      1. Nesprin*

        Omg yes lab courses are the worst. I never managed higher than a C in a lab course- am now a (moderately successful, continuously employed) scientist.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        Addendum to my own point: Another reason why careless mistakes aren’t as much of a problem in my work: It’s basically just data analysis – very sophisticated data analysis that requires versatile coding skills and a good science background, but data analysis nonetheless. Every coding project is some version of input-output so I can always see what what my code does, and because I have a “feel” for the science and the data I catch a lot of mistakes just by noticing that the output is off. It also helps that the complexity is very low compared to sophisticated software – there are simply less ways to mess up.

    3. Tau*

      +1 coding, this was also my thought. It has some significant advantages for OP:

      * the culture in tech very often prides itself on being relaxed, casual, and TOTALLY not like those stodgy conservative industries
      * talking back more likely to be accepted: pushing back even against your boss can also be part of your professional responsibilities (since you’re the expert and it’s your job to let people know when something is a bad idea for reasons they don’t foresee).
      * engineering departments typically shade informal within the company as a whole, too
      * likely you will have little to nothing to do with clients or any other external parties your company needs to treat with kid gloves for whatever reason
      * there are never enough software developers to go round, which in turn means companies have to be more accepting of “flaws” like eccentricity and are much less likely to go on petty power trips. If your manager knows that hiring a replacement for you will be an absolute PITA, they’ll hesitate before firing you. (Note: for this reason I’d strongly advise against going into popular fields like game development.)

      And yeah, lack of detail orientation *is* a problem but potentially one you can mitigate with tools, and software development in general has a culture of expecting mistakes to happen but setting up processes to catch them before they do harm. It does depend on how that lack of detail orientation presents itself – ex, if you consistently fail to consider edge cases or the wider implications of a change you’re making that’s a bigger problem for a dev.

    4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      Adding my vote to looking at the tech industry. I’m in a tech-adjacent entertainment company, and honestly OP would fit in pretty well here. Lots of neurodivergence, lots of eccentricity, and lots of processes to catch and fix errors before they become issues. The worm costume thing wouldn’t even raise eyebrows.

      Though OP, maybe avoid sharing much about your sex life, though, because tech has some cultural issues and that might bleed into harassment.

    5. lilyp*

      Yeah I was also going to suggest this. Good news: *nobody’s* code works right on the first try. Putting something together and then working through fixing all the stupid little bugs until it meets the spec/goal is how everyone works, and after that there’s checks from automated tests, code review, and QA to catch anything you missed. Creative/lateral thinking and research skills can be a big bonus if they help you solve your own problems. Plus, it tends to pay well.

      I also wonder if you’ve ever looked into resources for people with autism about learning social cues or professional norms by memorization instead of intuition? It sounds like you’re capable of remembering and abiding by rules like “don’t talk about sex at work” or “don’t make jokes in department-wide emails” once you learn them, so maybe there’s guidelines or strategies out there you could learn from instead of getting it all by personal trial-and-error.

      Finally, you write “If a work product needs to be exactly right on the first try, I’m not the one to do it” but also “I turn in work on time that meets the requirements given”, which makes it sound like you can catch and correct errors if you have time to? In the short term is it possible to just build more time into your workflows so that you can always review and get things right before turning them in, and take the pressure off yourself to produce a flawless first draft?

    6. Brain Full of Bees*

      Agreed! This might be a good avenue to look into. I have ADHD and I’m a dev, and I am medicated for it but I was doing it for years BEFORE medication too. The meds just have allowed me to actually learn new languages and focus and not ONLY get my work done when a deadline is looming.

      Linters in particular are excellent for getting you to take a second look–they don’t always tell you what the exact problem is but they at least give you an idea of where to look.

      The one thing I would warn OP about is: try to avoid a situation like I’ve found myself in, where I am consistently the only person who knows CSS/web stuff in the office… which makes me a valued team member bc I also have some design skills, but unfortunately means that it is EXTREMELY difficult to get feedback on what I could do better on my code. Other people in the office KNOW CSS a bit, but I am considered the expert which… cool, but I don’t feel like it’s true LOL

      I’m not sure how likely someone is to end up in a similar situation OUTSIDE of web stuff (I can only speak to my own experience) but it’s a bit of a struggle!

  20. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    Feels to my like the things you’re asking for (a high income, stable career) in society as it exists are fundamentally at odds with what you’re able to do. First of all, I think income is frequently something you have to sacrifice for stability and vice versa. There probably are jobs where you can achieve those things, but they’re not going to be something you can systematically look for.

    I will tell you that if you’re willing to sacrifice income for stability and tolerance, in my experience no one in Parks & Rec knows anything about professionalism and hierarchy matters very little. Most jobs you can do perfectly well without great attention to detail because there’s always someone else who will do that part for you; the benefit of having 12 layers of approval for all things.

    I don’t know your skills or interests but the way you describe yourself sounds like half the recreation programmers in my department. I’m municipal that the world of Parks & Rec is vast and includes for-profit companies and large cities and federal lands and huge nonprofits. NRPA’s job board can show you some of what’s out there!

  21. Bookmark*

    I think how well the impulse control medication works is going to be a huge factor here, as well as how good OP is at catching mistakes they’ve made. Ex: in data analysis and coding-type work, it’s super common for small errors to creep in, and that’s fine and it’s relatively normal to have someone run QA/QC backup, but it’s absolutely critical to catch those errors before the product goes out the door. If you make more errors than normal AND you need to rely on someone else to do that error catching for you… I think it’s going to be tough to move up in a quantitative field. But if you can catch errors, just not always the first time around, then I’d check out data analyst type roles and really prioritize finding jobs where projects have longer timelines (so, think more research institution rather than a database manager at a startup)

    Sorting out the impulse control issue will help a lot, because those issues are going to read to managers as lack of judgement, which is really really crucial for all but the most junior roles. If your impulse control is mostly around saying inappropriate things that you recognize are inappropriate immediately afterwards, it will help to immediately apologize/recall emails etc and perhaps say something along the lines of “I have a bad case of foot in mouth and sometimes can’t stop myself from saying something I know I shouldn’t. I’m working on this, but please excuse the occasional slip up.” Again, an important factor here is that YOU recognize quite quickly that there’s an issue. If someone has to point out the issue to you most of the time, this will be much harder to get managers/coworkers to trust you to work independently.

    1. Aerin*

      One of the things I struggle with is the inappropriate interjections–not necessarily inappropriate in terms of offensive, mostly just derailing for no reason. I generally run myself through a sort of checklist: Is this adding anything to the conversation? Could I be misinterpreted? Is there a way to convey the thought without throwing a grenade into the flow of the conversation? Frex: recently while doing an interview the candidate mentioned they’d worked at a rival school to one where I’d worked. Interrupting them to say “Your school sucks, Rival forever!” would have been inappropriate. But I thought it would be a good way to build a bit of rapport, so I put a toned-down version of the sentiment in the meeting chat, where I could add the context that I’d worked at Rival and also a smiley, and where the candidate didn’t have to read it until after they’d finished their thought. And it indeed went over well.

      If LW is experiencing urges so strong they are genuinely unable to start on that mental checklist before saying/doing the thing, that’s really something only meds can help with. When I find the frequency of those derailing urges increasing, even if I am able to successfully suppress them, that’s a sign I should talk to my psychiatrist about an adjustment.

      1. Alanna*

        I struggle with a version of this — the Automatic Quip Response. I work in a pretty casual, friendly office where making light little jokes like the one you mention is a very common way of communicating. But we’ve professionalized up a bit, I’m older than I used to be (amazing how much less people are enchanted by a 35-year-old than a 26-year-old), I’m a manager, and at some point I had the realization that I was entering every interaction like my goal was for everyone to remember forever how charming and funny I am. My job isn’t to be the main character; it’s to get the dang reports done.

        Just realizing that I am constantly playing to an audience, and why I’m doing it, has done a lot to help me rewire that particular impulse. I’ve also tried really hard to think of my desire to be the center of attention as morally neutral — it doesn’t make me a terrible person, and it’s actually helped me in many ways at the office, but it’s not serving me in every situation right now so I need to let it go.

        Even with ADHD and serious impulse control issues, having that mental framework to understand what I’m doing and why does help me interrupt the impulse in the moment, whereas just beating myself up — “why are you always saying dumb things that you regret after the fact, you jerk?” — does nothing and probably just makes it worse.

        1. Aerin*

          I’ve also found it really helpful to have an outlet where I *can* be the main character. Like, I’m not burying the thought entirely, I’m saving it for Twitter/Tumblr or side-pinging the one office friend who I know will appreciate the observation. That also builds in the delay where I can think about it and decide that it wasn’t that funny after all, or it worked in my head but it falls apart when I try to write it down.

          1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            Getting it written down (I recommend a planner with sheets you can remove, or on a personal device) means you’re not going to forget it, in case you do want to actually say it later.

            I have a blog with nothing searchable that could lead to my workplace, and my posts on there about work (especially specific people at work) are generally locked to people I know, mostly who were not at that workplace. My face is a security breach waiting to happen, and if “Researcher C. Lannister” recognizes me, it’s not going to be difficult for her to figure out who my blonde, imperious, researcher co-worker is.

        2. Gamer Girl*

          This is an amazing summary of separating a neurodivergent need from a moralization of that need. Thank you!

      2. rubble*

        as someone with ADHD (I think from your second paragraph that you have it too? since you mentioned medicating impulse control) I am stunned you’re able to remember to ask yourself those questions before you interject. for me, interjecting happens with no conscious thought – words just come out. usually about half an hour later I realise how stupid what I said was (occasionally I realise immediately after saying it), or that I didn’t explain what I wanted to say properly andthat’s why people around me looked confused. it’s worse in high stress situations, which all conversations at work are for me (as you can imagine, I find job interviews extremely difficult!).

        I’ve been trying for about 10 years to successfully think before I speak in the middle of a conversation, and I’ve had three different psychologists and three different ADHD medications with basically no progress. other areas have improved, but that if anything has gotten worse.

      3. sundae funday*

        Same, I (ADHD) literally cannot shut up sometimes. I feel myself diverting the conversation but it just comes out of my mouth anyway. It’s never stuff that’s offensive, just… not on topic.

        On the other hand, I used to be so painfully shy and anxious that I didn’t talk at all. I think undiagnosed childhood ADHD led to me being impulsive and annoying, which led to bullying, which led to intense anxiety that didn’t allow me to speak, and now I’m back to being impulsive an annoying. but tbh it’s so much better than being locked into silence, so I’ll take it.

  22. Samwise*

    OP does not sound like someone who is going to like or perhaps even succeed at a corporate desk job. Play to your strengths, OP.

    Suggest the OP look into jobs that combine outdoorsy and hands on with some desk work/analysis/policy/communication.

    A really handy online resource is O*Net online (data from the bureau of labor statistics in a friendlier format). URL is onetonline DOT org

    A side note to the OP — please don’t lean on equality of all people as a reason for talking about inappropriate and sexual issues at work. There’s a difference between seeing all people as equals, and prying into people’s private, non-work lives. Maybe this is an impulse control issue — but it is not about equality. You should not be talking about your sex life or anyone else’s sex life at work, because it is too easy for this to be/become sexual harassment (of the person you’re talking to, of anyone within earshot), and ascribing your motivation to “I see everyone as an equal” is not going to help you at all.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      Their role involved interviewing people about their sex lives. The issue was that sometimes the interviewees asked the questions back to OP and OP answered them in what they thought to be a measured and appropriate way, but their judgment was off. Honestly this sounds to me like it may have been at least in part a training issue. I’m autistic and have ADHD and I have really struggled at times with sharing more than I really want to when people ask me unwarranted personal questions. It’s like I have to remind myself I’m not under oath! That particular situation sounds like OP could have benefitted from some scripts on what to say when the subjects asked them personal questions.

    2. Anon4This*

      OP clarified above, and it doesn’t actually sound like they were inappropriate at all, here’s what they said.

      “The specific incident I’m thinking of was that I was administering a survey that was written in language that was supposed to appeal to the target demographic of the study. I’d be asking things like “Last time you got fucked in the ass, did he come inside you?”. A client saw my wedding ring and asked about it, we talked about marriage and non monogamy.

      Rightly or wrongly, it didn’t sit with me to ask people that kind of information and to deflect when asked much less intimate questions.”

  23. Tea*

    I also have ADHD and work in games and game art. The professional norms are usually pretty relaxed in my office, and many people work remotely anyway. I’m not in the US though, so the culture there may be different.

    1. Gamer Girl*

      Same. I highly recommend working in games *if* and only if you have an organized boss. Everything is urgent, deadlines are real, the fear of letting others down will overcome ADHD challenges, etc.

      However, game production can be very hit or miss. You may burn yourself out within a year or two, or it may be the job for you.

      To your previous experience: Sex positive/adult games are having a huge moment right now, and if you have expertise in this field, that could be something for you to seriously consider: UX researcher, QA (basically testing and data analysis from your pool of testers), etc.

  24. Caitlin*

    My son has severe ADHD and his therapist is recommending neurofeedback therapy to help him without having to keep upping his meds. It may be time to chat with an adult ADHD clinic for non-medication treatments. Additionally, it may be worth looking into an Executive Function Coach.
    With ADHD ( which I also have) you have to find you mind tricks and executive function scaffolding and some coaching may help you find that.

    1. Anon Autistic*

      I agree with the suggestion to look for non-medication supports. I am autistic and my partner is ADHD, and we’ve both benefited from trauma-centred therapists with DBT experience – diagnostic manuals look more for trauma caused by environmental interactions and not the neurotype itself. I also saw an Occupational Therapist at one point as well.

    2. constant_craving*

      Just a consideration from someone whose career is researching ADHD- there’s really no evidence that neurofeedback works or is beneficial in any way. It’s typically pretty expensive too.

  25. Gigi*

    Dude. Are we the same person? Only for added hilarity, I work for a notoriously conservative government agency. I once compared a well-done security clearance interview to a pelvic exam – “Quick, clinical, and we both maintain the mutually-agreed upon delusion that one of us isn’t up to their wrists in the other person’s junk.”

    For me, just getting the ADHD diagnosis was so key. Made me realize that I wasn’t, in fact, lazy or crazy. My executive function just doesn’t work like other people’s. I’m deeply jealous that the meds make you clean. No such luck over here. I’ve also learned to lean into my authenticity. There are lots of things about me – my candor, my creativity – that my organization benefits from whether they want it or not. I think you’ve also identified those things. Trying to be someone else more “normal” just makes you a half-assed version of someone else. Whole-ass being you. There’s someone who wants and needs it.

    Also, I’m a member of Smart Ass Women with ADHD on Facebook. The solidarity is validating and I’ve also gotten some solid tips. If you can afford it, hiring an ADHD coach might help you channel that authenticity in a more office-palatable form until you can afford the Goat Life.

    Good luck, my brain sibling. Neurodivergents unite!

  26. Colette*

    I think there are a few things here.

    The first one is the impulse control; you say you have medication that helps, which is great, but you will likely have to be relatively conscious of what you are saying/doing in the workplace in addition. (Over time that will get easier! But right now, you probably need to be more intentional about it.)

    The second one is the industry. I think you should aim for a more informal workpace (high tech, for example) as opposed to one where formality is more likely (law, for example). Pick a place where you can move on from an occasional stumble.

    And finally, you might want to think about develping a work persona. A lot of people act slightly differently at work than they do outside of work; that might be something that would work for you.

  27. Bird Lady*

    As a former manager, I think there are two things going on here. The first is that the OP isn’t detail-oriented and shouldn’t be placed in a role that involves data entry or process management. Okay, that’s not a big deal. There are roles out there that involve thinking, strategy, and research.

    For me, the bigger issue is the inappropriate behavior. I come from a secular tradition of treating people as equals, but that doesn’t mean its okay to violate boundaries. While my management style was certainly more collaborative and team-centered than some of my peers, it was also focused on respect of boundaries and privacy. Sometimes asking questions or sharing very personal information can be harmful, and if that someone reports to you or needs to work with you to do their job, it’s actually harmful. We do not harm equals. Perhaps if the OP spends time on considering what harm can be done by an action, that might help.

    (For the record: The Heidi Klum worm thing seems silly and harmless. It’s the violation of boundaries that is concerning.)

    1. Colette*

      It might also be useful for the OP to think about why the worm costume was a problem. It seems silly and harmless to me, too, but context matters. On an email about a Halloween dress-up contest, it would be appropriate. On an email about a coworker who passed away, it would be incredibly inappropriate.

      And in general, that’s the kind of thing where you should know your audience. Some people will enjoy it; some will think it’s odd but move on; some will find it scary or inappropriate and be offended. So, in general, emails to an entire department should be more impersonal and more business-like than an email to someone you mesh with.

      In my first post-university job, my manager and I did not have the same sense of humour at all. He’d take my jokes seriously, and think I was joking when I was serious – and I had to consciously change what I said to him. He was a great manager; since what I was doing was causing problems, I had to change.

      1. TomatoSoup*

        Yeah. Silly and harmless but also random and confusing. For me, it is not so much the content of the image *for this email* but including a random picture at all.

        1. Allonge*

          Yes – lots of people who are reasonably busy do not tolerate random well.

          If this was the most extreme issue with someone, it can be overlooked once or twice, but I would definitely get a talking-to from my boss if I included weird images in emails for no reason at all.

          1. Colette*

            This is a good point.

            When people are at work, their focus is (usually) on work, and they want to get their work done so they can move on to something else (either work-related or going home and living their life). That’s why things that are OK outside of work aren’t OK at work; people aren’t there to share memes or, mroe generally, to have fun. They’re there to get the work done. Some of that is fine, if everyone has opted in, but for an all-department e-mail, that’s not the case.

            I think it would be good for the OP to make her next job a no-fun zone – keep her focus on work, and not add anything to emails or start anything she thinks would make the job fun. Yes, she might miss out on some fun, but I think it’ll keep her from running into the problems she’s had with inappropriate behaviour. Over time, once her sense of appropriate office behaviour is better callibrated, she can add some back in.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a good breakdown of how treating people as equals often does not involve sharing your sexual past with them. Or making certain jokes without realizing that those don’t translate as funny and harmless to all those equals.

    3. Glen*

      The vast majority of replies here seem utterly fixed on misrepresenting this in a way that is deeply unfair to op. Very disappointing.

  28. Astronautpants*

    I’ve worked with a coworker and a boss who had similar issues with ADHD and impulse control that led to inappropriate comments. It’s really tough, and we all knew it! I think that it’s important to recognize when you are feeling anxious, especially about work, and maybe ask a therapist and to a lesser extent, trusted colleague if it’s justified. It sounds to me like you are trying to manage this, and that’s really amazing and continuously difficult.

    The corporate world can really be so unforgiving, and people’s view of you solidified very quickly. If you can work for yourself, I’d suggest you find someone who likes admin work and communications to pair up with. So you can have the big ideas and analysis, and they can back you and handle the details that you can’t. Good luck and thanks for writing, this makes me think of my old colleagues differently.

  29. Robot Jones*

    As I think the comments section here demonstrates, there’s a really wide range of office cultures out there, and some of them just won’t get you or listen to you. It sounds to me like you’ve experienced some bad fits. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed!

    I second the recommendations for:
    – academia, especially academic staff positions rather than student, adjunct, or faculty positions
    – outdoors work and/or “blue collar” work, a lot of which is becoming rainbow collar work these days
    – the arts, especially if you can find an institution to house you

    I recognize that not all these solutions fit your criterion of being high-paying, so this might be a moment to ask yourself what your most important financial needs are. Is it super important that you have a pension? Maybe you should look into working as a bureaucrat for a city or county. Do you need really great health care? Find an arts org that’s European-owned (like some publishing houses). I personally have taken some steep pay cuts in order to work in environments that suited me better, and it was worth it. As AAM’s colleague Captain Awkward says, sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money.

    Good luck! You sound like a delight. I bet once you find a place that gets your vibe & nonjudgmental , a lot of what you’re worried about will feel lower stakes and get easier to handle.

    1. Bess*

      I don’t know of many academic staff positions that don’t require at least some attention to detail, if not a ton of it. I have more often seen people in teaching positions able to skate by while not strong in that area.

    2. Caterpillar hunter*

      Yeah unless OP is mega genius level I’d recommend not academia. Attention to detail, following processes, and being able to be appropriate around coworkers and students is essential. Mega geniuses can get away with a lot – but the ability to get away with inappropriate behaviour is (very slowly) going away.

      My reading is that OP has, on more than one occasion, had managers speak to them about inappropriate behaviour – and doesn’t seem at all concerned or interested in fixing that. It seems likely that there have been other interactions that coworkers did not report to management. Eg things that made them uncomfortable but that they felt silly mentioning, or people who did not feel they could report.

      I think OP needs work that they can do alone, without coworkers, and with minimal interaction with others. That, or they need to learn how not to be inappropriate. In some ways, a far more formal and strict environment could be a better option, as then conversations that lead to OP over-sharing are far less likely to come up.

      Eccentric individuals can do well – but you still need to treat colleagues (and students) professionally, teach courses efficiently, file paperwork on time etc. Eccentric usually means dress, hairstyle, and an obsession with your research topic that goes a bit far.

  30. RIP Pillow Fort*

    I have severe ADHD and a really good professional career (I think so at least).

    One of the things I have done (I will not say it’s probably a great coping mechanism) is that I completely change my mindset for work compared to my personal life. At work, I don’t send emails immediately unless it’s a yes/no answer. I really go over my writing to make sure it’s professionally written. I really trained myself to not bring in weird jokes or talk about my personal life even though you think “hey that makes me relatable!”

    Presenting yourself as professional is work just as much as the actual work is. So getting myself in that mindset has helped I think. It’s just another task to go through. That’s not to say I am a robot or perfect at it. I still express kindness and warmth in my emails/phone calls but I have to remind myself my co-workers aren’t really here to know my hyperfixation of the week. I have a husband for that.

    1. gorb*

      “Presenting yourself as professional is work just as much as the actual work is…It’s just another task to go through. ”

      YES, this can’t be emphasized enough. Some people seem to just do it naturally, but for those of us who struggle, we have to figure out what processes need to be in place for us to put on our “professional mien” for the day ahead, and then take it off when we end our workday.

    2. Smithy*

      Also have ADHD, also have an external face job where my personality and ability to build relationships is evaluated. Also in my personal life, my impulse control is – well – bemusing.

      All of this this is to say that my advice below about *more* bureacracy perhaps helping the OP, is how I was ultimately able to navigate this in my own professional life. My job itself does not require being super detail oriented. In fact I recently had a meeting where we were talking about how we all wish we’d never submit materials that had errors that said Boob Smith instead of Bob Smith – but if we did, that really wasn’t going to make or break anything. But, I also work in an environment that has due diligence processes, go-no-go processes, annual forecasting meetings, etc.

      A lot of other rigidity around me that both enforces reviews when they truly are required, but also reminds me when some of my emails might benefit from someone else reading them first. This has also helped me think through the personal parts of my life that are more PG/PG-13/R rated and how I want to be known at work as someone who likes to cook and go to the theater and not someone who likes to drink gin. Not that it’s always inappropriate to discuss at work, but rather I don’t want to watch myself that closely on the topic.

    3. HecticLeigh*

      Yes, this.

      As a professional accountant who has ADHD and is at the director level of a small Town municipality, there is the Director of Finance me and Mother of Three/Romance Book Lover/Look at my new knitting project me.

      While there is a small bit of masking involved, which can be exhausting if on 24/7 – I do realize that there is a different protocol at work than at home. Things I do to keep me engaged is personalize my office to make it my space – including cute stationary/office supplies that I bring in from home so I can swap at will and keep me engaged in using it/filing, take mini breaks, sometimes use timers to force myself to focus (or to take a break from hyper focusing). I learned that sharing something that happened to me can be looked as ‘one-upping’ and not bonding when someone else is telling a story. I try not to fill in words or interrupt people when they are speaking (though I have shut down people who were continuing to talk over me … that was for a difference reason). I will also regularly check in my boss, let him know what I am working on and ask – is there anything you need me to do/am I missing?

      Most people in my office don’t know that I am neurodivergent as it was diagnosed as an adult, and I am still processing it. However, knowing that I have ADHD has made me a better employee with coping strategies to deal with quiet times, or tasks I don’t want to do/have no interest or am fighting a bout of executive dysfunction.

      There are so many great careers open to you. I love being a accountant (CPA) and am now half way through getting my CPHR designation.

    4. Observer*

      One of the things I have done (I will not say it’s probably a great coping mechanism) is that I completely change my mindset for work compared to my personal life.

      I’d say the reverse – it’s an excellent mechanism. And it’s one that a lot of effective people do without really thinking about it.

      Allison talks about work persona a lot, for a good reason. Now some people need to be a bit more intentional end even extreme than others. But it really can be usefil to recognize that different situations really require very different approaches.

      1. Samwise*

        Agreed. I’m not neurodivergent. I have a work persona. It’s similar in some ways to my At Home persona or my At the Rock Club persona, but not the same. I don’t have to be the biggest loudest snarkiest potty-mouthed Samwise to feel authentic at work.

      2. Persona-l injury*

        It’s a good way to avoid problems, and an excellent skill to develop, but what can make it a bad “coping mechanism” is the sheer amount of brainpower it can take.

        Instead of having to throw on a persona when interacting at work, it’s throwing on a persona at work 100% of the time, and then having that persona throw on a persona when interacting, and it’s just being on all the time. 80%-90% of your effort from the moment you set foot at work until you leave going to maintaining the persona, and then whatever’s left to actually doing the work. And that’s not always sustainable.

        I’m so glad I’ve managed to get a work from home position, or I would have probably completely fallen apart years ago.

        1. Bit o' Brit*

          So much this. I could only cope with masking (autism) 5 days a week in-office by sleeping for 12 hours at least once a fortnight. Literally in bed by 7pm and sleeping through til 7am. I’d also fall asleep at our friday game night almost every week. Not that I had any idea why or what masking was, all I knew was “tired”.

        2. sundae funday*

          Yeah, it’s not the same thing as the neurotypical “work persona,” I don’t think. It’s “effective” in that it makes neurotypicals comfortable, but it’s exhausting. It takes everything out of you. It sucks to come home and not be able to do housework or spend time with friends or on hobbies because 100% of your energy has been taken by evaluating and examining your every syllable… the way you sit in your chair, the way you walk, how much eye contact you do and don’t make….

          Other people don’t get it!

      3. Anon Autistic*

        In the context of neurodivergence, masking can have a massive impact on mental health – it is linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. This is a big part of the reason why autistic people have a much lower life expectancy (under 40!).

      4. Tau*

        For some reason, I have an automatic work mode/home mode switch. It used to be really dramatic – like, I would be worrying about some private life thing the whole way into work, forget about it as I walked in the door, not think once about it for the entire working day, then remember that I had private life stress and resume worrying about it on the subway back.

        This split relied on the actual physical relocation into an office building, plus to some extent coworkers around me. Mandatory WFH during the pandemic was less than fun. Even now that I’m back in the office I feel like there’s cracks there now that weren’t there before, that I have an easier time having free time stuff creep in even in the office.

        But it’s great when it works, especially because unlike the masking I do it doesn’t seem to take any energy. Work me is competent, professional and efficient; I’ve often wished I could slip into that mode on command to get my private life on track. If people manage to cultivate that I can only recommend it.

    5. mf*

      Yes to all of this. I make a point to overdoing it when it comes to professionalism: immaculate emails, biting my tongue if I’m thinking of saying something “relatable,” being extra prepared before presentations.

      This has resulted in people commenting how extremely professional I am, even though I feel like I’m actually the opposite!

  31. 80HD*

    Here is what helps me:

    -I’m a government contractor, not a full-time employee, in a niche specialty. This means that I work 8 hours per day, without fail, and I’m in a position with zero overtime. It also means that I miss out on the title/benefits of being a government employee, but that’s what is working for me right now, and I’m realistic that my attention span isn’t that of other people in more “exciting” or “prestigious” jobs that require 80 hours per week. For me personally, earning a steady income in a job where I’m not on the cusp of being fired is more important than having a prestigious or impressive career.

    -I work from home 3 days per week and am in the office 2 days per week. I find that a hybrid schedule keeps things interesting and makes me more productive. I sit in a busy area and can see other people working, which allows me to body double them all day.

    -I am exploring other medication and supplement options besides stimulants, like Stratterra, and recently found out my Vitamin D and B-12 are low. I have started taking magnesium glycinate at night for stress, which really helps.

    -My team knows I have ADHD and are willing to spell things out for me and give me concrete deadlines. They help me by saying things like “This packet needs to be completed by next week. In order to do it you need to collect a set of files from HR, and they usually don’t get back to us for a couple of days so you should probably ask them today.”

    -I read Ask a Manager relatively religiously to remind myself of professional norms and have done a lot of practice work on curbing my impulses to blurt out things or to say things that would cross the line from work to personal. You need to find a method or reminder to delineate those two areas for yourself and keep going back to it. Something that would help you remember “Heidi Klum Worm = Social, Not Work” will be helpful.

    -I have an ADHD coach that works through things with me, and who I can bounce ideas and plans off of. It can be difficult for people like us to be realistic about our situations and expectations. For example, I was hyper unrealistic about getting in shape and wanted to do it quickly, and she helped bring me down to earth about how much time I was willing to invest in exercise each day.

    -The best question I’ve ever heard for career advice is, “What kind of problems do you want to solve?” You answer it however best comes to mind. For example, I like the kind of problems that one can solve from an office. I don’t like solving problems that involve a lot of math, and I like to write and solve problems with words, vs. doing something like welding a pipe back together or sewing someone shut. I suggest writing down your answers to this question and seeing if you can find a common theme.

  32. Drixelle*

    Have you considered a field such as construction? You do not have to be a strong male to work in that industry…there are many less rigorous positions such as painting, finish work, etc. The reason I ask is, the pay is great and they are suffering from a labor shortage as well, so securing a position is easier today. Also, jobs like that are much more forgiving when it comes to unprofessionalism and social norms. Everyone deserves a chance to earn a living; I hope you find something that fits your needs. Good luck .

    1. Tiredpuppy*

      I agree with this one. Also something blue collar like where you are working and moving. The poeple in my life with ADHD are so much better off when they are moving, and doing something constructive with their time and hands.

      I often say my husband and son (who have ADHD) are like puppies. Tired puppies are happy and non-destructive puppies. Hyper puppies, get into trouble, destroy stuff and mischievous! lol

    2. bamcheeks*

      My brother is in construction– not ADHD but dyslexic, and really would not suit any kind of office job or stuff where there’s a lot of sitting and organising information. But he absolutely loves construction because there’s a lot of travel, a lot of being out and about, working in teams, and handling really big shit. He’s in a health and safety role, so there IS paperwork and there is detail– but it’s big, tangible detail, like, “have we cleared all that shit out the way” and “do we know where the fire exits are” and “is that connected at at least three points and is that the right weight of webbing” rather than “transfer that column of figures from there to there without transposing the 8 and the 6”.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        From what I gather, construction also pays quite well. And, as a bonus, it is one of the most resistant-to-automation careers there is.

    3. Generic Name*

      I was going to suggest this industry. Pay is high, and the culture is decidedly not stuffy. Plus, doing heavy work with your body might help your adhd symptoms globally. My son has adhd and he does so much better now that he walks 10mins to school and changed classes compared to when he’s at home all day.

  33. AttentiveWithMeds*

    Some sort of aptitude/career testing may be helpful to figure out where you would best fit!

    As for the rest, I think steering away from quality control/detail-oriented things would probably be better for you, maybe try looking for more creative/research/analytic type jobs in your field areas instead? Being the “ideas guy” generally gets you more slack for ADHD related mistakes, I’ve found. You may have better luck finding job leads from networking/past coworkers that straight up job searching for this type of specificity.

  34. TX_Trucker*

    Have you thought about starting your own business? Does any of your work experience translate to a consulting gig? And if you are serious about the goats, that actually is a thing. I went to college with a lady who started a Rent-A-Goat business for brush control and it’s very profitable. If you live near a rural area, barn managers, and/or animal sitters that handle livestock make much more money than those who take care of cats and dogs.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Also if you live in a place with a poison ivy problem in the parks, goats are an excellent and environmental solution to it, and are very in demand!

  35. JangMi*

    Depending on how techie you are, LW, what about something in cybersecurity?

    It’s an industry very friendly to the neurodiverse (a majority of the industry is, and it’s viewed as our superpower to the industry rather than a detriment). There are roles in the industry that require no client-facing elements, and from your background you might suit some of the more research heavy roles where x situation comes up (or you think about it and want to see if it would work), and you just… play with it and see what happens. Some smaller companies tend to be more forgiving of quirks, though I agree with other readers that some of what you describe leans more towards uncomfortable boundary crossing than quirkiness. Some of these companies also liaise with organisations that are dedicated to supporting ADHD and other neurodiversity in the workplace, so it may be a good option to look at

    1. Junior Dev*

      Oh man yes this! I worked in a software security department for a while. My boss was the stereotype of ADHD golden retriever—he literally interrupted meetings to point out birds out the window. It is a field where being an eccentric thinker is a plus because you can spot vulnerabilities no one else would think to exploit.

      1. icedcoffee*

        I appreciate your point about finding a field where off the wall thinking is essential for improvement. I’m in research and design, and when we’re strategizing about something new, it’s actually helpful to be able to throw wrenches into the works. Knowing when and how to throw those wrenches has been tricky though. I still have to be tactful, clear, and reasonable. A wild hypothetical is not a helpful wrench, and a question that has already been addressed in the planning document is not a helpful question to voice in the meeting. I used to feel embarrassed about my questions and ideas–growing up with ADHD will do that to you–but this environment has made me realize they can be strengths.

        I struggle with tasks that are rote and that I feel should be automated or revamped. Luckily, I’m on a team that has become known for our innovative approaches. So not only is it ok that I figure out how to improve a process, I’m actually encouraged to put an hour or two into doing so. Having control over my “how” helps me when the “what” is boring and restrictive.

        Like the others, I think OP should take these descriptions of jobs and elements that have worked well for other ND people, and figure out some wish lists. Maybe it will result in a job description. Maybe it just results in a job environment. It will probably reveal places they can improve and places they can build upon. Either way, it’s a direction which to head.

    2. Cyber Widow*

      My husband is director-level at a large cybersecurity practice. While neurodivergence is common, and I believe he has undiagnosed ADHD (our son definitely has ADHD), attention to detail seems like it’s a pretty necessary skill to be successful in cyber. It can mean the difference between stopping a cyber attack or not, and lack of it could cost tens of millions of dollars. He has worked MANY late nights, weekends, and holidays fixing other people’s mistakes. He manages millions of dollars and writes endless reports. Cyber is also not a field for people who don’t like to spend up to 20 hours a day (or more) on a computer. You won’t move up if you can’t manage multiple projects/clients at once unless you are VERY, VERY good. And while tech has a “bro” reputation, suggesting that people skills and a filter aren’t important simply isn’t true. If a company cannot put you in front of a client, even in cyber, you won’t be moving up unless you have a skill that no one else has.

      1. discontinuity*

        The over work in the cyber field is pretty widespread, but along with that is a persistent move to try to fix that: when you have a shortage of qualified people, burning your experts out is horribly short sighted. I work in Europe, where ideas about working hours and down time are much more humane, but I think even in the states “you have to be willing to work 20h a day” isn’t a universally accepted standard operating procedure.

        As someone who probably has ADHD, I love security. Finding incidents and vulnerabilities is fun to me, and the time pressure to mitigate then and investigate really works for me.

        That said, as mentioned elsewhere in the comments, your preferences may be otherwise! I find that urgent computer issues are exciting, while urgent “James and Wakeen are fighting again” were demoralizing. Solving issues like the latter was the most important part of my job as a project manager, and I was also good at it, i just found it depressing.

        That particular example is probably not immediately relevant to you – impulse control issues probably makes interpersonal conflict resolution not necessarily a strength of yours? But the point is, i like having some exciting events that pop up and are time critical at work. It keeps things fresh and exciting.

        But it took me a while to discover what KIND of time critical incidents were fun. I wish I could tell you what would work for you! But thinking a lot about this stuff and trying to be aware of my own feelings is the only thing that’s worked for me, and that’s not fast and easy.

        As for details, they are important but also there are tools to help you find things. You often don’t need to find 100% of the indicators of compromise manually to find an issue, and the weird problem solving ADHD talent helps me come up with ways adversaries could exploit anything I find.

        As for “being a brilliant jerk is ok in tech”, similarly I don’t think you want to work anywhere that’s true. That said, there are definitely teams where you can be open about your strengths and weaknesses and everyone can work with respect and compassion together. In incident response, you might be better at the technical stuff, while a colleague might be the one who explains things to the non technical stakeholders. With trust, and again, respect and introspection, I think you could have good working relationships that support you in building coping mechanisms that prevent the worst of the impulse control stuff and allow for compassion when you don’t get it right 100% of the time.

  36. Bertie*

    I’m not nearly as ‘eccentric’ as the letter writer, but I do have the following difficulties at work:

    -terrible with details and anything at all technical
    -extremely slow and deliberate
    -cannot multitask
    -bristle against any form of authority
    -depression since adolescence (dysthymia is the diagnosis)
    -have problems with ‘executive functioning’
    -not good with self direction (need specific and detailed instructions so I was good at school but terrible in the modern workplace)
    -someone who will always do the bare minimum to get the desired result
    -extremely quiet and reserved in communication and will always do things alone if given the choice

    With all of those limitations, I am going on my 21st year as an ‘engineer’ and project manager at a federal agency. I’ve always received acceptable to good reviews and have only had minor problems with a few busy-body type managers. There is no way, none, that I could work the way I do for the government and remain employed in a similar paying corporate job. I’d be fired within 6 months.

    I am different than the LW in that I’ve never had even an inkling of desire to be a ‘high-achiever’ or anything like that, but I do have a good income and stable job.

    As for the LW’s questions, I doubt there is anyway to be a high-achiever in a corporate environment without some ability to conform to some norms that don’t come naturally to you. If you have any diagnosed conditions, you can talk to you doctor about what workplace accommodations might help you function better and begin the RA (reasonable accommodation) process with your employer. For me it was never about finding what work I’m well suited to (because I don’t like to work), but finding what I could tolerate without hating my life. So I ended up working for the government. You’ll just have to try (and probably fail) a few times to find your answer. I quit two different corporate jobs after college because I knew I’d either be fired or suffer serious repercussions on my mental health.

    1. RL*

      I have bad short term memory loss from treating a severe mental illness and can relate to many of the items on your list. People can struggle with this for different reasons and you’re not alone OP even with people who have non-typical brains in other ways.
      “I doubt there is anyway to be a high-achiever in a corporate environment without some ability to conform to some norms that don’t come naturally to you” – nail on the head, it’s how I understand myself anyway.

  37. Kel*

    This sounds like it’s not going to be helpful, but truly you should find what you love. My wife has ADHD and struggled for decades with office jobs where she would feel severely depressed, miserable, fought with her bosses (rightfully, usually) and struggled with getting accommodations and working despite medication and therapy.

    She is now a dog groomer. She found something she loves, that makes her happy and has enough novelty to keep her occupied but isn’t constantly changing. She works by herself, she interacts only briefly with other people.

    I know you said you can’t go be a goat herder or fire watcher; but don’t sell yourself short. Those things exist, other things exist. Starting over is HARD, but you can do it because when you find the thing for you it WILL be easier.

  38. gorb*

    I used to struggle with being professional too. Fortunately, I don’t enjoy being friends with people at work, so I basically managed to quash any desire to share anything about myself or show any sort of personality, and that helped me a lot. Whenever I do make a joke, it’s pretty likely to land badly because I just don’t have a natural sense of appropriateness. So my recommendation that worked for myself is really just quash your personality, really work on getting out of the habit of discussing non-work topics, making jokes, including pictures in emails, etc. (I get my joking jollies out on anonymous social media, where it still often lands badly, but I do need some kind of outlet, so…)

    My spouse on the other hand doesn’t have any desire to do that. They talk about emotions and other things at work that I absolutely cringe when I hear it. Whenever we used to talk about it, I always tried to counsel them on how to be professional like I had done. But over time, I noticed that they often have good results by being their unfiltered self. There’s bad results as well, but I’ve been very surprised when they were in a tight spot and got out of it by being their unfiltered self. They did get fired from a few jobs for reasons along these lines, but they finally found a workplace where they’re able to just be themselves and not worry too much about it. So that’s another recommendation, if you’ve got any kind of a network, maybe talk to people and try to identify workplaces where you might be a little more comfortable. These are two totally opposite solutions, and it really depends on what you’re able to do which direction you should try to go.

  39. Ex-prof*

    Sorry to hear you have this problem. I had it too when I was younger. Here’s how I dealt with it:

    I turned the filters in my brain up to 11. “Should I say that? What would be the reaction? What’s the worst way it could be taken?”

    And, tedious as it sounds, I used that filter every time I opened my mouth, or sent an email.

    Every. Single. Time.

    It was years before it became second nature. And I still screwed up a few times along the way, but not nearly as often and never enough to get fired.

    I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but let’s face it, neither is getting fired. We pay our money and we take our choice.

    1. gorb*

      That’s amazing. I tried and tried to be able to evaluate each thing I was about to say, but I could never anticipate the ways things could be taken! I found it was easier to just dial the volume of my non-work-related utterances down to near zero.

  40. TomatoSoup*

    ADHD-specific career coaches are a real thing and I think could help OP a lot. Hopefully, that person would have a sense of what jobs previous clients had looked at or thrived in as a starting point and then narrow things down based on OP’s individual experience, preferences, and needs. They can also offer a well-grounded and individualized reality check.

    Additionally, I would join the chorus of you don’t necessarily have to work corporate/office jobs.

  41. Smithy*

    I think that very often a quirkier personality as well as a more creative/agile mind (i.e. research oriented) gets people directed into professional fields without a lot of bureacracy as its assumed that a flat hierarchy or consulting will be a match. And sometimes that works, but when impulse control and reading social norms is more challenging – I’d actually say that you’re setting yourself up for a harder work environment.

    In a flatter hierarchy or when you’re self employed, you often need to be more adapt at organizing yourself and interpretting a variety of soft social cues and norms. Essentially, it’s the misnomer that a workplace with no dress code has no dress code. It just has no written dress code.

    All to say, given where the OP is in their professional life and what they have achieved – it might be worth considering a workplace environment that actually has more structure and bureacracy. I’m not saying to go and find a conservative bureacracy that you’d see in a bank, but rather a more hierarchical nonprofit where the OP would fit within an org-chart. A type of environment where the OP could potentially have an assistant or another direct report who’d be tasked with assignments like proof reading emails intended for wider distribution or even writing them in the OP’s voice. Such a place would have more rules and policies to guide behavior, and even if obvious to others, might take some pressure off the OP from having to make those calls themself. And if any areas still remained difficult, more clear cut areas for improvement with either a manager or therapist.

    1. metadata minion*

      I agree! In a rules-heavy environment, I may think the rules are absurd, but so long as they’re not actively harmful I at least know what they are and can follow them. “Casual”, “flat” organizations and communities often have just as many unofficial rules, but you aren’t told what they are, only that you have broken one and now everyone is mad at you and won’t clearly explain why.

      1. Smithy*

        Absolutely. Like – I think if we spent a lot more time with the OP – the exact reasons why the email with the Heidi Klum Halloween costume were an issue would make more sense. But giving the OP the benefit of the doubt, it’s clear that exactly why it was wrong isn’t 100% clear.

        So when you consider workplaces that have rigid email style guides – all signatures must look like X, use of gifs not allowed, or only gifts from an approved list, etc etc. Personally, what this does for me is remove things I have to think about as opposed to being irritated I’m limited by the font or color choice.

    2. Aerin*

      My first grownup job was pretty much entirely self-directed and with very little accountability. I spent most of my days goofing off because I would try to take a quick break and time blindness kicks in and three hours have passed.

      My current role has a set schedule of what I’m supposed to be doing when. I have some more self-directed projects where I have to figure out my order of operations myself, but overall I don’t have to put brainpower into keeping track of that. I just change tasks at the appointed times and know there are people keeping an eye on things to nudge me back into place if I get sidetracked. It makes a huge difference even though it’s technically the same job title as the previous one.

  42. Good Luck*

    If you really want work in an outdoors type job, now is the time of year to start applying. Alot of National Parks are hiring for spring, summer and fall. You can often find lots of work in these fields at this time of year!

    Also FWIW after college instead of getting a regular 9-5 my cousin got a job working in a ski town out west at Restaurant/Resort. She makes great money and is able to hike, bike, and all the things in her spare time. You might be great at serving! It’s often fast paced and you would probably relate to customers well!

  43. gnomic heresy*

    Oooohhhh I feel you. You are not alone in the world. I’m doing okay right now because I’ve found a lovely job with lovely understanding people in the nonprofit world, but I have tried Corporate Amurka and I too would rather be an itinerant goatherd. (I love goats we should be best friends!)

    If you find yourself in a typical “jobby job” and not herding goats, may I suggest that Jan is your best friend? (Sure, Jan.) No I mean JAN, the Job Accommodation Network: https://askjan.org/index.cfm Because you have a diagnosis and a treatment plan, if you disclose a need for reasonable accommodations, you can make it much more likely that your employer will work with you.

  44. Kristi*

    Given the data and publications, I’m wondering if asking intimate questions was an actual part of the role. If not – that tendency is something you can probably be helped with, am not diagnosing but maybe look at someone who works with people with autistic characteristics? (Often some overlap with ADHD.)

    I have a similar skill set to OP (quantitative and qualitative, data analyst, published, quick learner leading to being able to do an eclectic set of things) and some of their challenges (not detail oriented, ADD, short attention span, socially awkward though in my case balanced with socially anxious.) I found my niche in academia – I mostly sit in a basement and consult on varied research projects, build systems to help people do things more easily, and give workshops on how to do things. (I recently described myself to someone as a human swiss army knife.) I discovered that being a programmer who works endlessly on lengthy code projects wasn’t for me, but building small tools and solving project-specific problems works well. I’m useful enough and mostly out of the way enough that as long as I’m not actively seeking out people to offend, it works.

    So I’d suggest looking for some sort of role in research support: academic, think tank or commercial – maybe health related? Your publications as a data analyst will help. Maybe pick up some coding skills if you don’t have them already – Python, R, API stuff, GIS. Data science credentials. Data’s not all intensive machine learning and actuarial stuff, it’s also just being a person who helps turn a mess of a spreadsheet into a functional database, or figures out how to analyze some weird numbers.

    1. OPe*

      The intimate questions were definitely part of the work. And what’s worse is that they were written to appeal to the target demographic, so I was asking people things like “Last time you were f***ed in the a**, did he c*** inside you?”

      I wrote the full words out in a previous comment before realizing they were probably not appropriate for this comment section!

      A client saw my wedding ring and asked me questions about marriage and monogamy.

      1. anna*

        Was this interviews with sex workers? That’s the only field I could think where this language might be used, like maybe if you were collecting info from adult movie performers.

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          My thought was health outreach to men who have sex with men (of whom many identify as gay, bisexual, or queer, but some who do not), particularly in a city with a “scene”. Which may have some overlap with sex workers! But when there’s a group of people where any given person may have dated or had casual sex with a quarter of the rest of the room, inhibitions about extremely frank sex talk can get pretty lowered.

          I went to a particular Christmas-adjacent party in a group like that, with every expectation that it would remain a fully clothed function (and it did, and I don’t think anyone was sneaking off to dark corners to get frisky). But the gag gifts in the gift exchange included novelty sex toys and explicit DVDs, and some of the discussion about those objects included anatomically detailed, casually phrased, discussion of how exactly it was intended to be used.

          I wouldn’t really want to rock up to a group of people with those norms and ask in clinical terms; some of the folks I knew there wouldn’t mind and answer as intended, but some would take it as a sign that the person was an outsider and possibly uncomfortable with the topic, and might give inaccurate and extreme answers for the pleasure of upsetting the normie.

  45. QuiteContrary*

    Fellow ADHDer here who owns a successful business! It sounds like research is a strong suit so lean into that. The advantage is it provides an endless supply of new topics to hyperfocus on. No one is better at research than a hyperfocused ADHDer! If you need to hire an assistant to polish your work, you can do that cheaply online until you’re established enough to hire someone on a regular schedule. And the best part is, you can research at the time of day that works for you. Just be sure to set firm deadlines for everything and have a system that works for you in terms of planning. Good luck – you can do this!

  46. Academic glass half full*

    It took me more than 10 years after undergraduate to find a position that the majority of the job took advantage of my strengths.
    The bad news is that every position has/had tasks that involved my deficits, number one being lack of attention to detail. Forms, data entry, organization, budgets and finance, group work, committees are all hell to me. I break into a sweat when I think about travel reimbursements.
    I am finally in a position to get other people to do those parts of the job or at least help in the review and follow up.i s
    Not very helpful but my experience is that no job is a perfect fit but if I stick it out sometimes the “good fit ” stuff gets bigger and the “bad fit” stuff can get offloaded to someone else.

  47. Crazy Professional Lady*

    I feel like you are describing me here OP, I ended up in arts administration and now am the Director of an arts center. I went through similar pitfalls in the beginning, I also came from a religious background where I picked up the bad habit of oversharing. All I can say is that being moved up into management and going through hard situations such as discipline and firing people did a lot to mature me! I realized that my co-workers and colleagues really needed the support from a level-headed professional, so I had to work on developing that attitude and putting other’s needs (such as the need for focus and seriousness) ahead of my own. I still get to be in a creative field and have those big picture ideas (be innovative, pitch what is crazy pie-in-the-sky), but then my team has to be detailed ones to carry them out!

  48. Anon for this one*

    Definitely following this thread. I have ADHD as well, though mine seems to manifest as complete inaction (because I’m terribly anxious about the consequences of impulsivity and have spent my whole life squashing my personality into a pleasant blank box). I’m actually more impulsive on medication because I can finally break out of Man Doing 6,000 Calculations.gif mode. But I digress (lol)!

    Others have suggested academic research. I want to suggest corporate or legal research. I didn’t have the attention span for academia, but corporate is a breeze. Projects take anywhere between six minutes and six hours and that’s it, and I don’t have to worry about having a perfect worksona since I’m not client-facing; plus you’re in research so people kind of expect you to be a little weird! The job postings often ask for a JD and/or MLIS, but just yesterday members of the professional association to which I belong were lamenting the lack of applicants to their open positions so I think many will be willing to be flexible and to train you. These jobs can be WFH, hybrid, or involve weird hours. I used to work evenings, for instance, while others on my team just worked Saturday-Sunday.

    Also, never send an email immediately after writing it. Save it to your drafts and review it 15-30 minutes later. If you’re worried you’ll forget to send the draft altogether, use the delay delivery feature. Use tasklists, reminders, and alerts. I find writing things down in a notebook more helpful than digital checklists, but YMMV.

    1. AnneSurely*

      *high five*

      Also ADHD, diagnosed after 40, though in retrospect holy forking shirtballs, it explains so much about my life. (Undiagnosed/self-diagnosed autism, and realizing how much undiagnosed ADHD and autism there are in family members, explains most of the rest.) Also really timid and risk intolerant, so impulsivity wasn’t an issue for me. And I also find that now that I’m medicated, it’s easier to be impulsive! Or decisive? I think that for folks like us, terrified of impulsivity, it can be hard to even distinguish them. Anyway, I feel like in my case it’s a positive thing. I am not an impulsive person on medication. But because my medication decreases my anxiety in general, I am able to be more decisive and carefully impulsive (stop laughing) because my anxiety isn’t getting in the way of me doing things.

  49. Corporate Lady*

    I recommend software sales. I’m absolutely serious. In software sales, some of what you’re talking about is really useful. You really need to be able to see the big picture and bring people along with your vision. It’s not your job to get into the weeds – and sometimes if you do it can derail you from your goal. In my experience (10+ year) it’s a bit of a joke how not detail oriented sales people are. For example, when I get a multi paragraph email, I’ll joke to my boss about how I got a “wall of text” and my brain just shuts down. I do have to go back and take the time to dig in, but it’s understood that the things that make someone a good sales person aren’t necessarily the same as what makes someone a good detail oriented worker. In software sales, they have a whole structure built around the sales people to support them in this way.

    It is still hard work. You have to follow up and put yourself out there. You have to really understand your customers point of view and how what you’re selling will improve their lives. If you don’t make your number, you will be fired. But I’ve found a lot of flexibility in this career path that accommodates my own neurodivergence while still being really successful.

  50. Dawn*

    What helped for me, and let’s be clear, this is nothing but what worked for me, I’m not saying that means it will definitely work for you, was to actively practice those skills, and I did so through video games.

    A genre of games that are popular right now are factory-building games; from certain Minecraft mods to Infinifactory to Satisfactory and a whole lot of others like that where the whole point is to build a complex system with precise steps (and troubleshoot why it’s not working when it isn’t.)

    If you’re not into games, there’s other options that can help, like learning an instrument.

    Impulse control is less easy to practice, although again, online games helped me there, but there’s also cognitive behavioural therapy, etc, to help get those under better control.

    You can be born “detail-oriented” and skilled at following a process and always in control of your impulses, sure. But you can also practice and improve those skills if you have a will to.

    1. gorb*

      That’s an interesting thought. I play a game where you have to constantly be making sure you have the extremely detailed things you need to survive, and I used to be super impulsive and never have the correct materials on hand and go off on half-cocked missions; now I’m very good at the game, and I’ve also improved my impulse control lot in my life as well. I didn’t connect the two things but now I’m wondering…

      1. Dawn*

        I did kinda mention the big ones already in thread, but specifically for me were the Minecraft tech packs. There’s a great pack for an older version of Minecraft called Infitech 2 which involves a lot of, for example, chemical factory processes where you start with raw materials and end up with plastic.

  51. ThrowAway Name Today*

    Piece of advice so that you don’t have to wonder exactly where the line is OP – I attended Quaker schools. I am a practicing Unitarian Universalist. While it is not my thing, more than a handful of my friends and extended social circle are part of kink communities and while I don’t attend the parties in the home of one of the friends, I have been down in the dungeon to check it out and because that’s where a lot of the craft supplies happen to live.

    Based on that background – unless you are actively in a work environment where you are teaching sex ed (and even then you shouldn’t really be talking about yourself, you should be focused on the curriculum and providing the information that your students need) it is NEVER appropriate to ask your coworkers about their sex life or to tell them about yours. And just because you are friendly with a coworker, that doesn’t make them your actual friend (real friendships with coworkers can develop of course but there is a difference between work friends and friend friends).

    1. Redaktorin*

      OP was not asking sex questions of their coworkers. They were specifically hired to ask these questions of people who were patients or study participants. I feel like a lot of people are getting this detail wrong because something about the letter makes them feel hostile toward the OP…but anyway, this was, in fact, a situation very close to your sex ed example.

      1. ThrowAway Name Today*

        They specifically said they shared information about their personal sex life and that is not appropriate to share with study participants or patients – and the OP even says that their supervisor said they crossed a line so I’m taking the OP at their word that they did something work inappropriate and giving them a guideline to use in the future.

        1. Redaktorin*

          I understand this and would absolutely never defend oversharing with research subjects, but the comment I am responding to literally reads “it is NEVER appropriate to ask your coworkers about their sex life.” That is just plain not what happened, and it is a bit off that so many people are getting this detail wrong.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            Totally agree, people are getting this detail wrong and I also see a lot of people assuming the LW doesn’t think their impulsive behaviors are really a problem and that their supervisors are just uptight— I feel like they read a different letter than I did.

        2. sundae funday*

          So OP clarified that they had to ask very explicit questions about the participants’ sex lives (not coworkers, participants in a survey). So when the participants asked questions back about OP’s marriage, OP answered. Apparently that crossed a line, which I can understand, but at the same time, that’s an incredibly difficult line to walk. I have ADHD and I’m fairly good at managing impulsivity but I would massively struggle in a role where I was asking extremely invasive questions of others but then not allowed to answer a basic question.

      2. Pierrot*

        I worked in a similar role where I did STI prevention counseling and performed a lot of intakes. When you’re asking people really personal questions about their sexuality (especially if you’re meeting them for the first time) and they are putting a large degree of trust in you, it is really not appropriate to go into any amount of detail about your sex life. Self-disclosure can make sense in certain scenarios– typically not involving research– but this is a big topic in the field of counseling/sex-ed/case management. When professionals do self-disclose, it’s really important to be thoughtful about it and not completely center themself. There are often peer educator roles but even in those jobs, the person is usually trained on boundaries and disclosure. If someone has sexual trauma and they sit down with an interviewer who they don’t really know who goes into detail about their own sex life, it could have the potential to be triggering.

        It sounds like the LW just felt compelled to share this stuff and didn’t have control over that impulse, and to be clear, I am not saying that they had any ill intentions. I just want to address the misconception that working in a field related to sexuality means that talking about your sex life is less inappropriate than it would be in a different profession. If you’re working directly with people, it can end up reinforcing unequal power dynamics that the LW wants to avoid. I have ADHD too and I empathize with where LW is coming from, so I am not trying to pile on. It sounds like they know that their conduct wasn’t appropriate.

        1. AFac*

          Not to mention many of these studies are bound by rules designed to make the research ethical, unbiased, and to minimize harm. Many times the details of what you can say, when you can say it, and the process of collecting the data are set in stone. Deviating from that, even under the umbrella of ‘well, we’re all talking about sex anyway, what’s the harm?’ can bias the research data so that it’s unusable, place the study in an ethically gray area, and possibly even cause loss of funding. I’m not surprised the OP’s supervisors were unhappy with their additions–their funding, research success, and even their jobs were on the line.

        2. OPe*

          Thank you, I think you hit the nail on the head here. I felt uncomfortable asking detailed sexual information from people in my community and having to figure out how to deflect much less detailed questions from the client.

          1. 2nd gen ADHD*

            OP, this is so relatable!
            I saw your answer in another comment (having to ask about specific sex acts for the job and then fielding return questions about monogamy) and I would also struggle with how to answer without answering. You have to in the moment hear the question behind the question (which I’m guessing was “show me you’re relatable and it’s safe to talk to you”), and then, also in the moment, come up with an acceptable answer for that without seeming like you’re dodging the question they asked out loud. That’s a pretty high level skill IMO and not one that is ever explicitly taught (although arguably in that job they should have gone over likely questions and appropriate answers in training). I’m grateful that skill was never a requirement for the jobs I’ve held! Reading about the overlap between ADHD and autism was helpful for me in identifying things like this, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

            Which doesn’t help with your original question but I wanted to respond to this because a lot people seemed to both misread that part of your letter and get really fixated on it. I was happy to see you weren’t too overwhelmed by those commenters (or the many ableist comments) to engage in the comment section!

  52. Sunshine*

    This is not helpful to the OP, but all of those things would be considered normal and pretty funny in my department (marketing). If the line ever gets crossed we’re pretty good about saying “hey, that’s too far” and moving on. I do agree it’s a good idea to tone it down and develop a better awareness of boundaries, but some workplaces are also much more casual than others. I hope you can find a place that’s a good fit for you, OP!

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Creative fields have a lot of ADHDers and the cultures do sometimes change accordingly. Of course, it’s best if OP makes their more egregious mistakes and got their diagnosis in less loved careers!

  53. Your Computer Guy*

    I work in IT services and you’d be a fine fit for the tech industry (development, SaaS, MSPs, CSPs, etc). Look for smaller companies or ones that use the word “start-up” (either as a true descriptor or “start-up mentality”) in their job listings.
    This does a couple of things for you – companies like that tend to have people jump between a lot of different tasks/wear many hats, which could dovetail nicely with some of your particulars. There also tends to be more of a focus on speed/execution over accuracy/perfection. All kinds of nerdy, stand-offish, oddball, weird, awkward, etc types are tolerated if they can do the work that needs doing. It’s also more common than in other industries to job hop every couple of years, so if you flame out somewhere it’s not as much of a red flag.
    Smaller tech companies also tend towards a “fun” and casual culture without strict hierarchies, and where your worm picture would be applauded. In fact, I’m going to figure out how to use that picture in a Teams chat ASAP.

  54. melbelle*

    As a bonafide high-achieving eccentric: hello, there are more of us out here than you think.

    Some things that have helped me:

    1. Reframing work as a totally different environment than “normal” social interactions. When I come to work, I view it as basically putting on a totally different personality. (As I get more comfortable and trusted in my role, some of my…eccentricities…become more revealed, but I’ve learned to never fully take Work Persona off). This is also one of the reasons remote work was really difficult for me.

    1b. I know this sounds confining and depressing… but honestly having a Work Persona was very freeing. It relieved my anxiety about how I was coming across at work. It has allowed me to accomplish the goals I want to accomplish in life. Work Persona is not *me*, but she is a part of me. (Heck, maybe fully fleshing out Work Persona and even giving her a name would be helpful to you.)

    2. Be upfront with supervisors about the time you’ll need to complete certain tasks. Ask them to build that into the project schedule! If you want you can turn it into an Official Accommodation Request, but I’ve found that’s not always necessary. One skill of mine that I think comes from the disorganized/messy/ADHD place is that I’m generally very quick at finishing work projects… but yeah, the first time, they won’t be totally right. Use that extra time to have someone edit your work or correct your mistakes.

    3. There are settings in Outlook and Gmail where you can have an automatic delay on any emails you press “send” on – and then you can recall them quickly to correct errors or remove innapropriate comments/photos ;) Give yourself a good 15 minutes worth of post-email-regret-time. Have a friend or coworker who can offer a second opinion on what’s appropriate.

    4. Find your allies in the office. Not every job will have them, but at any job worth staying at there’s at least a few other freaks on staff who will Get You. Once you have those people on your team, it can be a lot easier to deal with the downsides of being this kind of person. (Remember: Work Personality can never fully come unglued).

    5. Put real thought into the physical space you work in. Getting a standing desk changed my life – just the physical effort of standing vs sitting throughout the workday made my brain so much happier. Lamplight works way better for me than any kind of florescent lighting. I’ve accepted (and my various bosses have realized) that my desk is probably always going to be a little bit of a mess.

    6. Find a professionalism mentor! This should be someone who’s basically the opposite of the work allies mentioned above — someone who may be slightly taken aback/horrified at these traits of yours. Put work into getting to know this person – and use their opinion (or the thought of their opinion) as your new litmus test. “Would Jane send this kind of email? Would Jane think this was weird?”

    Also, joining the chorus of people who have pointed out that maybe the corporate life is not for you. There are so, so many ways to make a living, and working in an office may not be where you thrive!

  55. HannahS*

    For the question “What do I do if I struggle with the norms of corporate professionalism?”
    There are two possibilities that I see:
    Address the “corporate norms.” See what options exist outside of the corporate world. Are you someone who would do great in a grassroots organization that’s young and idealistic and has a totally non-corporate culture? Would you be great it a startup? Would you be a good analyst for a factory or otherwise non-white-collar field? Should you work adjacent to agriculture? Academia can be cutthroat and awful and it can also be a place where non-conformity is accepted (sometimes for some people.)

    Address the “struggle.” I’m (obviously) not here to give you medical advice on the management of ADHD, and it sounds like you’re working on it, and I agree that it’s best for you to be in a space where more “personality” is tolerated (I think it’s super weird that you were fired for sending that photo??) I’ve heard good things about ADHD coaches, separately from other forms of therapy.

    I also think it could be helpful to reframe the norms of professional behaviour as not being inauthentic to you as a person and antithetical to equality. There’s a fine line (and I don’t know where it is for you, so just food for thought) between “This is so hard for me that I basically can’t do it” and “…but it’s stupid anyway so I don’t want to.” Being really casual with people doesn’t necessarily mean you’re treating them as equals, and being a more restrained version of yourself doesn’t mean that you’re treating others as subordinates and superiors.

    My students (professional students; we’re in an apprenticeship-type job) are fundamentally my equals AS PEOPLE, but I’m one step above them in the workplace hierarchy and there are some subjects that I hold back on when they’re around because I know that if they feel uncomfortable they might not feel able to tell me. Even though we’re equals, I do have more power, and being exactly the same self I am at home could actually wind up reinforcing that power differential instead of dispelling it.

    1. HannahS*

      Oh and also, I just wanted to add the jobs of a few different people who I’ve known who have ADHD, just to illustrate the range of places where I’ve seen people succeed:
      Outpatient pediatrician
      High school teacher who also coached football and lacrosse
      Supervisor at a coffee shop
      Camp counsellor
      WFH software engineer
      Musician
      Just finished an undergrad in microbiology, applying to grad school
      Senior admin at an elementary school

      I hope you find your place!

  56. CLC*

    Yeah I’m ADHD. I don’t have exactly the same problems as you do, but the professional world was really hard for me when I was younger, especially since I was a really high achiever and was getting the types of jobs that are really, really made for the most neurotypical of human (and this was 20+ years ago so it was worse, and I was undiagnosed until I was 30). Anyway, I think you are very self aware and that is always an asset. I don’t know how old you are, but some of these issues may resolve a bit as you get older. There are some things you can learn to control more than others. You really can train yourself not to blurt out inappropriate things, at least most of the time. Make rules for yourself— nothing sexual belongs at work, ever. With respect to things you really can’t control much (like detail orientation—I totally get you in terms of trying so hard but still somehow making mistakes), you can get formal or informal accommodations around that from a lot of employers/managers. As you grow in your career detail orientation becomes less important too (that gets pushed on the more junior staff and you’ll be more focused on the big picture). You can find the right company for you. Personally I like working for a large company much better than small ones—there’s inherently more diversity when there are more people, you can blend in more, and most small mistakes aren’t life or death. Look for companies with more comprehensive DEI plans, especially if those plans include neurodiversity. When you interview, talk about DEI and ask questions about how the team works together and supports each other. Think about whether the people you meet show empathy and create belonging. And also, you CAN talk about some of these issues upfront and explain how they might impact the team. Think about it in terms of making a plan to ensure you and your team perform despite some obstacles. And I will reiterate again—don’t talk about anything sexual at work. Just work on that one rule first and foremost.

  57. KP*

    There are a lot of comments here from people who don’t really understand ADHD. Like. At all. It’s not their fault. It’s hard to step into someone else’s brain and understand how it functions. It’s the same reason you’re struggling right now.

    I have ADHD. I was undiagnosed for the majority of my adulthood. And once I was, my entire life made sense in retrospect. I’ve really struggled with being “too much” at work, especially early on in my career.

    I also understand what you mean by treating everyone “equally”. I’m not sure if that’s your religion’s influence or if it’s a result of being neurospicy. For me, it’s the ADHD. It’s not that I don’t understand hierarchies. I get them, in a broad sense. But if you’re a leader and a dumbass, I’m going to push back when you’re being a dumbass just like I would to any other colleague. I’ve picked up skills over the years to do that respectfully in “deference” to their authority. I still think it’s silly….but I do it. It’s necessary in the working world. Next time you’re in a professional role, I would encourage you to watch/observe someone you admire and emulate how they behave. If you’re close enough, ask them to mentor you on workplace norms.

    LW, part of the problem is that you are trying to fit and contort yourself into a system that wasn’t built for you and how you think. You can build all the organizational systems you want…but it will eventually fail when your brain refuses to do it. It’s not your fault. It’s like trying to teach a fish to climb a tree. It’s amazing that you’ve figured out how to make it mostly work, but the fish is going to struggle because it doesn’t have thumbs. That’s no one’s fault. You know what a fish is great at? Swimming. You need to find what makes you swim. You need to work with your brain, not against it. Let it be your ally.

    For me, I’ve found that having small controls in place is easier to manage than organizing things the way I’m “supposed” to. I keep groceries (shelf stable ones) in my car because I often forget my lunch. I put myself on mute during Teams calls to keep me from interrupting. (I still talk. But having to press the button to unmute is usually enough to stop that behavior). I have an airtag on my key chain because I kept losing my keys and I was late to work. Small things can have a big impact. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

    The roles I’ve felt happiest in are when I’m a “knowledge worker”. You shouldn’t pick a role where you’re executing the idea. You need a role where you’re building strategies and thinking through complex problems. I bet you’re an amazing problem-solver.

    You are going to want a job where you aren’t doing the same thing every day. You won’t be able to avoid it entirely, but look for something that talks about “fast-paced” environments. You’re a creative thinker and smart….I bet you thrive in chaos, like I do. I bet you’re really adaptable.

    And I would encourage you to think about why being a goat herder appeals to you. Is it that you can’t “mess up” with people because there are no people around? Or do you genuinely want to work with animals? Do you want to be outside? Or do you not want to feel confined?

    Have you considered something like marketing? Or sales? Somewhere where large and gregarious personalities are appreciated? Have you considered engineering roles where you need to be able to think quickly and creatively? If you like public speaking, would you want to be in a training/teaching role? There’s so many things you can do. I promise.

    Good luck.

      1. Redaktorin*

        Yeah, it’s not great.

        A huge barrier to people with late-in-life ADHD diagnoses getting themselves together is others’ judgment, FWIW. Being told that you’re a burden or that your coworkers hate you, or that you must hate your coworkers to be acting this way, is not really productive. Has OP had some pretty severe lapses in judgment? Yes. But they now have a diagnosis, meds, and an ongoing commitment to reeling it in, so maybe they don’t need random commenters to tell them how “disrespectful” they are or deliberately misinterpret the part of their letter where they were not randomly asking sexual questions of coworkers, but were specifically hired to ask sexual questions of patients.

        1. KP*

          All of this. Especially the deliberate misreading of the sexual comments. That’s literally not what happened but so many comments seem comfortable calling the LW “harmful.”

          I felt so ashamed of myself reading some of these responses and how people might view me. Making a fixable mistake (that I fix!) is not being disrespectful. I feel some days like I am tying myself in knots in order to fit it….and a little grace extended my way would be great.

          But since we’re being judgmental, maybe I should just tell my colleagues to quit talking so slowly and to get to the point? I have excellent pattern recognition and I already know what they’re going to say.

          1. boo bot*

            “I have excellent pattern recognition and I already know what they’re going to say.”

            LOL, this is why it’s so much fun to talk to my mom, we just interrupt each other as soon as the pattern is clear and skip ahead.

            I appreciated your comment, and most of it rings true for me as well, especially the part about learning to work with your brain instead of against it.

            Something I have had to learn over and over again is that when I try to make “smart” choices, like finding a stable and secure job instead of leaning into the less-stable, less-secure types of work that I enjoy—I fail. The culturally agreed-upon “good choices” are usually not good choices *for me*. The boring safe choice is neither boring nor safe for me because if I’m bored by a job, I won’t be able to do it well, and I’ll end up in yet another precarious situation.

            The thing that has gone well for me career-wise, when I’ve done it, is leaning into the things I love doing and know I’m good at. So, my advice to the letter writer is to go introduce yourself to some goats and wildfire-prevention organizations.

    1. Pierrot*

      I have ADHD and have struggled in professional environments. I’ve had coworkers and employers pick on me for “quirks” that were actually symptoms of ADHD. I still struggle with a lot of anxiety when it comes to job searches and whether I’ll be able to fit in with the workplace norms so I get where the LW is coming from here.

      With that said, I think the issues with boundaries and oversharing really need to be addressed regardless of what field they go into. I’m not saying that it’s easy, or that it’s a matter of just not doing it. But other people’s feelings and comfort matter, regardless of if someone is neurodivergent. To be clear, I think that people absolutely need to be more tolerant of coworkers’ differences in how they approach social interaction and social cues. I’ve been on the receiving end of intolerance, so I get it. However, if the content of what a person is sharing is making other people (coworkers or clients) uncomfortable because it involves personal topics like sexuality, the person should try to work on their filter and boundaries.

      I don’t think that the comments that are pointing this out are wrong or inherently offensive. The ones that are judging the LW as a human being or downplaying the fact that they have ADHD are. There are a lot of letters that come into AAM from people on the flip side, who are having issues with a coworker who crosses boundaries and gets into sharing inappropriate stuff about their personal life, and the comments/advice typically share the view that it’s not okay, regardless of the person’s potential diagnosis.

      1. Cyndi*

        Seconded–I think a lot of us saying “hey, we have to distinguish here between harmless ‘quirky’ behavior and things you legitimately need to learn to manage because they’re causing problems for other people” are ourselves neurodivergent. I know I personally am talking from way too many years’ experience of blowing up things in my professional and personal life because of emotional dysregulation–and I don’t mean messing up fiddly arbitrary social norms, I mean I treated people like crap and they were completely right to distance themselves from me. That wasn’t okay! Me being neurodivergent didn’t magically make it okay, and it sure didn’t make those people magically not upset any more!

        I just don’t believe it’s ableist or judgmental or mean to tell someone “hey, the info you’ve given sounds like you have issues gauging boundaries, and if you don’t develop that skill you’re going to continue making other people uncomfortable.” And I definitely don’t believe that’s incompatible with acknowledging that it’s particularly challenging for medical reasons. Still gotta get done, though.

      2. KP*

        The reason I’m getting annoyed by these comments is it feels like a deliberate misunderstanding of what the LW actually said. And I’m sure you understand the frustration in always feeling like you have to explain yourself.

        You know how I read the sex anecdote? The LW was in a role where she had to be friendly and personable as she asked people really private questions about sex and gender. It’s written as if it’s a habitual and normal activity. (If she worked for someplace like the Kinsey institute that would be something super normal)

        These same people then asked these questions back to her while they were having a conversation about sex and gender. Instead of recognizing that she should have deflected, she talked to them like they were friends. That is the boundary she crossed, because she didn’t trigger on the situation. And that could have been fixed with coaching, because there’s nothing in the letter to indicate the LW is a creep.

        That’s the obvious reading to me. Frankly, other people’s reaction to that anecdote baffled me at first…I didn’t understand why they thought she had sexually harassed her colleagues. That’s not what it said. At all.

        So of course you have to be responsible for your behavior, regardless of diagnosis. But I think some commenters are not taking into account that because they aren’t neurodivergent, they may be fundamentally misunderstanding what the LW wrote.

        1. Lellow*

          Yep, I’m with you on that being the obvious reading! But then I’m neurodivergent too… and in that situation what would make it a struggle for me would be, as you say, talking to someone like we were friends and therefore finding it really hard to switch into “oh I’m not answering in return”; it would feel super uncomfortable/rude in the moment, basically like I was lying, and it would be hard for me to even work out whether I was “allowed” not to answer. I’d need to be prepped with an actual scripted answer to use, otherwise I can see myself absolutely answering personal questions like that even if *I* felt uncomfortable sharing those details.

        2. OPe*

          Thanks man, I appreciate your compassion and take.

          Something that I didn’t bring up in my letter because I wanted to own my own problems was that that role came with zero training. I literally did not know I would be collecting bio samples until a colleague told me. I was asked to “make a website” when I had never, ever indicated I knew anything about web development, and so panicked, put it off, and then got in trouble for the website being delayed. A client tried to physically assault me and I was scolded for not handling the situation correctly. It was a rough job, man.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Handling physical assaults by clients is a whole other training. I worked as support staff to faculty members who were in psychiatric rehab and counseling supervision, and some of them told me about their early-career training in case of client assaults, and a lot of it sounded counter-intuitive to me (like pushing into a bite, leaning into a hair-pulling, etc) — it’s not stuff that would come naturally without the training.

          2. afiendishthingy*

            I thought it sounded like a training issue! You definitely should have been given some sample scripts for how to respond to personal questions from the research subjects.

    2. a thought*

      +1 to the “knowledge worker” idea. “can’t get a 94 step process right” is super important in some execution-based roles, and less important in the ideating roles.

      I’m not great at details – I work as a researcher. I do need to “get it right the first time” on stuff but it’s not the little ticky-tacky details (color of the paper, 94 step process). That tiny stuff is hard for me, but getting the big thing right (even if it has some typos or whatever) is easier for me. There are other people who work with me (e.g., copy editor) who support me doing my thing and they do the thing they are great at too. I wonder if a role like this would be a fit?

    3. Anon4This*

      “I have ADHD. I was undiagnosed for the majority of my adulthood. And once I was, my entire life made sense in retrospect. ”

      My entire life . Everything. Every single AuDHD moment I’ve ever had flashed before my eyes like someone zipping through the pages of a flip book and suddenly it all fell into place and my entire wacky life made complete and perfect sense. It was absolutely paradigm changing for me.

      Your analogy about a fish climbing a tree is perfect, and made me LOL. I hope we can all learn to swim.

    1. Sunshine*

      I feel like people are not reading the sexual comments section correctly. OP said that asking those questions was part of her job and she responded to questions with personal stories WHEN ASKED. That’s not the same as purposely making people uncomfortable by making sexual comments or asking questions out of nowhere. It was obviously still not okay, which is why OP was disciplined.

      And I think it’s overkill to say that sending a funny worm picture is disrespectful. That would be super normal and fine at lots of offices, just not at OP’s.

    2. ferrina*

      I feel like OP might be making excuses

      Fun fact: Every ADHD person has heard this. “You’re just making excuses (for not being able to do something I think you should do)”. And you know what? There is no way for you to gauge what is an excuse and what is truly out of our control (yep, I’ve got ADHD). Yes, sometimes it is an excuse. And often it’s not. And sometimes it’s a blend of an excuse and us struggling to figure out what on earth is going on with our brain. Our brains don’t come with a manual- I don’t have a dopamine gauge where I can tell the line between being “lazy” and what is me actively missing a chemical in my brain (dopamine reuptake inhibitors make a BIG difference). Might as well blame someone with sleep deprivation for being tired.

      I literally cannot Ordinary. I can try to fake it, but inevitably I get found out. Because I’m not ordinary. I have to do mental gymnastics just do the dishes, but I can also run 6 trains of thought in my head without missing a beat. The struggle is finding a place where I can compensate for my unusual weakness and utilize my unusual strengths, and still be able to pay my bills.

      I do agree that a “high income” might be unrealistic, but “able to pay student loans” and not worrying about being fired is a reasonable goal.

    3. Nesprin*

      Meh, I’d argue that a large number of “high-achieving eccentrics” started out eccentric, figured out how to play to their strengths, and became invaluable by being the best at a thing that they’re good at.

      Getting details right is valuable, but is not a make-or-break in every job, or I and many other posters would be unemployed. Given that OP will never be a details person, our goal here is to suggest jobs where OP can work to her strengths and not struggle with her weaknesses.

  58. SwampWitch*

    There are some occupational therapists who work with this level of ADHD, and executive function coaches. Have you looked into something wrote like data entry?

    1. Generic Name*

      Data entry is very repetitive and requires enormous concentration and attention to detail. This the the opposite of what the OP would be good at.

    2. icedcoffee*

      Eh, maybe data entry only as a temporary freelance if they can pick up just as much as they can handle. Some days I really enjoy being able to put on an audiobook and do something absolutely braindead.

      But there’s a hard limit to what I can handle. And it requires a level of attention to detail that OP has already said is not their strong suit. I have a STEM degree so I have learned ways to scaffold an attention to detail (aka self-QA), and cultivated an intrinsic motivation around that accuracy.

  59. Daisy-dog*

    Book Recommendation: The Six Types of Working Genius by Patrick Lencioni

    It’s short – took about 2.5 hours for me to read – and provides some great insights into how different people are good at different things. There is a paid assessment that you can take as well that will tell you all of your types and give suggestions on how to maximize your “genius”.

  60. Dilly*

    ‘to “high-achieving eccentric” with a high income and a stable career.’

    Look, if there were a magic formula for this, everyone would be using it. The majority of people, even those who are neurotypical, are not high income – it’s just the way the system is structured. For most people the goal is closer to stable career (or at least stable paycheck) and not drowning in debt. So you may have to lower the bar a little bit.

  61. Susancalvin*

    What about working in wildland firefighting? In California at least that’s a state job with the benefits of an office job (healthcare, pension) but also gets you outside (and California does use goats to reduce fire risk!). Also in my experience those crews are a bit more “rough around the edges”/have inappropriate humor at times. Plus, if you have a research background, there are a lot of research type jobs in that arena too.

  62. Lost my name again*

    Consultant!

    Here’s how I got there. I feel like due to your lack of attention to detail, you needed a role where you aren’t responsible for the final output which would presumably need to be error-free. However, due to a lack of professionalism, I don’t think management positions are well advised. So some type of consultant job where you conduct research and give recommendations/ideas. Hopefully the medication helps here too because you will need some professional baseline off which to operate.

    I could be totally off base here but this was fun.

    1. ferrina*

      Totally agree with this.

      I’m a consultant who has ADHD, and it can be a good fit. The struggle is getting to the level where you can delegate the editing to someone else. Usually this does require a management role, which I agree the LW sounds like isn’t a good fit for right now. To get to the point where LW would really thrive, LW needs to go through all the intermediary steps, which LW seems to be struggling with. LW would also need to be a confirmed expert in something, and I can’t tell from the letter if they have this.

      LW- what are you good at? Start there and build from that. What allows you to lean into your strengths?

  63. Jojo*

    I was thinking of suggesting sales to you. Some of the best salespeople I know have ADHD and learning disabilities. However, until you understand what topics are unprofessional, I think you might be more likely to put customers off than charm them.
    I’m going to suggest that you really take inventory of your weaknesses, and look for jobs that don’t rely on those things. I have learning disabilities and cannot spell to save my life, but i love to write and edit. However, I cannot edit professionally, because I can’t spell and make a few other writing mistakes as well. Don’t try to do thinks that are difficult or impossible for you, over time, it will destroy your self esteem.

    You really don’t seem well suited for white color jobs, so I would suggest you look elsewhere, especially at jobs that are out doors/in nature. My brother, who has ADHD, is a lineman for a utility company, and he thrives in the job. He seems to be able to focus in that environment in a way that he cannot inside. Are there any farms local to you? Parks? Food trucks? I know the money is not always as good, but you may be able to stay in a position longer and move up.

    Your question is pretty self aware in some ways, which is great, but I would also suggest that you need to do a little more reflecting/research on boundaries and appropriate behavior. I understand that you have issues with impulse control, but that’s not really a good excuse for overstepping boundaries. It sounds like you have at times behaved in a way that was harmful to other people. But, your language doesn’t show any understanding of the harm you have caused and it shows that maybe you are lacking some empathy for other people’s experiences. I think if you had a better grasp on how sexual conversations make people feel, you would find it easier not to cross those boundaries. I suspect that right now, you are cool with that kind of conversation, so you are ready and enthusiastic about jumping right into them. However, if you could internalize how uncomfortable they make people, I think it might be easier to stop yourself going forward. You need to get to the why behind the inappropriate behaviors, and let not wanting to hurt other people take the lead. I think Therapy might be a good place to work on that.

  64. Abogado Avocado*

    LW: It’s very clear you want to succeed, because motivation can help you bridge the gaps. You may wish to consider a consultation with an occupational specialist who has experience with individuals with ADHD. (You should be able to get a referral from your therapist, if you have one, or any university near you with an occupational therapy program.) These specialists can assist you in assessing your skills, in targeting jobs that are right for you, and can assist in finding or providing further training to help you recognize and cope with your impulse control issues.

  65. -*

    I’m removing this for the reasons others have flagged but I’m going to leave some of the responses because there’s useful info in them. – Alison

    1. ThatGirl*

      That’s not really what the LW was asking. They’re on medication that seems to be helping with impulse control, and with ADHD it’s a lot harder than just “stop and count to ten”. Therapy may be helpful, but again — not what the LW is looking for.

      1. Loulou*

        I mean, it sounds like OP is looking for something that might not exist for them right now — a high-level job that lets them behave exactly as they want to? That’s not within reach for most people. I’m not sure how helpful reader comments are going to be on this one.

        1. Observer*

          I think that your comment is actually the most helpful thing that the OP can hear. Because they need to recognize that they either need to change their behavior or find a totally different employment path.

          1. Lea*

            I think op just needs to find a way to redirect the inappropriate work energy or something? Find a friend to run shit by? Save it for the group chat?

            I’m not really sure what the problem is maybe a boss they can have this conversation with who will redirect rather than fire

          2. ShanShan*

            It wouldn’t be changing their behavior. It would be changing their neural wiring.

            Look, people with ADHD often spend their whole childhoods getting yelled at, getting rejected, and feeling like failures. The idea that “tough love” from some internet commentator they have never met is going to hold more weight than the “tough love” this person has no doubt already received from every teacher, employer, and schoolyard bully they’ve ever had is preposterous.

            If there were a way to yell at someone so much that they stopped having ADHD, then no one would have ADHD. There isn’t.

            OP is already seeing a medical professional, and this is how far they’ve gotten. A scolding from a stranger isn’t going to get them any further.

            1. icedcoffee*

              Yes. Exactly. OP is looking for insight that they haven’t heard a zillion times before, or a new angle that they hadn’t considered. “Just try harder” is neither insightful nor a new angle.

              I do appreciate a general rule of “wait 10 min before sending an email.” Maybe that could be automated with the mail app’s settings. As someone with ADHD, I use technology to give me structure and self-checks that I can’t maintain myself.

              1. Giant Kitty*

                “Just try harder/you’re not trying hard enough” is anathema to this AuDHDer. If I’d tried any effing harder, I would have self combusted, and I still couldn’t do the things that seem to be effortless for most people.

                1. icedcoffee*

                  Bonus, stress denies the frontal lobe of blood flow (at least for ADHD brains). So stressing about trying harder is in fact making it harder to try harder! (This is part of why extended time on tests is a common accommodation in school)

            2. Jojo*

              I’ve seen this in some of my coworkers who I suspect have ADHD. They often carry around so much shame because of the way they were treated growing up. For one, he apologizes for “being stupid” before he does presentations. It makes him look so bad and sets everyone’s minds to expecting him to be stupid. He’s not stupid, but when you prime your audience, it’s going to bite you.

              Another one has a compulsive need to explain his entire train of thought that got him to a conclusion, I suspect because he was always justifying and explaining himself when he didn’t come up with the “right” conclusion. It’s tedious and wastes a lot of time, and often comes across as making excuses. It comes across as him being very clueless and everyone resents having to listen to him go on and on. I think it’s a coping skill that isn’t serving him very well anymore.

              1. icedcoffee*

                >>compulsive need to explain his entire train of thought
                Ugh this is MEEEEE. I do it less now that I finally have internalized that my coworkers truly do respect my thinking. The move to WFH has pushed more discussions to written word, which makes it easier to review and remove that blathering.

              2. Marvel*

                Oh I do the second one ALL THE TIME. Sometimes I even catch myself doing it and yet it’s too late to stop. Drives me insane.

            3. Loulou*

              Absolutely fair and I definitely shouldn’t have used the word “want” — I didn’t mean to imply OP is choosing to behave certain way! I just meant it doesn’t seem useful to have commenters throwing out random fields that OP should try (in many cases disregarding things OP themselves said that makes it unlikely to be a good fit).

            4. afiendishthingy*

              Yeah, I’m AuDHD and the most helpful thing for me to realize is that I am never going to be neurotypical. Success for me is not going to look like success for a neurotypical person. So accepting and adjusting for that has brought me peace and increased success. I don’t have the same impulsivity challenges that OP does (although talking without thinking first has gotten me into a little trouble a couple times), but I have major difficulties with organization and executive function as it relates to planning, intiating, and completing tasks on time. So I have help with cleaning my apartment now, and I use a lot of disposable dishware (sorry earth, but I work from home and rarely drive!); work-wise, I just don’t have jobs anymore where I’m the owner of big months-long projects with too many moving parts for me to coordinate and that I will procrastinate on. These are just a few examples, and it’s different for everyone.

              OP knows their impulsivity gets them into trouble. They do want to change, and they also want to find jobs that will capitalize on their strengths and where their weaknesses won’t be highlighted. Procrastinating is bad at all jobs, it’s not like I’m going to find a job where they say “oh yeah we love disorganized people who wait to the last minute to get their work done” – but my current role doesn’t give me so many opportunities to procrastinate, the organization is mostly electronic which i’m better at, plus others handle a lot of the project management type things I’m bad at. My boss LOVES me because I’m intuitive, have an amazing memory, and I’m great at learning, developing and fine-tuning new processes, so long as someone else documents them for me. It is possible.

              1. happybat*

                AuDHD is such a brilliant portmanteau word! Thanks for introducing me to it! I also love the idea of looking realistically at what you can do really well, as well as what can support weaker areas.

        2. Legal Beagle*

          Yes, we all want a high-income, stable job where we can be 100% ourselves but that’s not a reality for most people, even before taking into account the other issues OP identified.

        3. MuseumGal*

          I think this is very true. I just can’t think of many “high achieving” jobs where some level of attention to detail and having a pretty good sense of professionalism isn’t expected, aside from maybe a very successful artist. Perhaps reframing their “must haves” for a career would help? They mention stability as something they’re looking for and seem to enjoy being outside – what about something along the lines the park ranger, as others have suggested?

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think real-world very successful artists are often very good at details, deadlines, etc.

            1. allswell*

              100%. I’m an artist as a side-hustle, and the marketing and business side of it is HARD and complicated and requires knowing social media and building networks and marketing yourself and and and… it’s so much more than sitting down to a canvas. Like, that’s 15% of it.

          2. constant_craving*

            I can’t see a park ranger job working out. Either it’s basically a customer service position- sitting at the info desk telling visitors where the bathroom is- or it’s a law enforcement job where you have to go through a police academy. Neither of those is going to work out for somebody with impulsiveness that’s not controlled.

            1. pope suburban*

              It’s also a position that requires trust, especially if you are at a more remote posting. Imagine that you are someone who has, say, broken a leg while hiking, or someone who has had an unpleasant interaction with another patron at an urban park. If the person who is supposed to assist you is careless with their first aid or report-taking, and if that person shares overly personal or off-color information with you, you probably will not feel comfortable or safe. That’s really, really not optimal. Yes, I am sure that this LW means well and would not actually, deliberately cause harm, but harm is still pretty likely by their own account. I would really not recommend a public-service job for someone struggling with these issues, particularly one such as park ranger.

          3. constant_craving*

            I don’t think a park ranger job would be a good fit. It’s either a pretty monotonous customer service position- sitting at the info desk telling visitors where to find the bathroom, etc. or it’s a law enforcement position which requires going through a police academy. It seems unlikely anyone with uncontrolled impulsivity is going to struggle with both of those.

            1. constant_craving*

              Ugh, sorry for the double post. The first didn’t show up for quite some time and thought it didn’t post successfully.

        4. Aerin*

          Agreed. There are indeed people who get into high-paying jobs while having poor attention to detail, professionalism, and boundaries. If you look closer, you’ll find they tend to be 1) nepo babies or otherwise extremely connected, 2) able to fake it well enough to people above them, 3) possessed of some extremely rare skill that justifies their presence, and/or 4) at an org where people above them also suck. Those people are also the source of a lot of letters here because they’re a giant pain to work with.

          At some point a lot of us just have to accept that the stuff we’re best suited for doesn’t pay well. It might be possible to work multiple jobs, or to team up with a partner and/or roommates to stretch your incomes. (Those are also things you can do for the short term even if your goal is to reach a point where you can cultivate those white-collar skills.) Otherwise, we’re all kind of just getting by. Yay late-stage capitalism.

        5. Anonys*

          I think OP also needs to distinguish between eccentric quirks which might not be a big deal in certain industries/roles (eg startups) and things that are just not ok at work. I think the worm picture is something that would be seen as funny at jobs with a more casual atmosphere where sharing gifs/memes is common.

          But asking coworkers intimate questions about their sex life and gender? That creates potential legal liability for the company in terms of hostile workplace if it makes the coworker uncomfortable (v likely) and OP needs to get it into their head that those topics are simply off limits in an office. It’s just not ok and regardless of any neurodivergency, anyone should be able to restrain themselves from bringing up sex in the workplace.

          To be fair, in our close knit team/group of work friends, sometimes jokes/offhand comments might be made which allude to sex (though never anything graphic) and its not a big deal but since OP has a problem in this area, they should abstain from such topics completely without allowing for any nuance (which is in any case the safer bet).

          1. ShanShan*

            What do you mean “regardless of any neurodivergency, anyone should be able to restrain themselves from bringing up X in the workplace?”

            ADHD is literally a biological inability to restrain yourself from doing certain things. That’s its primary symptom.

            The idea that “this topic is so bad that even someone who biologically can’t avoid bringing up topics should be able to avoid bringing up THIS topic” is like saying “this cake is so delicious that even someone with diabetes should be able to eat it.” That’s not how biology works.

            1. Cyndi*

              I think this ship sailed hours ago and we’re all just having a conversation about impulse control no matter what, but OP said they thought their level of sharing was “measured and appropriate.” They weren’t physically compelled to blurt those things out! They thought about it and misjudged, very badly, which is a related but separate problem.

              And in a situation where someone genuinely cannot help oversharing about workplace-inappropriate topics–regardless of their good intentions, that would be a workplace safety problem, not an “arbitrary professional norms screwing over neurodivergent people” problem.

            2. yelena*

              As someone with ADHD, I strongly disagree with this comment. ADHD doesn’t mean that certain this are “biologically impossible,” it means some things are much more difficult.

          2. HannahS*

            I think that actually what happened with the questions was the OP was in a role where they were *supposed* to ask others those questions (like as part of their research, for example) and when the question was returned, OP answered in a way that they thought was appropriate, but which their bosses felt was not.

          3. Glen*

            Yikes, this literally just isn’t what happened in the oversharing incident, and you are misrepresenting it in a way that is extremely unfair to op.

        6. lyonite*

          This was my thought too. The letter seems to come down to, “What I’m doing now isn’t getting me what I want; how can I get what I want without changing anything about what I’m doing?” Which, unfortunately, isn’t realistic. I think the OP either needs to change their expectations for the kind of career they’re suited for, or try to change the things that have been holding them back so far. (Or, more likely, a little bit of each.)

      2. Moonlight*

        Speaking as another ADHDer + autistic person, literally this! Telling someone with ADHD to just stop and think is well intended but extremely unhelpful because ADHD has major affects on executive function (eg impulse control) – it’s like there’s not that moment where you have a thought and process the thought beige speaking. For me, it sometimes feels like all 3 steps occur at once. For example, this can lead to me interrupting in a conversation, going off on a side tangent because something said something that I feel like I have to follow up on, etc. and then the autistic traits mean I have trouble reading social cues. As OP said, they seem to be willing to accept they’ll be embraced as eccentric and want to figure out how to do so.

        I’m not trying to come down on the person who made this comment; I know it is well intended. I’m simply trying to provide context for why it is easier said than done.

        That said, therapy is legitimately a good idea. I do want to note that finding therapy with a therapist who actually understands ADHD, has neurodivergent practice, and works with adults can’t be difficult. The emphasis on being neurodivergent affirming is key; the objective shouldn’t be to make neurodivergent people be “normal”. This is a chronic life long condition. It’s not like depression, which can theoretically be episodic and go away. A lot of the time neurodivergence can have massive impacts on a persons life, as OP noted, and the goal should be, as they stated, to work with a therapist who can help them work with their strengths and develop skills that will allow them to minimise the impacts of things like struggling with attention to detail. For example, as an ADHDer, it was life changing to fix my inability to keep track of my schedule, or keep my house clean, when I developed systems to keep things in their place. (I’m saying this for the OP and others who may want to seek ADHD and autism related therapy – it took me a long time to learn what I needed from a therapist and I’m happy to share what I know)

        1. Glen*

          Just an aside that the difference with depression is more that eliminating or “curing” neurodivergence isn’t desirable the way eliminating depression is – because for many of us depression is also lifelong and incurable. Which honestly sucks.

          1. NeedRain47*

            depression is neurodivergence. The definition of neurodivergence includes mental illness. I just found this out the other day myself.

        2. Huppity hup*

          I’d love to know more about how you developed systems that worked (if that’s what you meant).

          Also, just +1 to everything you said here.

          1. debbietrash*

            As a fellow ADHD’er (+ depression and anxiety) I realized I’ve developed a lot of systems for myself pre-diagnosis that are 100% coping strategies for my ADHD. This was largely through trial and error, and a lot of messing up through my undergrad years (missing deadlines, not reading assignments correctly, etc.). Top strategies are:
            – workback schedules: marking deadlines on calendars (hard copy, digital, whatever helps me remember). Calendars and schedules in general help me to visualize my time, because I have some pretty severe time blindness otherwise.
            – colour-coding; this is largely applied to my calendars, as well as emails, so I can quickly identify a project or email I’m looking for.
            – recurring appointments and calendar notifications for repeat tasks, normally accompanied by an alarm. This can be anything from meetings, appointments, to taking medication.

          2. Green Tea*

            As someone with ADHD, what works for me is phone and calendar reminders. I write down everything and convert action items into to-do lists that generate reminders for upcoming deadlines, and my to-dos are wordy, with all of the details captured from my notes, e.g. ‘order magenta 4×6 post-it notes for retreat.’

            For reading dry, heavy documents, I have an app called speechify – I’ll manually read the paper, and simultaneously listen to it. That helps me stay on track and prevents me from getting distracted by emails or other things.

            It takes a lot of work to get the right systems set up and to keep using them, but once you do, it removes a lot of problems.

        3. ADHDengineer*

          I also have ADHD. I agree with most of what you said and don’t think “stop and think” is good advice, but I don’t think that’s all that Lola was saying. I think that systems to regulate OP’s impulse control could be implemented similarly to how you implemented a system to keep your house clean (making an assumption here based on my own systems – I obviously don’t know the details of yours).

          For inappropriate emails, OP could implement a system where she saves all emails (or just emails longer than, say, one sentence) as a draft before sending. She could then set a timer for 5 minutes to think about it and reevaluate whether or not to send/rephrase.

          For in person communication, she could set a rule that she will only respond to direct, work-related questions for a while. Maybe mentally log the things she thought about saying to reevaluate later. I do a version of this if I feel like I’ve been interrupting people or going off topic a lot lately.

          Obviously things like this don’t work in every situation, take a lot of effort, and would be hard to maintain long term. But doing something like this for a short period might help OP be a little more aware of when she’s making a misstep.

    2. My Devon*

      I too suffer from impulse control and am on medication for anxiety/depression. And a lot of what LW said sounds like me. While I dont have my situation figured out completely and I do tend to say the wrong thing at times I totally agree with the suggestion of stopping and thinking about what Im about to say before I say it. Still say awkward stuff time to time, but its a learned habit that is going to take time to work itself out. Good luck OP you are definitely not alone.

    3. gorb*

      I think one important thing to note is that it’s possible that the temptation to respond in a “silly way” isn’t even really being noticed by LW before the send button is hit. So I think the principle more likely has to be, “Every email gets a timer and gets reviewed later.” There will probably has to be an “Email process” that gets followed for every email.

      Same with speaking impulsively. I think it’s not realistic to pause before saying anything at all, but there should probably just be a list of topics that never get mentioned, post that list on the desk, review that list frequently, and the LW will probably start being able to catch themselves before they say anything about disrobing or any other topics that can land weirdly. They’re probably never have a “normal” sense of appropriateness, but they might be able to head off the most obvious of things this way.

      1. 80HD*

        This is key! I’m someone who started taking some time to regularly reflect on my actions, and eventually got to a place where I could head off impulsive blurting and inappropriate joke emails. When you first start implementing something like this your goal shouldn’t be to be “perfect,” it should just be to reflect on lessons learned after the fact.

      2. catcommander*

        I set an outlook rule to delay all my outbound messages by two minutes. It’s saved me a lot of heartburn sending stupid or weird messages. It also means I almost never have to shoot over follow-ups because I forgot a detail.

        At some point you have to accept you can only change your ways so much and you must develop some defensive measures against yourself.

        1. Emily W*

          This is such a game-changer, I wholeheartedly agree! I was over the moon when I learned Gmail had a 30-second “unsend” feature. It’s saved me several times.

      3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I have ADHD, though not nearly as bad as the LW, and this was my thought also. Have a few areas that you don’t ever mention and a few things that you don’t ever do (send emails with photos in them, eg).

      4. Mill Miker*

        Also, sometimes the stupid joke or impulsive comment gets “stuck”. It hits all the right buttons that you just can’t stop thinking about it, to the point that a significant amount of focus and willpower has to go into actively not saying the thing. So even if you catch yourself before saying anything silly 9 times out of 10, if every silly thought is take 30 runs at being said, you still end up saying every silly thing.

        1. WillowSunstar*

          I mean, if one literally can’t resist, there is always the option of commenting anonymously on a web site like Reddit or creating a (truly anonymous) blog — don’t like it to any email that shows up on your resume or put any real names/company names on it.

          1. nona*

            Or write it a word doc/one note (NOT EMAIL, so you don’t accidently send) and then delete/don’t save.

            I don’t know how many comments I have written and then not posted, because it felt good to say/type it, but when I got done, I realized I didn’t actually need the world to see it.

          2. ShanShan*

            I don’t know why everyone is reacting to this post as if OP asked them to be their therapist, a position that OP has already filled with a trained medical professional.

            OP doesn’t need strategies for managing ADHD. They came here asking for career advice.

            1. gorb*

              They say they got fired for sending a worm photo. This IS career advice. Were you expecting to see 300 emails saying, “A high-paid job where you can suggest people disrobe is _____”?

              1. ShanShan*

                “Manage your ADHD better” is not career advice, any more than “manage your diabetes better” or “get over the flu faster” would be. It’s medical advice.

            2. gorb*

              They explicitly asked for suggestions for people who struggle with professional norms. A lot of these conversations are about that. And this isn’t even just about managing ADHD—I‘m NT and i struggle with professional norms, and that’s where all my comments and ideas are coming from.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I was about to put something similar at the top, but I took another look at the questions the LW asked and I think it’s probably because they asked, “What are your suggestions for workers who struggle with the norms of corporate professionalism?”

              I’m actually going to put a note up top asking only neurodivergent readers to chime in with advice from this point forward. I realize the horse is out of the barn at this point, but I hope it will help.

          3. Ellis Bell*

            So you would have to: 1) recognize the inappropriate nature of what you want to say, 2) resist the fact that the context of the moment is the entire reason why you want to say it. 3) Recognize that you could say it at a different time, to someone you are not responding impulsively to. 4) Having paused time long enough to prevent speaking, you would stick a pin in the comment and organize it in your brain into the file marked “anonymous comments online only”. I mean, I’m sure there are people capable of mentally making these steps and slowing down time before they speak, but they definitely don’t have ADHD at a level which needs medication.

            1. Anon4This*

              There is no way to describe to people without ADHD that our thoughts fly through our heads SO fast, they often they are already being spoken before we are consciously aware of it.

      5. Bibliothecarial*

        One of the best things for me is, when I’m having a good day, I set up automated systems to help me on bad days. I like the idea of putting an automated timer delay on emails.

        Also, the agriculture industry isn’t dead by a long shot! I have friends who run a goat farm and during the warm months hire out their goats to eat invasive species. They do have a lot of other hustles going on but it is still possible to make a living as a farmer!

      6. Qwerty*

        If I may add on to your second paragraph to recommend the OP find an outlet for that impulsive energy *before* they end up in a situation where stuff comes out. Get that brain chemistry boost during safe times so it isn’t seeking it during work convos. A Reddit break is going to be more helpful before the serious meeting rather than after. Kinda like if the issue was physical energy – going to the gym before work would be more helpful than waiting for the jitters to strike during the staff meeting and then trying to go for a walk.

    4. QuiteContrary*

      Clearly the words of someone who does not have the first clue about ADHD. It’s not an emotional problem or a maturity problem.

      1. Lilas*

        But whether and how much you try to work on it and find solutions does tie in to maturity. People with adhd still have differing levels of maturity, it’s not a “get-out-of-growth-free” diagnosis.

        1. Lea*

          Also if they truly have these fantastic skills, most workplaces are going to let an occasional awkward moment fly.

          Which makes me wonder how bad they are really acting.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          The OP has gotten a diagnosis and medication through hard work and perseverance. That is not an easy hill to climb for anyone, it’s not just a case of showing up at the doctor’s. Also, if they didn’t have a bunch of terrifying stories about being inappropriate then they would never have gotten their diagnosis!

      2. Cyndi*

        As someone who’s had some real problems with rejection-sensitive dysphoria, I’d say emotional regulation is absolutely a facet of ADHD! And I’d also say that, much like OP’s issues with boundaries and impulse control, having ADHD doesn’t make me any less responsible for learning to manage my RSD, especially when it causes harm or discomfort to other people.

        1. Aerin*

          Yup, my brain may be actively working against me, but it’s still on me to figure out ways to behave myself.

          It’s possible to play the game on hard mode. It’s possible to adapt to a controller that is laggy or has a tendency to drift. Trying to work in a demanding environment with brain chemistry that’s way out of whack is like trying to do both of those things at once and also the game audio is slightly out of sync with the video. Don’t torture yourself trying to pull that off! A high-earning job is hard mode, and you should put that on the back burner until you’ve figured out how to calibrate your controller.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Setting in a pause time might be possible if the OP’s medication is particularly successful; it might not. Something to consider if pauses are particularly difficult is learning some work appropriate jokes and scripts that they can reel off in a practiced manner. Dad jokes and pet stories are your friends here.

    6. Lilas*

      I would also advise getting really clear in your mind about the difference between silly things like the Klworm picture, vs. sexual oversharing and stuff like that. The farmer is something that you should work on developing a better radar about when it’s likely to be well-received. The latter category is something that you should consider it high-priority for you to stop doing immediately. But if you consider those two types of things as the same, it’s easy for you to think of it all as just wild-child quirky behavior and all as part of your total package.

      1. Sunny*

        Very much this. Sexual oversharing – with people who are confiding in you, in a clearly professional setting – is a different level of harm to the recipients of said oversharing than just being a quirky eccentric. It crosses over into harassment territory and I’m not sure there’s a job that would just allow that or accept that. And it shouldn’t! I can’t tell from the letter whether OP is seeing the difference between the consequences of those examples, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. But it’s worth noting and realizing that this isn’t something any job should be tolerating.

    7. DataSci*

      Do you have ADHD, or are you very close to someone who does? I have a kid with ADHD, and while I will happily defer to anyone who has it themself, I’ll say that for him saying “stop and think” just doesn’t work. It’s functionally equivalent to saying “don’t have ADHD right now” – doing that is HARD.

      In the specific case of emails, what has worked for friends with impulse control challenges (not formally diagnosed with ADHD) is an email timer that delays sending. Every single time, not just when they think about it. If “stop to think” is hard for you, let the computer do it!

    1. gorb*

      Yeah, that sounds pretty absurd. However, I suppose one principle is simply, “Don’t include pictures in emails because you can’t quite predict if people are going to be super uptight and the risk isn’t worth it…even if others are doing the same.”

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I mean, I don’t care, but enough people have bug/bug-adjacent phobias that I think it was a bad idea. I also can’t picture a situation in which it would be good to send it to the whole office.

      She says it was a temp job, so the bar for firing may have been lower.

      1. BreadNinja*

        I would also be interested to know what the context of including it was. I cant imagine it was just the words “all done” and then a picture of heidi klum as a worm?? It doesnt make much sense.

        Also I wonder if this was the last step along with a bunch of other little things. As you said the bar is lower in temp jobs.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I feel like this is the sort of thing that one could get away with in a private chat/email between a well-established group of colleagues where the general standard of jokes/banter/ways of communicating is understood by everyone in the group and everyone chips in. Or if you’re a respected member of staff who has spent time cultivating a ‘yeah, Jim likes to include a photo of his insect of the week when he sends out the all-staff progress report’ reputation. As a temp, sending an all-staff email? It’s going to be really hard to pull something like that off without people being at best bemused and at worst wondering where the heck the strange person with the worm has come from.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I also guessed last step. I wonder if someone thought the costume was a phallus, rather than a worm?

          Also I do not know how a giant worm conveys “all done.” In my field such emails don’t have a “usual picture” and if they did I imagine it would be a very relaxed cat or something like that.

          Which I bring up to ask OP: How clear are you on what actually happened to get you fired from that last job?

          1. Lea*

            I think you’re on point with this.

            OPs behavior is likely much worse than they realize and they need to get a full handle on what all they need to change

          2. Dust Bunny*

            I wasn’t going to bring that up but it is kind of phallic.

            Our emails don’t have pictures unless there is a very specific reason, such as, “I found this set of keys in the parking lot–do they belong to anyone here?”, etc., with a picture of the key fob.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        As someone who used to temp ages ago, I can definitely say the bar for firing is lower. If you wear the wrong color shirt, happen to be nerdy/introverted in an office full of cheerleaders/extroverts, or sneeze the wrong way, they can and will fire you.

        1. Ioncewasatemp*

          Absolutely they temps have the bar set way lower. I had a temp position once and abbreviated something in a note in a database and was written up, had a formal meeting and then was eventually let go. Someone else who was a temp got in trouble for going to the bathroom too much (not a call center). Honestly I am not sure how companies who use temps regularly get anything done.

          1. 1-800-BrownCow*

            Yes, very true. I worked a temp job and after my team’s supervisor left, a different supervisor who didn’t like me took over our team. First day under her, she put me on a job and didn’t bother training me. I messed up 3 times that day because I didn’t know what I was doing. She pulled me into the office, told me they don’t keep temps who mess up 3 times and said I was fired. I pointed out that I hadn’t been trained, so how can you expect me to know the right way to do the job. That didn’t matter, she didn’t like me and was happy to have an excuse to get rid of me. In the end, Karma won because a couple years later, I came back to the company as part of a college internship and she ended up having to do some “menial” tasks for me as part of a big project in the department I was interning in. And if she didn’t do the tasks or if she did them incorrectly, then she would be disciplined or possibly fired. A few people that knew me when I was a temp and didn’t like the supervisor were ecstatic when I came back as an intern and the she was assigned by her manager to do that work for me. It was totally coincidental that she was selected to do the work, so definitely Karma.

          1. Siege*

            I was fired for reading a book because the full-time staff were adamant they would not train me on anything. I think even then I wouldn’t have stood for just being expected to stare at a wall for 8 hours until/unless the phone rang, so I wasn’t bothered, but I was VERY confused. What should I do if you won’t give me any tasks?

      1. Lilas*

        Yeah, I’d doubt the Klworm photo was the only straw, unless it was a very formal business and/or it was an external email.

    3. Moonlight*

      Honestly, as someone who’s neurodivergent, I really empathise and relate to OP. Having had similar experiences, it would not surprise me to learn that there were other issues of what others would perceive as eccentric/odd behaviour because it’s extremely hard to connect those things, even if you’ve been told. I was fired from a job because I was repeatedly making what I perceived as small and fixable mistakes and I was making an effort to reduce those mistakes, when what they really needed was for me to stop making those mistakes immediately because to them it was a bigger inconvenience even if I was the one fixing them.

    4. Sherlock*

      Honestly that picture/costume is pretty gross and as long as at-will employment is a thing, it should be a discipline-worthy offense.
      Something tells me that the LW wears out their welcome VERY quickly as far as their “quirkiness” is concerned

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        I just saw it for the first time and I was surprised that there was such a big reaction; I had to read the article to find out just how strongly some (most?) people felt about it.

        So, not everyone has the same gut responses. I would have been just as blindsided as OP was.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I honestly don’t get why that picture is any kind of problem and I’m really interested in hearing why!?

    5. CharlieBrown*

      It’s also possible that somebody just glanced at it and thought it was a picture of a penis because…well….

      1. Anon for this*

        But if one sees a picture at work and thinks it’s a penis – wouldn’t one take a second look before firing someone for not a penis?

    6. DrSalty*

      I’m going to guess this was probably like the straw that broke the camel’s back type of deal, not the first transgression.

    7. Anon for this*

      Tbh I’m not terrible professional at all and until now my supervisors seem to cope quite well.
      I once included a picture of an olm in the last part of a presentation without any explanation.
      It went like this “these are my sources. Any questions? … Oh. An olm.” Nobody dared to ask about the olm (they didn’t want to mortify me in case it wasn’t intentional – such nice people!) which was a bit disappointing since there was a (very slim) context for the olm which I would have been eager to explain.
      But for them,it was “history of teapots” presentation… and a seemingly context-free olm.

      1. Anon for this*

        What I wanted to say: if you’re good at what you do they’ll learn to deal with the occasional olm.

      2. Anon for this*

        And to be clear, “history of teapots” is not the real topic but the olm isn’t like “llama grooming” – it was a literal picture of the literal species olm.

  66. Redaktorin*

    Hey, OP. I could have written this letter, or something like it, a few years ago. These days, my career is going great, my love life is no longer a hot mess, and friendships…still feel kind of helpless, to the point where I actively avoid people who clearly want to be friends.

    All of this is to say that many of us who have severe ADHD and boundary issues struggle *dramatically* in some area of our lives. You’re pretty normal and not any kind of fuck-up, even a hilarious one. I hope you can really take in that you’re a human being, worthy of compassion, who is capable of more than you know. Are there limits to how much a person can change? Sure. But you likely haven’t reached those limits yet. Odds are very high, in fact, that you’re improving in your professionalism and attention every day, using these negative work-related experiences as a sort of map to doing better, all without realizing it.

    I don’t know about your family of origin, but mine handled their undiagnosed ADHD and autism by 1) becoming professors, and 2) making up some kind of weird stories about the world and humans, then repeating those stories to me. I held these incredibly intractable and completely false beliefs into adulthood because these were some of my earliest received messages, and I was very surprised to discover that so much of what I thought I knew about life was actually just subpar coping mechanisms for people who couldn’t deal with others.

    So, maybe I’m off track, but did your family of origin tell you that treating others as equals meant rejecting all professionalism all the time? Mine did, which I now know was weird! Maybe dig into that with your therapist if it resonates.

    Mostly I am rooting for you. I hope we get an update to this post in a couple years and you let us all know you love your new parks job. Hugs if you want them.

    1. goddess21*

      Oh #$%& this comment is too real. I have often wished for more info about being the child of neurodivergent parents (whether NT or not oneself). Thanks.

    2. Afiendishthingy*

      Holy crap are you me? Or a family member? This is how my family members also coped with their undiagnosed autism and ADHD. Undiagnosed neurodivergent generational trauma is real btw

    3. Gamer Girl*

      My ND parents hold themselves to incredibly, INCREDIBLY high moral and ethical standards. (One is diagnosed AuDHD, the other is almost certainly autistic, though not formally diagnosed.) These are incredibly good, moral, and noble people, and they would never intentionally break a rule or do anything wrong. I wish that they had gone into gov’t job, as they are both fundamentally unbribeable and follow any rules to the letter.

      The only problem is: many of their rules are entirely an invention of their own that the rest of the world would find incredibly strange, convoluted, or laughable. A work-related example:

      Example 01: keeping the first job that hired you is the right thing to do–they did right by you, and you would be wrong to leave that job. (Despite the fact that a job is not a moral contract or obligation. A job is not a marriage! And if you get a new, abusive boss that yells at you constantly for years, you have the right to get out!)

      And there are a lot of rules about self-sacrifice being more important than personal happiness.

      And on and on. In personal relationships, things get even more convoluted (ensuring everyone is happy with a decision, never making a decision that would upset anyone in the family, etc). These are noble goals, but in practice, I’ve found that they are also extremely detrimental to mental health.

      They fully follow their ethical and moral and religious POVs to extremes. Now that I’m older, I can see that, though that’s the way they continue to understand the world, those are their own rules, but it’s taken a long time to get to that point.

      On a lighter note: I wonder how many of us, while in fifth grade or so, told parents that keeping track of assignments and turning in homework was impossible and that they didn’t seem to be like the other children. And got told, “That’s normal, sweetie. Everyone’s like that–it’s just something really hard that everyone has to learn to deal with!” And then later you all got diagnosed as ND!

    4. 2nd gen ADHD*

      Oh my god, my father also dealt with his ADHD by becoming a professor! I feel like this was a more valid option a generation or two ago, he never would have made it now. He also developed some religious beliefs that explicitly rejected neurodiversity and when I tried to talk around it about how I “couldn’t focus to accomplish the things that were important to me” he said something like “well they can’t be that important then”. Now I wonder how many things that he couldn’t accomplish through hyperfocus alone he told himself were just not important, and how many times he mistook his hyperfocus on something as a sign that it was objectively Important.

  67. Blisskrieg*

    For what it’s worth, I think you sound fascinating and I’ve often wished there was more room for “quirkiness” in the workplace.

    My recommendation would be to look for jobs on creative teams that drive ideas. Outside of the Arts, that might mean Marketing or Advertising.

    I could see you at a think tank.

      1. Lilas*

        Yeah, my first advice would be to stop framing your inappropriate boundaries, inability to abide by workplace social norms, and line-crossing as good things. I hope this doesn’t sound harsh, but it comes across in your letter as though you enjoy those things as part of your flavor, and you cite them as coming from sources like your belief in equality and other nominally good things. But lots of people have firm beliefs in equality and still behave professionally in professional settings, out of respect for their colleagues.

        You’re not helping yourself if you think of these things you do as tied to being a “free spirit”, or as inherent to your personality. You can be a free spirit who still respects other peoples boundaries. And you will lose none of your personal flavor by learning to get along better and a variety of social situations, including work.

        Similar to someone who constantly interrupts others, only to frame it as “Well I just think so fast! I have so many ideas!” You will have a hard time improving your habits if you think your bad habits are revealing flattering things about you.

        None of the good parts of what you describe about yourself are dependent on the bad parts. Sexually oversharing at is not being quirky, it’s shi**y and you should stop.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          People don’t get prescribed medication for being a free spirit, or a quirky personality! They certainly aren’t choosing to be shitty; because there is literally no time to choose anything before it comes out of your mouth. They get a diagnosis based on things in their life being shitty and everything turning to hell. The diagnosis is not based on one or two jobs, or a few dodgy post teenage conversations; they look at your entire life from early childhood and your personal relationships as well as work ones to make sure it’s uncontrollably affecting you, not just a choice of quirky behavior. I’m lucky to have the kind of ADHD which doesn’t need medication to make me functional, and I absolutely have struggled with sexual oversharing; by that I mean that I don’t do it but I have had the impulse but fortunately I have enough brakage to stop before doing so. If I couldn’t stop it, I’d need medication like the OP. The good news of a diagnosis is that ADHD comes with significant upsides, as Blisskrieg noted. You are more creative, you have access to a hyper focus which gives you stunning levels of productivity, and that drive to connect and discuss your experiences with others is hard to beat once it’s appropriate and controlled.

      2. Sunshine*

        It was part of OP’s job to ask those invasive questions and she says she responded in kind only when asked, so this does not seem as egregious as it would in other workplaces. I don’t blame OP for not knowing where the boundary is in situations like that.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          But . . . you don’t do that.

          I work with some medical records that about which people often inquire because they’re trying to find their birth parents. It’s not license for me to trot out all the unwed mothers in my family tree.

          I’m sure the LW thinks she’s doing this to be relatable and put people at ease, but it’s a lot more reassuring to feel like a professional is going to treat your information, well, professionally, and not seem like they might use it as part of casual conversation.

          1. Sunshine*

            I think everyone including the OP is pretty clear that it was the wrong move by now! I’m just saying if talking about the subject is part of your job, the boundaries are a little less clear than in a normal workplace. OP even says it was the level of oversharing that was inappropriate and not the fact that she shared personal stories at all.

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              As other people are discussing, the more personal your clients get with you, generally, the less personal you should be with your clients. Yes, of course it’s fine to talk about sex and sexuality and have a safe place for clients to talk about those topics. But once you start talking about your own experiences, the appointment because about YOU, not the client. That focus always should be on the client and the person running that meeting and asking the questions should have a very hard line between letting the client share their experiences and sharing their own.

            2. Sunshine*

              Well… yes. That is the entire reason OP wrote in. “What are your suggestions for workers who struggle with the norms of corporate professionalism?” It’s unhelpful and frankly ableist to harp on OP’s past behavior.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            You don’t do that when you have control over impulsive responses. If you don’t have that control or the medication for the control, then yes you probably will very much do that.

        2. Lea*

          Actually no.

          Jobs with one person in say the medical field need stronger boundaries precisely because there is so much personal info/vulnerability.

          1. Redaktorin*

            I don’t think anybody is arguing that the boundaries are less important here! Just that they would be harder to locate for a person with a developmental disorder and breaking them due to that confusion much more understandable than someone bringing up their sex life to coworkers based on nothing, which is what the people misunderstanding the letter seem to be accusing OP of.

      3. AD*

        Yeah, I think “eccentric” is being used to describe someone with some impulse control and boundary issues in the workplace. I feel for the OP and hope they can figure out a path for them that works but it sounds challenging, even with the list of achievements and previous roles they’ve held.

        1. sundae funday*

          Not at all. OP was hired to ask those questions of survey participants, not of coworkers. Everyone is getting this part totally wrong and it’s unfair to OP to misread it so badly.

    1. Observer*

      For what it’s worth, I think you sound fascinating and I’ve often wished there was more room for “quirkiness” in the workplace

      The problem is that what the OP describes is NOT “quirkiness”. I’m hammering this because the first step towards finding solutions it to actually understand the problem. In this case, the OP’s problem is not about having a hard time fitting into the sometimes arbitrary norm of professional life. But they are actually doing seriously problematic stuff.

      It’s obvious what the problem is when someone cannot get details right. But it’s equally as damaging, although not always as obvious, when someone cannot respect reasonable – and worse they don’t even recognize that the boundary is there and that they are over-stepping.

      My recommendation would be to look for jobs on creative teams that drive ideas.

      That’s a great idea for the detail oriented portion. But honestly, the OP *needs* to get a handle on the other stuff before they try to work on teams.

      Think about every letter we get from someone who has a badly over-stepping coworker. There are often people who jump to “maybe he can’t help it” / “maybe he’s neuro-divergent” / some related excuse, but the consensus generally comes down to “It is still not ok”.

      Well, the OP is, by their own description, that coworker.

      1. Anonny*

        Thank you, this is exactly where I fall on this letter.

        This isn’t quirkiness, some of these examples are borderline sexual harassment (if not full on sexual harassment).

        I get it, I’m neurodivergent and sometimes that makes reading the social etiquette of a new workplace hard, but in those cases you should always err on the side of “conservative personality” until you read the room. Do others send memes or images? No? Then don’t do it either. Want to be the first one to establish a new workplace norm of sending images? Start simple with “It’s been a hard week, here’s some cute goats in pajamas to cheer everyone up!” not Heidi Klum in a scary costume which honestly I can’t even imagine how that would fit in the context given.

      2. Stitch*

        I strongly agree with this and OP needs to not view themselves that way. You can’t treat people like that. Quirkiness is no excuse for inappropriate behavior.

    2. Zzzzzz*

      Uh no. Ad/PR /marketing firm/”creative” job: a discipline that takes focus and clarity of thought like any field but has the PR trappings of being glamorous and well… “creative”–outside the box thinking at times, yes, but the type of behavior described by LW would get one booted out of an agency–you have to deliver products, very quickly, ALL. THE. TIME. That is also trackable and billable by the quarter hour. 8+ hours/day.

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Yes, and even with in-house roles that don’t necessarily have that same high-polish/long hours consulting culture, nearly everywhere you go, marketing departments are lean – which means there’s very often little to no peer review quality control. You’re often the only person reviewing a lot of your own work for errors, and your work has high public visibility. Yeah, major new pieces and high-level documents get reviewed, but then you’re often on your own to version one reviewed piece for use in several other different contexts, and nobody but you is going to review all 3 dozen ad variants you generated for a campaign to make sure there aren’t any typos. But if you miss one and publish something with errors, the general public will QC it for you and it’ll go over like a lead balloon when your managers hear about it that way.

    3. S*

      Honestly, marketing/advertising is going to be highly dependent on where you are. In my department (full service marketing and web design for 15+ brands) OP’s inability to be detail oriented wouldn’t fly. No, we don’t have to do work 100% right on the first try, that’s why there are rounds of edits… but we do need to make sure we are addressing every comment and change on each round, and appropriately tracking revision history, etc. There are a lot of spreadsheets that go into our work, it’s not all creativity.

    4. Mitzii*

      I thought about advertising, too (I used to be an advertising creative and quirky personalities are the norm), but it’s an industry that suffers severely from ageism and it would be tough to start in unless OP is on the younger side AND could do a stint at a portfolio school. But ad agencies need data people, so that might be an angle to get into a less stuffy workplace.

  68. Observer*

    You need to start by separating the things you cannot do from the things you can, even with difficulty. And you ALSO need to start reframing some of your issues.

    For example: Asking people intimate questions about their sex lives, etc. is NOT about treating people like equals. At all. It *IS* however boundary crossing, intrusive and hugely disrespectful. What’s more, if you are in a situation where you are talking about people who are lower than you on the hierarchy or need something from you to get their jobs done, it’s not just not treating people as equals, it’s the reverse – it’s an abuse of your authority / position. I’m sure you do not mean it that way, but that’s what it is.

    You need to really work on that aspect of things.

    1. Kaiko*

      From reading the letter, it sounds like that was part of the role – the LW was expected to ask the questions! But answering them when asked back wasn’t kosher.

      1. Observer*

        Hm. You could be right. But then that would be even worse, because of the nature of most of those roles. The fact that their supervisors didn’t approve is not about the supervisors being “too hung up on prefessionalism”, but about the OP not getting the nature of the role and harm they could do that way.

      2. HB*

        Yes, that’s clearly what the letter states:

        “I used to have a role where I asked people very intimate questions about their sex life and gender”

        And the boundary crossing happened when *they* were asked similar questions and responded candidly.

        I think it’s hard to pick up because that’s not a usual job role However later when talking about what they’ve accomplished, LW states that they were “published as first author and data analyst in a field where that’s unusual.”

        So the role was clearly as part of some sort of study.

        1. Lilas*

          If you’re in a time where you ask people about their sex history, for example a medical assistant, then responding with that info yourself is NOT respecting equality. The medical provider is in a position of power over the patient, and equality would be respecting their boundaries and maintaining professionalism.

          1. FlatMargaret*

            Came here to say this. Thinking about the roles that might require one to ask such questions, I’m coming up with the medical field, public health, and social services. In those fields, you’re not just violating boundaries when you self-disclose like that to a client–you’re violating a code of ethics. There are real and harmful implications for professionals in those settings to reveal personal information as described.

      3. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        if anything, I think that makes it even *more* important to investigate where the boundaries got blurry. I work in healthcare, so I am very frequently talking to folks about deeply personal information, and this means that is it is extra important for me to keep my boundaries with patients professional.

        It was hard for me to tell in the letter if the letter-writer was blurring boundaries with clients/patients/etc or with coworkers? It can be easier to have looser personal boundaries with coworkers when you are so used to talking about these personal topics, but that doesn’t make it okay to make your colleagues uncomfortable.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      yeah, this. This is one of those topics that, in addition to having no place in most work environments, can easily be uncomfortable-to-traumatic for a lot of people, and they may not know how to bow out of it if they’re worried it will get them in trouble. It’s not leveling–it’s really exclusionary.

      1. Justaheadsup*

        Honestly, to be a little overly reductive, this sounds a bit like a Type A/ Type B coworkers on the same project scenario, or the artist vs. their talent manager, or C-level management vs. their Administrative staff.
        There is rarely one person who is able to perform at a high-level with EVERYTHING.
        So, I would basically suggest you pair up with someone who appreciates what you have to offer, has contrasting strengths & deficits, and then you form a team/partnership that does consult/contract work.
        Similar to finding a life partner, finding your work-lobster may take a while, but if you continue to temp and maybe start taking on freelance work on your own, you might be able to network and take note of other “lone wolves” that are looking for their pack.
        Use your tendency to cross “appropriate” lines to ask coworkers questions about their career goals and whether they have any aspirations of doing independent consult work…instead of asking or offering inappropriate details of anyone’s sex life…and you might be surprised how quickly you find a contemporary with whom you could form a successful professional partnership.

    3. Kiv*

      I understood that part to mean that tactfully asking those questions was part of the role, but LW struggled with boundaries when doing so.

      1. Observer*

        I see how you read it that way. But the “struggling with the boundaries” part is stull huge. And the fact is that the OP seems to not see that there was an actual problem there, but seems to think that it was their supervisors being too uptight or the like.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          that’s not what I got from the letter. They know they have problems with boundaries and impulsivity and are working to get better, but they’re probably never going to have the world’s best filter. I think they know their judgment was off when they were sharing these details, but they weren’t good at identifying it in the moment.

    4. Jujyfruits*

      Yes. That is crossing a huge boundary. Sending the worm picture is quirky but who cares. Asking intimate details about sex lives of coworkers is not okay in any scenario I can imagine.

      1. Redaktorin*

        Except that the OP did not ask intimate sexual questions of coworkers. They were asking intimate sexual questions of study subjects who had consented to the questions as part of a study.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m super confused about how “treating people like equals” becomes… what the LW describes. I’m guessing she was raised Quaker; while I am not Quaker, I was educated by Quakers with a whole lot of Quaker values involved, and treating people like equals does not equate to crossing boundaries, nor does it mean there’s no differentiation at all between professional and social behavior.

      I see similar disconnects to what Observer does– I think the LW needs to do a LOT of work on reframing. “Professionalism” is not a negative, and it doesn’t mean that you have to treat supervisors like lords and subordinates like peons– quite the opposite, in fact. It also doesn’t mean you have to change your entire personality, just that you need to learn to recognize the times where you can be more… loose, I suppose, and when it’s time to button things up a bit.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This is what I’m guessing too (I’m a Quaker). And, no, it doesn’t mean what the LW describes. We have elders even within meeting, so there is still some kind of hierarchy-ish. Even when I was a little kid I knew that you didn’t (usually) address non-Quaker adults by first name because the context was different.

        I’ve known a few Quakers who forced the equality bit into areas that I think weren’t good: One guy I knew balked at wearing a suit to his job as a public defender because he didn’t want to Play That Game. Someone finally pointed out to him that if it hurt his ability to defend his (often minority and low-income) clients, he wasn’t doing them any favors by dressing down. He was free to wear whatever he wanted when someone else’s circumstances weren’t depending on it, though.

        1. Observer*

          I didn’t want to get into guessing which religious tradition, but in any case it makes a very good example.

          OP. PLEASE really think about the example of this public defender. His refusal to “play that game” on behalf of his clients would have been a firing offense in a well funded public defender’s office. Given that most of them are NOT well funded, he would not get fired over this, but he CERTAINLY did a lot of harm to the people he was supposedly trying to uplift and treat with respect. I’m glad that someone finally got through to him.

          Treating people equally and with respect is important and totally NOT in contradiction to professional behavior.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            He did not get fired but he did get a very, very, stern and apparently rather loud lecture from his boss, early enough in this shenanigans to prevent damage. He also didn’t get the sympathy he was expecting from other Friends.

        2. Aerin*

          Reminds me of that bit on Downton Abbey where Tom was throwing a fit about not wanting to wear a tux to a wedding until someone finally said “it’s not about you, dumbass” (but, you know, genteel).

        3. Anon for This*

          Also a Quaker, and the behaviour OP describes sounds to me like something that would be *tolerated* at Meeting, but not necessarily welcomed. But because it wouldn’t be explicitly stopped, it could be seen as fine.

          (I am thinking of someone who started ministering extensively about their past life experiences until another member said that this all sounded very interesting, Friend, and I would like to go into it with you during the coffee)

          (Also neurodivergent! And yes, the “We will tolerate your bad behaviour” is not always helpful, it can be passive agressive, and sometimes you find that everyone has been quietly Tolerating you and the line you crossed is far behind you.)

      2. bamcheeks*

        “Professionalism” is not a negative

        I think this is really interesting, and LW, I would encourage you to think very hard about what your values are. “Professionalism” means lots of different things in different professional contexts, and it’s incredibly important to find a version of professionalism that aligns with your values. If you’re a first names and tattoos and shorts and flipflops kind of person, then a corporate environment where “professionalism” means suits and ties and ten hour days is going to make professionalism feel unnatural and artificial and Not You. But in a youth work environment, “professionalism” can absolutely mean casual clothes and tattoos– but absolutely hard lines around what you talk to young people about and under what circumstances you’re alone in a room with them and doing rigorous health and safety assessments before activities.

        When you find a role that works with your values, then professionalism doesn’t necessarily come naturally, but the motivation to get it right is there.

        1. SunnyD*

          This is really good framing. Professionalism, to me, has always just been about showing respect to your colleagues, so that they can 1. get their jobs done (ie. you meet your deadlines so they can then meet theirs), and 2. get through the day without feeling uncomfortable, harassed, disrespected, etc. (ie. you don’t do all the things people write in about with their coworkers/bosses). The details vary in different industries, but I think it’s essentially about respecting people and their boundaries.

    6. Presea*

      I got the impression that asking people about their sex lives and gender was part of the actual work responsibilities for the job they’re talking about (eg research) which made boundaries in other contexts confusing and easy to cross.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’ve worked in research my entire career, and once you’re a few years in, you need to understand boundaries in order to continue to succeed. I never had to ask people about their sex lives, but I have had to have discussions about race, politics, sports, whatever, and if any of my research participants asked for my opinion, my job was to say something like, “Oh, I have lots of thoughts on all of these things, but let’s talk about your opinions” or even, “I’m just a neutral party, here to ask questions.” It’s a super important thing to understand in this type of work– clients rely on you to be neutral and to provide insights based on participants’ responses, not your own.

        As things stand right now, this is not the right field for the LW to focus on.

        1. Presea*

          Oh for sure, it’s not my intent to argue that the OP wasn’t in the wrong or anything like that. The nature of and solution to the boundary crossing seems a bit different to me if OP was going too far/being too reciprocal in their job duties vs oversharing during water-cooler conversation, so I think it’s worth keeping in mind, but the OP definitely wasn’t in the right – and they know that, too, so there’s no need to rub their nose in it.

  69. NotAnExpert JustTryingtoHelp*

    I don’t know if anyone has covered this yet and I don’t know your location – but do you have local support options through your local/state/federal govt disability departments?

    In some areas – there are specific resources to help you find jobs and provide support that match your needs.

    Just a thought.

  70. Mehitabel*

    Well… we’d all like a stable career and high income. But work is an exchange transaction, and if I’m going to put my employer hat on and read this letter, my question would be “What is the benefit I would get from hiring this person?”

    I don’t mind eccentricity. I can deal with poor impulse control unless/until it creates a liability for me/my organization (and talking to a co-worker about taking my pants off is definitely tiptoeing in that direction).

    But the deal-breaker for me in the LW’s self-description is this: “If a work product needs to be exactly right on the first try, I’m not the one to do it.” Seriously: If I can hire someone who doesn’t have poor impulse control and who IS the one to do it, why should I hire the LW?

    LW: You seriously don’t sound like you’re cut out for most ‘traditional’ white-collar jobs. Maybe get yourself a copy of the tried-and-true perennial “What Color is Your Parachute” and work on figuring out what kind of career path really does suit your strengths.

    1. ferrina*

      I agree that LW needs to focus on what skills they have, and how those skills provide value for an employer. What it is that makes you worth the high income? Is that worth the accommodations they would need to make?

      I disagree with Mehitabel about that not being able to get work product done right on the first try is a deal-breaker. It definitely is in some professions (please don’t become a pharmacist), but there’s other industries that are grounded in not getting things right the first time (Fail Fast, anyone?). Look for industries and organizations that love iterative processes- tech, start-ups, arts, many non-profits.

  71. ADHD Anon*

    I will say that working remotely has helped a lot with my ADHD in white collar work. Aside from easier concentration, it helps with minimizing small talk scenarios and messaging on office IM instead of talking out loud helps with the impulse control. I always proofread my messages too, which adds a further delay.

    I recognize my boundaries for things isn’t the best calibrated and generally do not joke at work or talk that much about my personal life aside from stuff like “I went to a museum last week.” I don’t include funny pictures and GIFs in messages. I have a safe topic for the occasional joke/adding flavor to a convo (cute animal pics/being a cat lady).

    I don’t know if it works within your religious tradition, but maybe it’s possible to think of people as “equals but not friends”? The safest, if somewhat depressing way for you might be to try to foster a sense of “these are not friends, these are strangers, and acting like we’re friends could be dangerous.” My impulse control certainly loosens when I feel friendly and gets better when I’m more nervous and feel a sense of stranger danger (although I don’t think you need quite that much nervousness, but a little nervousness is probably helpful). Being remote helps with creating a sense of distance too.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Remote work always scared me because I assumed the lack of immediate oversight would hype up my inattentive traits and disorganized procrastinating and the whole day would slip away in a time loss mystery. But it’s actually the best, and I was crazy productive for all those reasons you mention. It’s also true that I can get more done in less time than most people so I hate having to look busy and stay out of trouble.

  72. bamcheeks*

    LW, talk to a career counsellor.

    The thing is, you’re approaching this from a deficit point of view — “i can’t do detail, and I have poor impulse control” — and that’s actually a terrible start for a career search for two major reasons. The first is that “detail” means all sorts of different things. Some people mean “bad at transposing numbers from one column to another”, some people mean, “bad at assessing risk”, some people mean, “bad at noticing that I’ve changed from one font to another half way through”, some people mean, “can’t keep track of my six different employees and their different needs”. An awful lot of stuff about good/bad at detail (as with many other skills that get lumped together under big headings) are actually about what you’re motivated by and what you’re bored by or even what you’re scared of. So it’s not great as a starting point.

    If you want to re-frame to a positive mindset, then here are three questions to think about:

    – what kind of problems are you good at solving? (these are your skills)
    – what kind of problems do you like solving? (these are your motivations)
    – given unlimited time and money, what problems would you solve? (this is your values– not just what keeps you happy on a day to day basis, but what will give you a sense of satisfaction and keep you engaged longer term.

    However, there is a lot more to explore here. If you came to me for a career consultation, I’d really want to dig into your goat fantasy. Tell me what appeals about that! Do you like being outside? Do you care deeply about environmental problems? Do animals seem less complicated than people all together, or just less complicated than corporate office environments? How important is that high income, and what do you need it for? Tell me what “stable” looks like to you? Which bits of your previous career have you most enjoyed? Which least? Of the people you’ve worked with, who had a job that looked interesting?

    There are so many different things to unpack here, and I hope you get some good ideas, but a few sessions with a careers coach or counsellor would allow you to really explore some of these ideas and get a much clearer picture of what’s open to you and what you’re likely to enjoy.

    1. TraceMark*

      This is a great answer. Working this out with someone who understands how to get at this and help you come up with options AND has a good understanding of the work world seems key.

      Otherwise, I don’t have any wisdom for the OP other than to suggest my favorite figuring work stuff out books – Designing Your Life and Designing Your Worklife – in case they are helpful :)

  73. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    Do you enjoy cleaning? If you enjoy it, that’s all stimulants make you want to do, and the side effects of those stimulants aren’t bad you could look into a janitorial/maid service/similar job. Play to your strengths! You don’t have to get a job in an office cubical just because that’s the default image of an ‘adult job’.

  74. A Pound of Obscure*

    I’d say the corporate, professional world is not the place to be looking. I’m not sure how serious the comment was about herding goats, but it made me think there are plenty of jobs (say, in government) that are more outdoorsy and less office-y. I work in state government and there are always job postings for the division that manages state properties – everything from landscaping to helping with recycling drives or auctioning off surplus property. Parks and recreation departments also come to mind. They are not going to be high-paying, executive-level jobs, but the compensation package might include a pension or other benefits not typically offered in the private sector. And in government, one thing can lead to another. There are also arts organizations, children’s theaters or science museums, land trusts, wildlife organizations, etc. that are always looking for volunteers for all kinds of work, and/or people to fill positions that require outgoing people who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty, so to speak. A friend of mine retired from government and then took a job at our smaller, regional airport for one of the commuter airlines, where you get to / are expected to fill all kinds of roles. It was hard but rewarding work and they were always looking for staff. He made a lot of good friends there and continues to enjoy the flight benefits years later, and now works part-time at one of my town’s many brewpubs.

    1. Carlie*

      The other benefit is that those kinds of jobs involve lots of different kinds of projects, different jobs to do within those projects, potentially short-term high-pressure things to plan… basically a dopamine dream. Jobs with lots of variety are often exactly the sweet spot for ADHD.

  75. ADHD is my Super Power*

    I am a 48 year old woman with inattentive type ADHD. I did not get diagnosed until I was 45. I always thought there was something wrong with me. I failed out of college even though I was super smart because things were easy until they got hard (if that makes sense). I’ve also been fired from jobs because they thought I was lazy and forgetful.

    I am also a very successful computer programmer who makes a six figure salary. My career has only gotten better since my diagnosis and medication. I take a stimulant and I am absolutely thriving in a work from home environment. I work best in an environment that changes quickly and has varied tasks. I am an absolute super star when the system is down as I’m able to figure out the issue and find the needle in the haystack. It’s almost like time slows down for me in those situations. I am horrible in long drawn out projects.

    1. ferrina*

      This is so familiar! I almost flunked out of high school because I was bored (thankfully got into college early- went from a 2.4 to 3.8 in less than one semester because the course material was finally hard enough to keep my interest).

      I’m a fabulous asset in the middle of chaos. I’ve made a career of fixing failing departments. But once it’s smoothly running, I need to find someone else to keep the status quo. I just CANNOT status quo.

      Love that you’re doing so well and have found your success spot!

    2. Anon4This*

      “I am a 48 year old woman with inattentive type ADHD. I did not get diagnosed until I was 45. I always thought there was something wrong with me. I failed out of college even though I was super smart because things were easy until they got hard (if that makes sense). I’ve also been fired from jobs because they thought I was lazy and forgetful.”

      I’m 56 and got diagnosed ADHD-PI at 48, but otherwise this story sounds SO familiar.

      I got fired from the best job I’ve ever had in part because it was coverage based and twice I didn’t show up on time, once because I slept through my *double alarm* (ND associated serious sleep disorder, doncha know) and once because I quite literally forgot what my schedule was from one day to the next- something that was *inexplicable* to me until I was diagnosed and realized I have severe enough ADHD that I probably should have been on disability my entire adult life instead of trying to eke out a survival in a world that is actively hostile to the neurodivergent. But it was masked (even to myself) by the fact I *AM* (or at least was, lol) super smart & talented, and nobody, least of all myself, could figure out why I couldn’t get my shit together, get a “real job” (read as salary/benefits), or be a “responsible adult”. Many people confused the fact that I live a very non conventional lifestyle with the symptoms of my undiagnosed ADHD, and assumed I was doing it on purpose or as some kind of “statement”, and it was extremely frustrating to deal with because I knew that I was trying my damndest and still couldn’t succeed.
      I used to read every article I found about how to: fall asleep at a reasonable hour, get up early, be on time, be clean/organized, remember important stuff, etc because I kept thinking I’d eventually find that One Simple Trick that everyone ELSE obviously used to make it all look so easy because otherwise how did they just DO it every day? And people simply refuse to believe you when you say “I’m trying my hardest but I just CAN’T” without any sort of explanation behind it, because it’s so easy for them (even if sometimes they have a *little* difficulty with it) that obviously, I just don’t want to do it or am not trying hard enough.

      I was thinking about going back to college about a decade ago and had to get my HS transcripts- I just LMAO. I had been considered SO gifted/brilliant, and those grades were all over the place. Everything from As to Ds & Fs- the latter sometimes deserved and sometimes because a few individual teachers took a weird & intense dislike to my AuDHD self.

      I didn’t get diagnosed before I was too disabled by physical health issues to continue working, but I still eventually found a niche I could be very happy and relatively successful in, being self employed in an area of one of my lifelong niche interests. I do wonder how different my life would have been if I’d been diagnosed and treated when I was in school or as a young adult…probably just as interesting with a lot less struggle and chaos.

  76. urguncle*

    I’ve had similar issues. I did find that once I was genuinely engaged with my work, I became a lot less likely to skip over details and make mistakes. I didn’t want to send the email out as soon as humanly possible, I enjoyed re-reading what I had written because I enjoyed working on it. I want to say this is not really my passion, but I can be genuinely engaged with the content of what I’m working on because I like doing it.
    Being in tech has helped me a lot because there are a lot of processes that you can put into place to help catch mistakes. If I write a ticket, I can follow the Definition of Ready to make sure I have everything I need. If I’m doing the final look-through of a new feature, I have a Definition of Done to compare to what I’m seeing.
    Beyond that, having a work persona is a great buffer. There are a few people I work with that I genuinely have a connection with that I can send those impulse driven thoughts to via text, but for the most part, I’m a different human for 8-10 hours a day.

  77. Ilima*

    My first thought was self employment. I honestly make a very good living as a freelance writer. A high income is possible if you specialize in a technical B2B niche like medicine or FinTech writing. It sounds like the LW has the expertise and can meet deadlines with a high quality of work. If that’s the case, no one cares if you wear pants when you’re a freelancer.

  78. PZ*

    I am neurodivergent as well, so I have built a lot of my career around the need for extreme flexibility. I look for jobs that are project based more than task based, and I tend to find smaller organizations where I will be allowed a significant amount of freedom. That said, I have taken a huge pay cut to be able to adapt this way, and I would not be able to afford my cost of living if it weren’t for my spouse.

    In terms of therapy, neurofeedback (sometimes biofeedback) was the most amazing and functional therapy I have ever tried. Highly highly recommend as a choice to manually learn to manipulate your brain waves and brain functions (as well as, for me, teaching me what calm and focused are supposed to feel like, because I have never felt that way before).

    On the topic of careers, park ranger is probably an excellent option. Miner. Commercial/industrial SCUBA diver. Wildlife biology + outreach. Geologist. All of these jobs would be active enough to maybe help you stay focused. Also, I have learned to avoid corporate environments, because non-profits and public spaces tend to me (in my experience) less demanding of the “everyone must conform” mindset, though some of the behaviors described would still be highly innapropriate.

  79. Nononono Cat*

    OP, I can’t help but notice that you’re not naming the thing that is your main problem here, and maybe you don’t even recognize that particular issue. Not once does the word “boundary” appear in your letter, but you have severe issues with recognizing and respecting boundaries. I say that not to be harsh, but to be sure I’m being clear with my words.

    Take it from a former severe boundary-crosser, who didn’t learn what “boundaries” actually meant until their thirties: you need to be aware that your letter is full of content that makes most people with at least semi-healthy boundaries wince. I didn’t make it far at all into your letter before I physically cringed back away from my screen and thought, “This is the person that everyone else in the office learns to avoid because half of them think the person is just too much and the other half think the person’s just a jackass.”

    Right now, you’re nowhere near “high-achieving eccentric” and, not to be mean here, but I very much doubt you’re all that much of a “hilarious” fuckup to your peers, though they probably are mostly too polite to get into that with you. Believe me, I also thought I was a lovable class clown in my darker days, but I was just extremely insensitive, ignorant, and frankly a bit of a jerk about what should and should not be done around other people.

    There’s a joke from Futurama that’s actually been very helpful to me in reining in my impulses and staying back behind the boundary line:

    “Fry, remember when I told you about always ending your stories a sentence earlier?”

    (In fact, when I looked that up just now to be sure I had it right, the search engine brought up a post on the ADHD subreddit where someone said that quote pretty much defined their life with ADHD till they learned to do better.)

    I needed to “end my stories” about three sentences earlier. Sometimes, I still stumble and need to have ended about one sentence earlier, but it’s thankfully rare these days. If you got fired over this, you probably need to end your stories about eight sentences earlier. Right now, you don’t know how far to go and when to quit, and it’s getting you in trouble and holding you back professionally.

    I’d advise just…stepping back and observing how people around you behave. This has been working very well for me for years. Different groups have different social rules for what’s appropriate. You can’t be exactly the same person in every group, exhausting as it is to switch personalities. Aim to be reserved in your actions while you figure out what is and isn’t okay to do, not be a cannonball bouncing off and through the walls and smacking into people.

    If you’re not sure that what you want to do will fly? Ask someone in authority of the situation, particularly in work settings, or else just…don’t do it. The world will not end if you don’t make that joke on the tip of your tongue about a celebrity’s personal life, I promise you. I know you said impulse control is a problem for you, and you may need therapy to work on that, but you also have to put in the work yourself, so might as well get ahead of the game if you want to succeed.

  80. NewJobNewGal*

    My husband has ADD and after a lifetime of being in uncomfortable jobs, he found one that is a perfect fit. He does technical support over the phone. Not IT support, but for a specific machine system.
    He has a TV with subtitles in the background that he can watch between calls. And each call is like a little job, and once it’s done, then he doesn’t need to think about it again. No follow ups. No keeping track of customers issues. Just one unique call after another. Each caller gets his full attention, then is forgotten.

  81. Justin*

    I have ADHD, and struggled greatly at my last job where I had to follow a ton of regulations all the time.

    My best bet has been seeking out places that value the things you’re good at, to the point where you’re considered valuable enough that the occasional gaffe becomes part of your package. I actually chose to disclose in my interviews (I know people say not to do that), because I really needed to be sure they’d welcome my way of doing things.

    There ARE environments for people like us. I’d do terribly in a shepherding unstrcutured role myself, so even folks like us aren’t that similar sometimes.

    (Yes, get therapy and meds, but you’re already doing that.)

  82. CommanderBanana*

    I feel like I have worked with so many people who were unprofessional and not detail oriented and they were in pretty high-level positions. Of course, it’s hard to say if they were unprofessional and not detail oriented on the climb up there.

    Of course, those people have by and large tended to be white men, so, YMMV.

  83. Dont call me Joce*

    Following. I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 (age 46) and the only thing I regret about not being diagnosed sooner is pursuing a career.

    Hey OP! It is not just you.

    1. Giant Kitty*

      I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 48. I never even SUSPECTED it, despite being a classic, textbook case of ADHD-PI.

      I cannot help but wonder how much different my life would have been if I’d been diagnosed in my teens or early 20s. At the very least, I’d have known that the real reason I struggled with so many seemingly simple things was a medical one, not that I secretly DGAF or am morally bankrupt or something.

  84. Noelle*

    I feel for you, OP – my husband has moderate to severe ADHD and I am neurodivergent myself. As weird as it might sound, I’d recommend you look into government work. Yes, there is bureaucracy, but using the same processes over and over again with clearly defined steps can actually bring comfort and confidence you are doing the right things. I work in federal government and over half my coworkers have some form of neurodivergence, so people are generally understanding and not quick to jump down your throat.
    Also, that wildlife shepherd dream might not be so farfetched –what has brought my husband joy is working for the Forest Service. Being out in the field most of the time eliminates a lot of the paperwork and human interaction aspects he struggles with, and he does something a little different every day. I know you’re concerned about money, but if you have a degree you’ll start out at a higher rate, and some postings will include housing. And it’s not just ranger jobs — visitor services, HR, biologists, and so much more! Not saying you need to do this, just a thought.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      ADHD something fierce over here…I’m a very successful government worker. For this exact reason. I thrive with rules, regs, policies, procedures and routine. And because I never put out fires, I’m rarely frazzled or stressed. I work with a crew of delightful weirdos just like me. Turns out we’re not weird at all.

  85. different seudonym*

    I have not read through all comments but this one really got me, somehow. Three points:

    1. Has doubtless already been said, but the things you cite as horribly shameful failures of professionalism are, with the possible exception of disclosing personal info, NOTHING REALLY. It might be you shaming you about them, or bullies among your colleagues shaming you, but this stuff is mostly really NBD.

    2. Following up on 1, working on shaking off pointless, punitive shame is a good plan, even though it won’t affect employability for a long time

    3. Actual advice: find a workplace full of freaks, ideally one with a countercultural mission. Seriously. I do part-time work at a charity that supports extremely marginalized people, and I love it so much….because everyone there has a LOT of personal pain, and they know how to give grace to one another. There is really astonishingly high tolerance for quirks. It is not the social service element that makes this so. It is the fact that the institution and its officers have strong countercultural identities, such that they are always already thinking “normal is not gonna cut it,” every second of every day. It’s not a utopia pay is bad, and one is exposed to everyone’s trauma more than is truly healthy. But “in this place, my fundamental personhood is ok” means a lot.

    1. different seudonym*

      Ok, spoke too soon–there are all kinds of moral panic and shaming and bootlicking and projection in these comments. Fortunately, that’s not the only thing here. I hope the ADHD people in particular are helpful to you.

      1. Sunshine*

        The ableism is truly off the charts. So many of these comments boil down to “wow, you need to adhere better to professional norms.” OP knows this, that’s why she wrote in!

        1. Fishsticks*

          The letter writer explicitly saying, look, these are my struggles, I need help with adhering to these norms – followed by a barrage of commenters going, have you tried just following norms?

          Is just…

          my entire life in a nutshell.

          1. Anon4This*

            I quite literally had a therapist, when I was talking about my struggles with being on time, and detailing what I’d done to get to my appointment without being late, said “well why can’t you just do that every day?”

            A THERAPIST.

      2. sundae funday*

        Yeah I know I’m late to this one but some of these comments are just horrible. Some of them are so off-base because they’re misunderstanding the entire premise of the letter (OP isn’t asking coworkers about their sex lives! That isn’t what the letter says! People are misreading it and saying OP is harassing people).

        But even ones that grasp it are like, hey, have you tried NOT having those symptoms? lol it’s so useless. I know people with ADHD don’t understand but like… just don’t comment?

  86. denimegg*

    Become a designer. As an apparel technical designer (the person who makes the designer’s vision come to life; these kinds of jobs appear in all kinds of fields: apparel, automotive, product, etc), I’m constantly checking with designers on detail-oriented items (eg: how will someone get into this garment? You didn’t include a closure; You included a seam on this side of the garment but not on the other sides, did you mean to do that?). It’s literally never once threatened any of their careers or standing in the organization. The directors usually seek to hire these kind of people because they are such ~*eccentric creatives*~. Hey, it keeps me employed :)

  87. pmhnp*

    Book recommendation: Driven to Distraction at Work by Edward Hallowell, MD. I think it’s out of print but can easily be found used.

    1. Emily W*

      Yes, I read the original Driven to Distraction recently and it felt like getting a warm hug. So many stories of people who had my exact struggles, learning to manage and have a good, stable life.

    2. ferrina*

      YES! Hallowell’s work on ADHD is great.

      Adding to this: How To ADHD on YouTube. She’s got great info on ADHD, how it works and some strategies you can try (and she’s clear that strategies are only useful if they are useful for you. ADHD can be highly individualistic, so keep trying different things until you find the one that works for you.)

  88. Ann O'Nemity*

    Management in a small business or nonprofit, where you can hire at least one staff member who is extremely organized with high attention to detail. Pick a business that has a cause you love (environmental, goats, wildfire, etc), where your big picture thinking can develop innovative new solutions. Also make sure the business has a fair amount of risk tolerance (so you’re not the outlier) and a warm/familial culture (so your equal treatment fits in).

  89. Coder von Frankenstein*

    Here’s one proposition that might help with e-mails, at least, if you’re genuinely struggling to recognize when something might be inappropriate.

    Run each e-mail through ChatGPT with the prompt: “Would the following e-mail be appropriate in a conservative professional setting? If not, how should it be changed? [two line breaks, insert text of email]”

    ChatGPT has a lot of pitfalls, but this is one area where I would expect it to do very well. Although, of course, it can’t look at attached images… and you still have to remember to *do* this before hitting “send.”

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      (Better: Replace “conservative” above with “buttoned-up” or “staid,” so it doesn’t assume you’re talking about politics.)

  90. H.Regalis*

    I have a buddy in a similar position, and I know he’s had much better luck with outdoor jobs and blue collar work (farms, warehouses), although he still struggles a lot. Maybe try CBT for some of the behavioral stuff? Having meds that help with impulse control will definitely help. It really sounds like the corporate world is just not for you, but that is not the end-all be-all of jobs.

  91. Jen*

    One thing that may help is to change expectations about pace/ position/ strategies. I am not diagnosed ADHD — but many, many people in my family are, and many of the coping strategies that ADHD people use are things I have found helpful in my work.

    It’s been helpful to reframe career success. Many people have been “pressur-y” with me my whole life in the “You’re so smart, why aren’t you high status?” It’s been really helpful to imagine telling them: “You’re so organized, why aren’t you a CEO? Oh, I guess you can’t ‘flip the smart switch’ any more than I can “flip the executive function” switch.” We all have our strengths. So I’ve really wanted to unpack why I might be thinking I’m wanting to do “more”. Is that just the internal voices from my childhood? If you truly do want high status success, then that doesn’t help, but when I realized I didn’t WANT to be a principal, despite all kinds of folks asking me why I wasn’t one, that was a great day.

    It’s also been helpful to understand that I’m often going to need tools that other folks don’t need. So I may look really funny doing my job. I’m the only teacher I know who has a checklist on her desk that says, “greet at door, settle at tables, take attendance, etc. etc.”. I’m the only teacher I know who carries a notebook and jots down most of the major interactions she has with kids. No, other people don’t need to do those things. But I judge myself by my results. I know my students and I do what I need to do for them. And I think a GOOD manager doesn’t care if I look eccentric if I’m getting great results.

  92. Job field suggestion*

    Hi LW – I have adhd and I’m an occupational therapist. It’s interesting, can be fast-paced depending on setting, there are continual opportunities for growth, and the pay and benefits in my salaried role are not corporate-level but good enough to live comfortably in my high COL area. There are deadlines involved in the work, but being detail-oriented in the way you describe is not a requirement. I looked for a field where I wouldn’t sit all day and would get to think creatively, but also let me find work in a range of geographic locations and pay the bills, and this fit for me. Good luck!

  93. Emily W*

    Hi OP, I feel you on this one. After my last job vanished at the onset of the pandemic (and after a discouraging attempt at online school where my professor essentially told me I wasn’t working hard enough like everyone else was), I really felt like I might never get a job I truly enjoyed and was good at. I don’t struggle quite as much with impulsivity and professional norms, but I do have ADHD too, and those things have never come completely naturally to me. I still often feel like a little kid playing grown-up-office-job.
    And speaking of job– last year, after 2 years of unemployment and constant low-grade despair, I pulled myself together to apply for a position I really wanted. And I got it!! (In no small part thanks to the many hours I spent scouring this site for the best of the best advice.) It turns out there are quite a few people in my office with ADHD, so I fit into the culture just fine. I got lucky to get a boss who thinks my emails are funny and is very supportive of my goals to improve my time management skills.
    I’m a performance evaluator for the state auditor’s office, and I think this job and similar ones are probably good for many people with ADHD. We have new projects every 6 months or so on average, so I’m not bored, and there are a ton of quality control checks and processes, so all kinds of mistakes are filtered out by a variety of people. Our office has a strong training program and a culture of helping each other out. State auditors usually try to keep a bipartisan, objective viewpoint, so you’re likely to have colleagues that are non-judgmental. And based on your particular background, I think you have a lot of the skill sets that would be useful there.
    I know some of the comments are difficult to read. It’s so hard to know what is an ADHD trait that can’t be altered, only managed, and what is an excuse for our own bad choices. I still struggle with that every day. But being in this environment has made it so much easier and so much less stressful. Mistakes are inevitable, but they are not the end of the world.
    OP, I wish you all the best.

  94. Riley*

    Have you looked into cleaning as a job/career? Janitorial work, high-end housekeeping, institutional cleaning, apartment building cleaning/maintenance, hotel housekeeping, construction cleaning, disaster cleaning? Outdoor counterpart to this is groundskeeping and/or landscaping type work. Also, painting or other kinds of reno/construction labour with low barriers to entry?

    I’m a person with ADHD who was on track for a professional career and I heeded the giant red flags and switched to light manual labour (painting and cleaning) which is WAY more sustainable and positive for my life.

    – Moving around and getting my heart rate up helps moderate my ADHD symptoms. Sitting at a desk all day was bad for me and making me totally miserable and I did not have the executive function to schedule an adequate amount of exercise for myself (not to mention how BORING it is). Plus even an hour or so of exercise several times a week in an otherwise sedentary life is nowhere near as good for my brain as ~8 hrs a day of physical activity.

    – Cleaning is active and hard work but tbh it’s not that bad for you either. Doesn’t grind down your bones or give you some weird lung disease in your early 50s like lots of other manual labour jobs do.

    – Depending on the setting, you dont actually have to be that attentive to detail. But if stimulants make you wanna clean, maybe you just follow your heart and really get in there. Obsessively dust some baseboards or whatever

    – If you can get some kind of unionized cleaning job you will probably have health benefits, bonus for ADHD and the associated injuries and lifelong health bs that tends to go along with it. Plus its harder for you to be fired for being late, inappropriate, inconsistent, whatever whatever

    – I prefer the social environment of blue collar work, maybe you will too? People don’t have as many expectations that their workplace will provide a positive/healthy social environment via policies and top-down enforcement – people tend to regulate that stuff more among each other as coworkers. If you piss someone off by crossing their boundaries, they will probably just hit back in the moment in some way or complain about you to everyone else or whatever other immediate and natural social consequence makes sense for them. I found it way more effectively “trained” me in how to behave appropriately in the workplace than situations where I was supposed to know the rules, be in charge of following them, and if I didn’t follow them nothing would happen until I mysteriously got fired or placed on a dead-end track with no real explanation six months later or whatever. Also, a wider range of behaviour *is* tolerated, for better or for worse.

    Wages are probably lower than white collar work but not as low as you would think. Really depends on the specific cleaning job and your individual wherewithal – I personally feel like managing my own business would be a total nightmare but other ADHD people love it. I prefer my lower-wage but incredibly stable unionized public service janitor job, because I can’t be trusted to manage my own career and need to minimize job-searching in a lifelong way.

    Just some food for thought! These things are SO personal, you’ve gotta figure out what works for you. Good luck out there, work is a hostage situation I hope you can make the best of it :)

  95. wordswords*

    I agree with others that it may be worth looking into jobs outside the white collar world.

    Obviously, you don’t want something that depends on following a very precise procedure every time, and I wouldn’t leap right into goat farming. (Animals, for example, really need you to get things right.) But landscaping work? Parks and recreation crew? Wilderness firefighting? Mover, if your body is up for that? There are a ton of trades, and it might be well worth your while to look into them and see what calls to you.

    Potentially useful questions to ask yourself:
    – Do you actually want a desk job, or do you want something that has you moving around?
    – How important is variety to you? Will it help you focus to have the interest factor of new stuff, or would you rather have predictable work so you can get very practiced at a limited set of things?
    – Would you rather work alone or with a team, or either, or somewhere in between (depends on the job, or a decentralized team, or working alone but checking in a lot with dispatch or a supervisor, or whatever)?
    – Do you have physical constraints about physical activity (lifting, being on your feet a lot, etc)? Alternately, ones about sitting at a desk all day? How about being outdoors vs indoors? Are there some types of activity that are bad for your particular body and others that are good?
    – You’ve had issues with appropriateness with coworkers and customers in the past, so it sounds like a customer-facing or customer service role may not be the way to go, but is social interaction (with a consistent team who knows you? with a variety of people?) something you value in your daily work, or something you could take or leave?
    – How much seasonal variation or variability is acceptable? Does a stable job to you mean a 9-5? Does it mean 10 weeks of intense work and then several weeks off, like some industries have? Does it mean a slow season and a busy season? How much predictability vs variation seems reasonable to you?

    You talked about wanting a “high income,” and I think it’s probably useful to redefine that with some more numbers. What kind of income do you need to pay the bills? What’s acceptable in the short term during retraining or testing out a job, but not sustainable long-term? What would be your ideal in terms of disposable income? “I don’t know what to do but want a high income” is a vague ambitious pipe dream; “I don’t know what to do but I need at least X/year and I would like to be able to also have disposable income for [hobbies/travel/stuff] so Y/year or above would really be my goal” gives you targets and criteria.

  96. K in Boston*

    I’m in the process of being diagnosed for ADHD after being sort of accidentally medicated for it. Long story short, I was medicated for one thing but the medication contained an element also used to treat ADHD, and the unintended effect on my focus and executive functioning has been nothing short of life-changing. My credit score went up 25 points in literal weeks, and 50 points by the end of the year. Looking at a trending chart of my credit score, you can tell EXACTLY when the drugs started kicking in.

    So all that is to say, obviously I can’t speak to “This is exactly how it works for EVERYONE who may POSSIBLY have ADHD,” but this is what’s worked for me:

    – The right medication can be a HUGE game changer.

    – I was fortunate that my work department did mentorships. I signed up to be a mentee and specifically noted I needed help with professionalism. My mentor gave me tips like: 1) it can be hard to take a person seriously who wears dresses with puppies all over them; 2) leaving a blazer in your office can be a quick way to take your “colorful” outfit to a higher level of professionalism if you suddenly get called in to talk to a bigwig; 3) my Outlook picture of me posing ridiculously is fun and not necessarily BAD, but it will make it harder for people to take you seriously.

    – Sometimes I’ll deliberately leave the To line of an email blank so that I’m forced to take an extra beat when I’m done typing up my email before hitting Send, which has saved me a couple times from sending embarrassing emails.

    – There’s a tweet that goes something like, “Behind every strong woman is 5 other strong women who proofread her email real quick when they have a second.” I think this can be helpful for everyone, not just women. I have a trustworthy group chat that I run questionable emails by (obviously with two caveats: 1) no private/personal information that shouldn’t be shared outside the company, and 2) I have the awareness in the moment to know that it might be questionable).

    – I read something last year about how many neurotypical people have an easier time writing on their “mental scratchpad” where they can process and visualize how to do things without them being spelled out, whereas many neurodivergent people have more difficulty doing so. For example: if you tell a neurotypical person to make a PB&J sandwich, they can usually visualize the PB&J sandwich on their “mental scratchpad” and break down the steps in their head on how to do that. A neurodivergent person may have more difficulty imagining the specifics of the PB&J sandwich and may become overwhelmed trying to break down the steps without seeing it in their “mental scratchpad.” While the neurotypical person may be able to see the PB&J in their head just fine, the neurodivergent person may not. All this is to say: It can be helpful to basically copy the format of other people’s emails until you get a good enough hang of things that you can begin injecting your ~uniqueness~ into them. It’s nice to have a specific format/template to follow; there may not be an official “template” in your office, but you can see how other people in your office write and try to copy that style for a bit. A lot of what I did in the beginning of my career was pretty close to copying and pasting what respected, established people at my office had written, until I got a good enough cadence of how these things should go that I could throw in a silly joke every once in awhile.

    – A saying I heard once: Let your freak flag fly, but not before you know you have a pole to run it up. Thinking about this has been helpful from time to time — if something is “appropriate” or not can be really difficult for me to judge. What I have a little easier time judging is, Will this be something that will make someone uncomfortable? Because if it will, I should probably sit on it a bit longer and ask myself if I HAVE to do it in such a way that makes things uncomfortable (some topics are inherently uncomfortable for a lot of people, like discussing salary or giving constructive feedback on job performance — to some extent those are unavoidable. But I don’t HAVE to make it weird for everyone by adding a gif of The Rock into this email if I’m not 100% sure it’ll be received well by the group).

    – Beyond copying people’s email styles/formats, at the beginning it may help to try to copy their behaviors, too — obviously not in a Single White Female way, but if other people aren’t telling jokes during a meeting, maybe don’t be the first one to throw one out there. If other people are wearing boring clothes, wear your boring clothes, too. And then, over time, as you and others begin to trust your judgment on these kinds of things more, you can start revealing more of the stuff that makes you who you are. If it’s easier, you can also just choose one specific person you respect or look up to at the office and take your cues from them. (Again, not in a SWF way! Just in terms of having a model to compare your behaviors against, to be the physical version of what you want to put in your “mental scratchpad.”)

  97. pamela voorhees*

    1. When you feel yourself getting more and more impulsive, can you do something like excuse yourself to take a break, or get a snack? Willpower is a fluctuating thing that can vary from moment to moment.
    2. Try treating your coworkers like one of those little springs that form naturally in the earth. If you try to talk to coworkers, and you get some short, non interactive responses, it can lead my friends with ADHD to spiral and push for more information, usually by getting what they consider to be friendlier (and which is often totally inappropriate for work) because they jump very, very quickly to “this person is mad at me.” But little springs in the earth just flow naturally, right? There’s nothing you can do to make the little spring produce more water. So if you talk to someone, and it’s short answers, it’s a little spring. Don’t start asking them questions designed to get more/deeper conversations. The little spring just isn’t producing water today, and that’s okay.
    3. The golden rule, treat others as you want to be treated, is a good starting point, but it falls pretty short in the real world. If you’re asking someone about their sex life, and they’re essentially anything besides straight and monogamous, are you going to be chill about it, or are you going to flip out and start shaming them? You know that you’re going to be chill, but they don’t. I don’t say this to make you worry about past interactions, but more to encourage you to not push in the moment, even if that’s your instinct. Just go back to the metaphor about the little spring and let people be the little spring, and share when it feels right for them.

    1. pamela voorhees*

      As a general good, work safe question, I’ve also had enormous success with the question “do you have any pets?” and if so, “oh, how sweet! Do you have any pictures?” People who don’t have pets are rarely offended, and if they do have pets, you get to a first hand look at how cute their dog/cat/bunny/fish is.

  98. Qwerty*

    This jumped out at me “Supervisors usually get a huge kick out of me until I cross a line.”

    Combined with your other examples, I’m guessing you either hang out at the line or cross it more often than you realize. I’m guessing the supervisors are letting it slide as long as no one complains, but that just results in you getting closer to the line or continuing to cross it. Can you talk to you supervisors and tell them its more helpful for them to warn you away from the line than to be amused (which sorta encourages it). Or tell them that sometimes you’ll need to leave a meeting for a few minutes to collect yourself when you are struggling with an impulse. Like, if you want to ask a coworker about their sex life or feel the words start tumbling out, just immediately leave the room or disconnect from the call – it’ll be less weird and will start to be a habit.

    Are you able to find out outlets for being funny? Preferable in non-work formats? Reddit, texting a friend, a doc where you write down all your clever jokes. Comedy + lack of impulse control = Danger Zone.

    Trying to calibrate your sense of humor would be helpful. You describe stuff that constitutes harassment and/or contributes to a hostile work environment. This isn’t said to shame you, but to help get your subconscious on board. You say/do stuff that you find funny and amusing, so changing your outlook will also change what spills out. I have friend with bad ADHD and falls into the lovable goof-up category, but at work all the impulse stuff is related to Harry Potter and CW tv shows so that when he does slip up, he’s only likely to get halfway to the line and/or people think they’ve misheard and just autocorrect it to something normal.

    Finally, I think you need to calibrate your expectations. High income generally comes with high responsibilities. Generally that means high stress which makes your symptoms worse. Can also mean higher visibility / higher expectations, which would put the inappropriate comments on a bigger display and reduce the tolerance for them. Stability is a more rational goal – perhaps it’ll allow some space to get a better handle on the rest of your stuff and allow you to move upwards from there.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I think your perspective about how other people are receiving this behavior is likely very accurate, but I do think your recommended solutions fundamentally misunderstand what ADHD is and how it impacts a person internally.

      You describe noticing an impulse and then acting in a way that prevents the impulsive behavior, which is how you control an impulse. Impulsive type ADHD makes it very, VERY difficult just to notice the impulse before you have already acted on it. My ADHD skews heavily toward Inattentiveness rather than Impulsiveness, but even I struggle with not talking over people or oversharing. I am largely able to curb that behavior but writing down stream of consciousness thoughts in meetings, but I can’t say how effective that would be for someone whose ADHD is more Impulsive type than mine.

      I will also point out that high stress is actually more likely to make ADHD manageable than low stress. High stress is often very stimulating (though if it reaches the point of overwhelm it can result in a total shutdown; there’s always a goldilocks zone) which makes it easier for us to keep our brain chemistry from negatively impacting others.

      Stable, repetitive, routine work can be some of the hardest for us to manage.

      1. Emily (she/hers)*

        Yes. I mentioned to my psychiatrist that I don’t understand why I can’t control my impulses. She said that neurotypical people usually think A, B, C, where A is “I want to do this thing,” B is considering the thing and pros and cons or whatever, and C is doing the thing. Whereas people with ADHD just go A to C. Like the brain wiring is that way; it’s not about willpower. My medication slows down the process so I can actually do the B part.

      2. Mill Miker*

        I keep wanting to sum up some of the stuff in the comments today as “It’s really important to be aware of when your self-awareness is failing, so that you can notice that you’ve stopped noticing things”

      3. Qwerty*

        I have ADHD too so I’ve got a few decades of experience. The OP explicitly said that stress makes their impulse control worse – I took them at their word.

        The OP says they thought they were being “measured and appropriate” when talking about their sex life. Which means it went through a filter and that filter needs some calibration.

        When a kid runs into the street when you’re driving, hitting the brakes is instinct. There’s rarely a thought process where you decide what to do about the child in front of you. If a ball was flying at you, few people would stand there and think about what to do next, though their responsive might vary between catching it, kicking it, ducking and those responses would correlate to the type of ball play they do or do not engage in.

        Our impulses get filtered at some level by our internal walls and the blocks we put up around ourselves. There’s a reason the OP isn’t writing in about being unable to avoid hitting people, knocking things over, etc – the more physical actions are the ones we get engrained in us at younger ages while the more social stuff comes later and people get left to figure it out on their own. OP needs some help building mental brakes. I’m in a field filled with ADHD people with impulse control issues – blurting out something weird is common but usually followed by “oh sh!t”, or a look of panic, or an awkward avoiding the person they were speaking to for a while – some form of reaction because there’s an awareness that the weird comment was not ok.

        1. Cyndi*

          “Which means it went through a filter and that filter needs some calibration.”

          This is definitely how I read it–OP made a decision about what to share, but a badly misjudged one–rather than this being an uncontrollable impulse.

  99. BatManDan*

    Well, unlike the recent college grad of several years ago who wanted a firm to hire him as their “big-picture” guy, this LW really does have some credentials and experience behind him/her. I wonder if there is a think-tank somewhere that could harness his creative output, and filter his/her less-desirable outputs.

    1. Moonlight*

      This! A lot of neurodivergent people end up in less traditional career paths where our creative thinking can be out to use (eg oddly, being a researcher is a really good place for us – you can be kind of eccentric and often work in teams where you can often focus on the skills that are neat for you).

      1. k*

        What do you mean exactly by researcher? I’ve heard this a lot but don’t really understand what that job is or where to find it (I’m a neurodivergent also trying to figure this job stuff out).

        1. Chickadee*

          I don’t know if this is what Moonlight was referring to, but academia and academia-adjacent jobs (museum curator, government scientist, etc) are chock full of neurodivergent folk.

          1. Samwise*

            For these jobs, they are likely to have gone through a graduate program. Not a quick shift if OP doesn’t have the credential.

            For academia, unless you are spectacularly brilliant and/or in a field losing out to private employers who can pay boodles more money, you are still going to have to demonstrate that you are consistently reliable and reasonably organized and that you have decent soft skills, especially communication and relationship. In some fields, you can be spectacularly brilliant but if you don’t have those skills, you are likely to have a hard time getting an academic job (especially if you have poor impulse control and don’t know when you’re being inappropriate).

        2. Nesprin*

          Am a (milder inattentive type) ADHD scientist and I know of at least 3 (more severe hyperactive ADHD) scientists in my group. Working in labs can be great because you get to follow interests and work at your own pace and everyone assumes scientists are going to be a bit off to start with. There’s also usually guardrails in the form of peers and mentors and safety + admin personnel to make sure that the worst impulses are put in check.

          Downsides are you probably need some advanced schooling+ if it doesn’t fit your interests it isn’t going to work.

      2. A Becky*

        Being a researcher is good if you tend obsessive, loner and detail-mad. If you tend ADHD, or pretty much any other neurodivergent, you’re treated like a perpetual “adorable fuckup” until either you get unlucky and go too long between contracts and nobody will hire you or your self-esteem is shattered and you leave on your own.

        Ask me how I know :(

      3. Justin*

        Yes, I am currently excelling in my curriculum development/pedagogy role, but I also have particular strengths that I can call upon (memorization and pattern recognition, as well as public speaking). They accept my relative oddness because I’m good at some other stuff.

      4. ferrina*

        I’m a consultant who intersects closely with research. I’m ADHD, and it’s a great place for me. There’s constantly a new project and a new fire that I get to put out. The kind of research we do requires a lot of different skills to do successfully, and the skills I have are rare. And I’m not the only ADHD person I know in my industry.

        This can be a good home, but it really depends on your flavor of ADHD.

        1. Angry socialist*

          Hey ferrina, how do you get to be a consultant? It’s something I’d like to get into, but my original area isn’t one that regularly uses consultants and I don’t know where to start.

          1. ferrina*

            I took a weird path. I started in providing internal services at a mid-sized non-profit, then moved to a small for-profit where my team sold services B2B (came in as mid-level, left as semi-senior), then moved to a consulting firm. There’s different types of consulting companies that each cater to different business needs- HR firms, market research, communications strategies, logistics and operational strategies, tech, etc. If you work in an area where you provide B2B services and part of your value is your ability to advise clients, that’s already halfway there. That’s appealing to when applying to a consulting firm.

    2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      I think about that letter all. the. time. Would pay real money to get an update from him.

      1. Lavender*

        He sounds like the kind of person I would hate to know in real life, but also I want to know everything about him.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I’ll put a link in a follow-up comment, but whiel that goes through moderation, search for “no one will hire me as their visionary.” The post was originally published on November 18, 2010 (Alison may have reposted it once or twice, so you may find one with a different date).

    3. ursula*

      Yeah, as someone with (milder than LW’s) ADHD, who has been able to carve out a cool career with good balance and some prestige (but less money than LW probably wants), I have two thoughts.

      First: Unfortunately, most people don’t get to be “high-achieving eccentric” without first being “high-achieving reliable person with good judgment” for many years. Credibility buys you the right to be eccentric at work, in my experience. But you can’t really skip over the credibility-building part, and I freely admit that that sucks for people who have a lot of potential/skill and also some rough edges. (It sucked for me!)

      Second, the tolerance for some of these issues varies wildly from workplace to workplace, and industry to industry. I absolutely agree with other commenters that most white-collar office-based work may continue to be hard for this person. (Not impossible! Just hard.) Please remember that being “smart” does not mean you have to be an office worker! Don’t be trapped by the identity you’ve put on yourself if it’s not bringing you a good life.

      1. Bee*

        Right, I don’t know how you can go from “hilarious fuck-up” to “high-achieving eccentric” without first spending a lot of time in “a little quirky but highly reliable.” You don’t need to be detail-oriented for that! I know it shows up in every job description but honestly there are a lot of jobs where that just isn’t an important quality. And the threshold of allowable quirkiness varies a lot between and even within industries – I’m in the business side of an arts/media industry and my particular small company is high on the quirky-weirdos scale. But you still need to find the distinction between treating everyone as equals (perfectly acceptable, even good) & treating everyone the same (problematic & likely boundary-crossing; equality doesn’t mean equal levels of intimacy), and you have to have a track record of delivering the goods on a regular basis to get to the point where you can get paid a lot while being a quirky weirdo.

        As an example, my (almost certainly autistic) boss is frequently described as A Character, but he’s so successful at his job that he built the company from just himself to 11 people, and he’s also figured out how to be his quirky self without oversharing with all his employees, which creates an environment where we’re all able to be our quirky selves while also having solid professional and work/life boundaries.

    4. Dover*

      I have met many interesting people in unique roles like this. In my experience, the role is usually created for a specific person who has piqued the interest of an executive. It’s not an easy role to get, or keep as leadership turns over, but gives you a lot of opportunity to pursue interesting strategic topics from unique angles.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      As a suggestion, you can just use “they” to refer to someone whose gender is unknown. Easier to type and read than “he/she” and also inclusive of non-binary people!

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      I was thinking this as well. A job that is an individual contributer i.e. not a ton of team work, in an environment that values skillset/experience over polished presentation, so probably not customer facing.
      A million years ago when I was at a Very Large Public Accounting Firm, there was one partner who was absolutely brilliant and knew everything about any and all kinds of accounting rules and technical details and all that stuff. His office was a total disaster and didn’t smell very good and he was kind of rude/abrupt. But if the partner on your particular project didn’t know the answer to something, they’d say, “Go ask Eric” and you’d toodle down to his office, wait in line, ask your question, he’d answer in two minutes and charge your project $500. He was really amazing.

    7. Ali + Nino*

      Sure, OP has skills and experience – but also notes that “Supervisors usually get a huge kick out of me until I cross a line.” I’m guessing this means multiple instances of being let go for inappropriate behavior, and that would be a red flag for me.

      I’m glad the OP has found medication that helps with impulse control, but beyond that I get the sense that OP doesn’t really WANT to change their problematic behavior, but wants to find somewhere to fit in where it won’t MATTER. In other words, OP understands the behavior is problematic, but only in the sense that it’s preventing them from achieving/earning what they want – not that it’s offensive, inappropriate, disruptive, etc.

      For instance, OP would give details about their intimate life that *they* thought were appropriate but supervisors didn’t – not that OP has since learned that that kind of information is inappropriate to discuss at work.

      Unfortunately, the suggestion to land at a think-thank where someone (boss? coworker?) would filter OP’s less-desirable conduct, places the responsibility on others.

      1. CJ*

        I just don’t know where to start on this but this attitude is so frustrating because you are assuming that OP is capable of determining what is or is not appropriate professional behavior and is actively not to behave professionally. That’s the entire problem the poster is running up against! OP is not good at judging these things and no amount of will power is going to change that. If it were a matter of just needing to try harder then OP wouldn’t need to write this letter!

        1. Ali + Nino*

          You know what, you’re right – thank you for pointing this out. I still think it’s unfortunate that OP seems more concerned about the impact on their career versus how they might be making other people feel, but your point stands.

  100. Goldenrod*

    OP, I don’t have any helpful advice, but I just wanted to say:
    1) I love you.
    2) I strongly feel that people like you (I have a few friends like this) should receive a stipend from the government simply for making the world a more interesting place, and I would be happy for my tax dollars to support this.
    3) Heidi’s worm costume was amazing and I respect your decision to share it.

    And I think whenever you eventually DO find the job that is the right fit, you will be awesome!!

  101. ADHD Change Manager*

    I think this OP is burying a lot of unacceptable behaviour under the ‘quirky’ umbrella, which is a mistake. The sexual comments and the lack of boundaries need to be well handled before anything else. And also it wouldn’t hurt to really try and read people and what they are telling you (verbally and non verbally). You keep crossing lines, and you need to identify what those lines are well ahead of time.
    I’m also ADHD and I’m a Change Management Consultant working for government clients. The work is perfect for my brain because it’s project focus, so I don’t run any risk of being bored. It also requires an insane amount of pivoting, which my brain is primed to do.
    So there are definitely ways to turn your neurodiversity into job strengths, but you need to do some hard personal work first.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Oh that sounds like a DREAM. I, a fellow ADHD haver, am pulling my municipality forward into the 21st century if it kills me and it’s so challenging but the best part of my work. Being able to focus on that and offload the rote admin stuff… Payroll is important but after I have made the process as efficient and foolproof as I can, I no longer wish to touch it.

      Very happy for you comrade! You’ve MADE it!

    2. Michelle Smith*

      I’m not sure this is totally fair. Lack of impulse control can be a symptom of ADHD and even if you do not personally struggle with it, it can be one of the hardest things to change. Obviously changing it is important, but it’s easier said than done for some people. OP seems to be aware of this and is working on it.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        OP does seem aware of it, but I don’t think it’s out of line to propose angles they might not have reflected on. It can be really hard having ADHD and the feedback we get from those around us can lead us to emotional defenses that protect us while also prevent us from seeing some of our impact on others.

        It’s not fair to accuse the OP of doing this, but there is value in reflecting on these questions. It’s a very human thing to use our struggles as armor. It is protective to a degree, in a certain environment, but it also limits our ability to grow. One hopes OP’s therapist is discussing that with them, but reminders don’t hurt.

      2. Emily (she/hers)*

        Very hard! But also… ADHD Change Manager is not wrong. There are very few jobs where it’s okay to violate boundaries like this, diagnosis or no. Also, as a person with ADHD and other psych stuff who’s been around the psych world (and sometimes psych ward, ha) for a while, it’s not uncommon for people to kind of make some of their symptoms their identity in a way that’s ultimately harmful. It sounds like the LW has done a lot of hard work so far. They should be proud of the progress they’ve made! They’re just not quite done yet.

        1. Pierrot*

          Yeah, I have ADHD and Bipolar Disorder and impulse control is definitely something I’ve struggled with, albeit in a different way than LW. I think it does a disservice to those of us with ADHD to act like we’re completely at the whims of our impulses and powerless to stop. It’s definitely challenging, and it takes a lot of work, but ultimately it’s an important part of co-existing with people. DBT helped me with this, as well as experiencing the consequences of hurting people when that was not at all my intention. LW sounds like a good person who values equality and does not want to hurt peoples’ feelings or make them uncomfortable, and I think that as they continue to work on their impulse control things will improve.

        2. Aerin*

          I hope this is the main point LW takes away from all this. This stuff is all really, legitimately hard! Even getting to the point where you can seek treatment is a big deal. Sorting out what pieces you can change with therapy/strategies vs. what would require meds vs. what can’t be changed vs. what doesn’t actually need to change is an ongoing process. The fact that you haven’t gotten it all figured out yet doesn’t mean you’ll never figure it out, and it doesn’t negate the progress you’ve made. Wishing you loads of luck with it, and hopefully it helps to know that you’re far from alone.

  102. hbc*

    I can’t think of anything that doesn’t require professionalism* or attention to detail that pays decently. This is really one of those situations where you can only have two of the three. But I’m thinking–is there literally no situation where you get the important details reliably right? You might not even think of it as detail work because it’s just so obviously interesting and natural to you. Maybe it’s not even one area but a focus when an area is new, so you need to find a position where short-term, highly-varied projects are the norm and your ramp-up rate is impressive.

    *I’m going with the term “professionalism,” but it’s not quite right. Basically being able to play the office game, which for some means convincing the right people you’re brilliant so that they give you a pass on your inappropriate picture, or being so charming that you get the benefit of the doubt, or never getting caught when you screw up, etc., etc..

    1. NeedRain47*

      LARPing a normal person. This is what I do every day when I go to work. If you can do it for long enough for them to see that you’re good at your actual job duties, they will care less if you’re a little weird.

  103. Union*

    I wonder, if you did go into consulting/freelancing, if it would be worth having an assistant or partner to keep you on track. That’s essentially the role I fill for one of my supervisors — he sends me a bunch of rambling thoughts, links, and names to google, and I put together a draft of whatever we need to send to the client based on that. Then he doesn’t have the terror of a blank page in front of him and he can just point out whatever needs to be changed. I also sometimes keep track of deadlines and prod him when I need input to move forward.
    If you have the credentials to back yourself up, you might as well delegate the stuff that always trips you up and focus on what you’re good at.

  104. Michelle Smith*

    Getting therapy or group coaching for people with ADHD might help with coping skills that could increase your ability to succeed in an office environment. I would also encourage you to look up the story of Alex Su (he’s vocal on social media and has a substack, you’ll be able to find him). He talks about how he is very smart and accomplished but bombed at his high powered legal job where he was expected to excel at the kind of nitpicky detail oriented stuff we lawyers love but that he just didn’t get. He pivoted to sales and now has a great job in a legal tech startup that is a much better fit for him. He gets to focus on big picture ideas now instead of those details. Even if that’s not your field, you might be able to learn something from his story. If nothing else, the man is living proof of how you can make a successful pivot from something that’s a bad fit for your skills, interests, and personality and be plenty fulfilled and achieve great things once you find that right kind of work. Good luck!

  105. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    My understanding is that many neurodivergent people have strong motivations when, and only when, their interests are engaged. So what makes you tick? What is intensely fun and absorbing for you? Follow those interests and pursue work that lets you use your knowledge and interest to benefit an organization.

  106. AnotherSarah*

    OP, it sounds like you want to bring your whole self to work, and in my experience, that is neither necessary nor desirable. It sounds like you’ve decided you’re a bunch of characteristics (quirky, eccentric, etc.) and attached “therefore I can’t…” to that list. I don’t have any tips for getting better at the things you feel you’re not good at, but I think a good place to start is to examine whether your identity as a Quirky Person (TM) feels threatened by, say, having a more subdued and rule-abiding office personality.

    It does sound like talking to a career counselor might help, and also to read about other jobs to get a sense of what the day-to-day is like. Most jobs require some orientation to detail, but what that looks like varies.

  107. nonprofit writer*

    OP, is your religious background Unitarian Universalism? That popped into my head when I read your description, perhaps because I am a UU myself. Of course there are many other religious traditions that focus on equality, but with UUs it’s really front and center (along with a high tolerance for quirkiness). Regardless of what your tradition is, would it offer some kind of professional role for you? You’d have to rein in the boundary-crossing, of course, but just wondering if working in the office of a congregation (assuming I’m right that yours is not particularly conservative) would work for you?

    Or, as others have said, perhaps avoid office work altogether and focus on something outdoors–or maybe retail?

    1. Temperance*

      I think OP is a Quaker from their description. If something like a Quaker outdoor program exists, that would probably be perfect. Or running a summer camp.

  108. An Effort*

    This is fluffy, but I offer it up as something that helps me (neurodivergent) in my work life:

    I’m gently irreverent by nature. I’ve got play, warmth, ease, an enjoyment of things. Mostly, this is complimented and valued in my work. But occasionally some people dislike it, and my innocent comments get horribly misconstrued and I get in trouble. So I need to try and be more restrained.

    But to me, sincerity has high value. Restraining myself feels like I’m lying and pretending, it feels like I’m trying to suck up to people and manipulate them. I hate it.

    The way I persuade myself to keep going is: I tell myself I’m *editing*. I think of my work personality as a *poem*. Good poets write with sincerity, they are true. But they edit like crazy – they don’t just throw all their thoughts on the page, they reflect and distill. So if my work behaviour is a poem, I can be my sincere self – edited for effectiveness, for beauty!

    That’s the principle. In practice, it’s flipping hard but I’m starting with challenging myself to enjoy mindfulness and observation at work, absorbing more than I give out but staying present and responsive…

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Oooh, yes on the gently irreverent vibe! I’m the same type of ADHD person and people absolutely freaking love it IF you get it right. My advice to anyone who struggles with the line is to watch someone you admire and is well respected, and tailor your scripts to their design. We don’t have the kinds of brains to be trusted on the fly, so keep to well practiced scripts and topics you’ve pre-security cleared until you’re confident. I have long conversations with my ADHD students about how unnatural restraint feels and how it feels like being insincere to muzzle themselves, and I just say that people don’t have room in their ears for ALL your sincere thoughts and outbursts. If you stick with the discomfort, listen more than you speak for a while, practice a LOT and forgive yourself when you fail, you’ll eventually get there.

      1. Light square*

        “.. and people absolutely freaking love it IF you get it right!”

        Yes, and this is why I have a hard time changing this behaviour, because I observe it to be a great asset! Eh, most of the time. Especially since 80% of my socialising and recreation happens with people who work in my field (that’s just the nature of the life/industry), so I can’t easily separate my work and “life”.

        Your comment about ‘watching someone you admire’ is interesting because my current manager also has ADHD and is a total over-sharer. Great as she is, maybe I shouldn’t take my cues from her as much as I’m inclined to…;)

    2. Observer*

      The way I persuade myself to keep going is: I tell myself I’m *editing*. I think of my work personality as a *poem*. Good poets write with sincerity, they are true. But they edit like crazy – they don’t just throw all their thoughts on the page, they reflect and distill. So if my work behaviour is a poem, I can be my sincere self – edited for effectiveness, for beauty!

      That is a lovely analogy!

  109. anonymous for this*

    OP, it sounds like you’ve tried a lot of different jobs. I would really encourage you to consider working with an executive function coach or an ADHD specialist (rather than a general therapist) who can help you work through some of these challenges and find a career path that works better for your needs. You can also check out the Job Accommodation Network for information about accommodations you may be eligible for.

  110. ADHD Librarian*

    All great suggestions. I also highly recommend the YouTube channel, “How to ADHD” as it does cover a lot of these kinds of coping mechanisms. And remember: You teach people how to treat you. If you believe you are “not as good as the others” others will treat you that way. But if anything, you are doing much better than you probably think. You are not incompetent, defective or anything else–it’s just a matter of amplifying your existing strengths. Good luck, OP! All us neurodivergents out here are rooting for you!

  111. Not The Maid*

    LW,
    this is not so much a solution but more a way to get you to think broadly.
    What are your hobbies? Like, what can you work on and the time just seems to slip by? I don’t think I have ADHD but I too struggle with details. that is until Im doing something I’m truly passionate about. It’s like the barrier to details gets lifted. Part of me accepted who I happened after I took a learning style test and a personality test. They are plenty of free assessments from reputable psychology organizations. My apologies if I’m wrong, but from your letter, it seems like you know a lot about what you do but has not really accepted the person you are. The good thing about the test I mentioned is that they often show you famous people who shared your lerning style and personaliy.

    1. Alanna*

      This can be a good place to start, but I’d be careful about this advice, because hobbies, by default, don’t require as many of the things that people with ADHD struggle with — and then when they become jobs, they suddenly do.

      For example, I love baking and I’m fairly talented at it. People have asked me before if I’d ever work in a bakery, but a lot of what I like about baking is the novelty (I never have to make the same thing twice), the dopamine boost of sugar, and the freedom of entering a flow state on my own time. If I were working at a bakery and had to make 150 of the same cookies every day on the same timeline, and couldn’t dip my fingers into the dough for health reasons, I’m suddenly just doing a job. (Even when making wedding cakes for friends, my mind wanders so quickly once I’m making the same cake for the third time.) If I owned the bakery, I’d have to make sure we opened at the same time every day, and do paperwork, and think about what people wanted to eat, not what I wanted to make. Plus I’d be out a hobby.

  112. Trying to hard to come up with a funny name*

    I think you should try another ADHD medication. From what I understand from my doctor, there are two different “families” of ADHD meds-one is more of a stimulant, and the other isn’t really a stimulant at all. When on the non-stimulant variety, I’ve noticed a marked difference in focus and concentration.
    Also, my work place would have laughed at your picture! You may just need to look around for a work culture that suits you. Some workplaces provide training with things like speaking with tact-you may want to see if your workplace does the same. Best of luck to you.

    1. Alanna*

      I think this isn’t a bad idea (I had to switch from Adderall XR to Ritalin LA during the medication shortage, and I’ve learned that Ritalin actually works slightly better for me — maybe a bit less effective, but also fewer side effects and less of a “speedy” feeling!), but medication isn’t a cure-all. My doctor described it to me once as giving you the opportunity to take a breath before you act on the impulse — but you still have to WANT to not act on the impulse. Lots of people with ADHD have decades of bad habits and insufficient structure and maladaptive coping mechanisms and they can’t all be overridden with a pill.

    2. Stitch*

      I have a sibling with an issue that can cause focus problems and her getting the right medication was night and day.

  113. JustMe*

    Two things.

    First, I can’t armchair diagnose but if you feel that you are having trouble understanding certain social aspects of professional life, it may actually be worthwhile to speak to a therapist or psychiatrist again. A good friend was in a similar situation to you, and after many years in the workplace she discovered that she had been misdiagnosed with ADHD and anxiety and actually was on the autism spectrum. She’s now doing great because she knows what neurodivergence she is actually working with and can make professional decisions with it in mind.

    Second, it sounds like you’re working in fairly conservative/traditional workplaces. Not completely sure what your area of expertise is, but there are many more high-level, high-pay jobs that allow for much more flexibility. Consulting and freelancing were mentioned; agencies often have jobs that are casual, flexible, and where your deliverables matter more than, say, showing up at a certain place at a certain time. Being a corporate trainer I’ve heard is a good gig for someone who likes dynamic work. If your research background is related to something technical, could you move into, say, being a surveyor or auditor?

    1. JustMe*

      Also adding that detail oriented work is hard unless it’s the one thing you’re really, really, into, which is why surveyor or auditor came to mind. Doing a 94-step process you didn’t come up with is hard, but spending all day looking at something you’re super into (doubly if it’s, say, looking at water tables outdoors or something) could be a good fit.

  114. yala*

    Oof, this feels familiar. For me, wellbutrin was a game-changer in terms of impulse-control (especially emotional reactions), but focus and detail are still things I struggle with–which can be a big problem, because cataloging is HUGELY detail oriented. (On the positive side, cataloging is also the sort of job where having a little bit of knowledge about a bunch of random things can really come in handy)

    Making myself Slow. Down. is crucial. I know the pain of having a “94-step process” that you have to follow perfectly every time (the idea that anyone can do anything perfectly every time seems baffling to me, and I feel like I encounter enough ancient errors in our system that it’s not a reasonable expectation, but that’s neither here nor there). So what really helps me is a physical checklist I make. I take my work in small batches, and check each batch line-by-line. Is step #37 correct on all the items in this batch? Yes? Good. Onto step #38.

    Having a visual thing that I can actually mark off as I work gives me something easier to track, and a good way to snap back to wherever I was if my brain goes on a walkabout for a moment. And focusing on one step at a time for everything means that I’m really *focused* on that step–it’s made it much easier for me to catch errors.

    I don’t know if any of that is something you can apply. My heart goes out to you, because it’s like…you still have a lot to offer (and even if you didn’t, you still need to eat), but it really is a trick finding not just the right job, but the right *people* who understand and accept that you might struggle or do things differently.

  115. Super Fun*

    I would gently suggest that you get an updated diagnosis to facilitate treatment and therapy, because the lack of boundaries and misunderstanding of social norms aren’t wholly covered by ADHD. If you’re asking people about their bedroom activities at work and also talking about your own, there’s a fundamental piece missing that needs to be worked on. You can expect others to be understanding of that and a firing would be justified.

    As for everything else: you need to just buckle down and try. It’s hard and tiring but it’s what everyone has to do.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      OP’s job involved interviewing people about their sexuality and gender. The issue was they were sharing their own experiences. Still inappropriate, but they weren’t just randomly asking coworkers about their sex lives.

      “buckle down and try, it’s what everyone has to do” is not helpful advice for ADHD symptoms.

      1. Mill Miker*

        Yeah, there’s a difference between “Everyone knows the line is here, and you recklessly overshot it by 12 feet!” and “For the sake of this job, we’re going to temporarily pretend the line is several feet back. No, not that many.”

        Like, given the topic it’s not a great boundary to make a mistake on, but given the context I’m having a hard time taking it as proof the OP has no sense of boundaries or norms.

    2. Glen*

      They were required to ask study participants questions like: “the last time you were f—ed in the a–, did he come inside you?” And answered a question the interviewee asked about their wedding ring in a way that ended up involving a discussion of non-monogamy. Without knowing the literal content of that aside I have to suspect the superior who objected was out of line, in all honesty.

  116. Lalaluna*

    I haven’t read through all the comments, so this may be a repetition of what others have already said…but I don’t know how achievable “‘high-achieving eccentric’ with a high income” is going to be for you if your description of your current/previous work persona is “hilarious fuck-up”. Also, how serious is the “fuck-up” part perceived by others in your workplace? You can definitely be high achieving with a stable career and eccentric in some (many?) fields, but I don’t know if you can also have a high income unless you quell the “fuck-up” part of yourself until you’ve reached a high-level position. Usually, the higher up you are, the weirder you can be, but it sounds like you’re saying you definitely don’t have the skills to quell the “fuck-up” part of your work persona right now….

    I will say, as a librarian, you can definitely be eccentric and not need the same level of “perfection” you described in your letter in many positions. Public libraries can be a very fun, relaxed environment, especially if your job involves working with teens or youth. Teams I’ve been on in the past at public libraries would not complain at the Heidi Klum picture even if shared in an email that included various supervisors/managers. (Though, I still wouldn’t share it with the library Director or Asst. Director). In fact, most of the coworkers in public libraries I’ve worked at have loved sharing their “eccentricities” with one another. We’re most of us proud nerds and excitedly love sharing our nerd passions and hobbies, and it’s great. The atmosphere is generally relaxed and people are free to be goofy. But it isn’t a “high income” career by most definitions….so, that’s the trade-off there….

    1. yala*

      tbh, the public library was one of the most high-stress jobs I ever had, and since I wasn’t on any medication, my emotional regulation when dealing with horrible people was basically nil.

      I’m at an academic library now, and I don’t know if it’s all departments, but ours certainly seems to have an expectation of “perfection.” I feel for OP, because I basically always feel like I’m waiting for my next screw-up.

  117. Amber Rose*

    My city does lawn care via goat, and sustainability efforts might be a career path for you if that’s your jam.

    1. Dinwar*

      There are people who rent goats in the South to manage kudzu. They eat the bit just above the roots, killing the whole vine. It doesn’t kill the plant–you have to bring them back periodically–but it sets you up for repeat business. Plus you get to make the client look good for finding eco-friendly alternatives to weed killers. I’m looking for an opportunity to propose this to a client, but haven’t found one yet so can’t give you a typical price range.

      Goat milk products are also big these days. It’s a main ingredient in soaps, lotions, shampoos, and the like. You may not have time to manage that side of the business, but you can sell the milk. Got a sister who sells kids and milk from her goat herd to supplement their income.

      Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy and you don’t make a huge profit on it. But yeah, if you want to go into goat herding there absolutely are ways to make money at it.

  118. Roger Elizabeth Dupree*

    Work in theatre!

    There are so many different types of jobs from hands-on set building, actor, designer, to office type jobs including marketing, education, and writing. There is a different project every few months, you have the choice to freelance or work in a presenting/production house, you work with different people so you’re not building an adorably quirky reputation, and even if you were, most of the theatre folk are adorably quirky.

    Break a leg!

    1. sunshine*

      As someone who works in theatre, this is not a field I would advise for someone who is not so passionate about it that they can’t see themself doing anything else. Wages in theatre are low, the hours are long, and unless you’ve already built up a resume/do a lot of training/get incredibly lucky, you’re unlikely to be able to support yourself as a full time theatre professional when you’re just starting out. And absent a whole lot of luck, a theatre career is unlikely to lead to being a “high earner.”

      If theatre makes your heart sing, LW, then by all means come join us! But if you’re just looking for a field that’s a better personality fit, you might be better off in one of the others that’s been suggested.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I work in theatre. In addition to what sunshine says below the jobs are really going to be things you need a good amount of training in (costume construction, lighting design, etc.) and/or things where attention to detail are crucial (both on the production and admin sides). If attention to detail isn’t one of the LW’s strengths I think it’s going to be difficult for them to break into theatre.

    3. Aerin*

      I agree that working in theater may not be great for the reasons others mention.

      However, *participating* in theater, like at the community level, can be a great way to figure out new coping mechanisms! I know doing theater when I was younger helped me recognize when I was getting into Auto Quip mode and head it off in a way that no other activity managed to do. And having to wait for my cue or stand frozen onstage led me to pick up some nice unobtrusive stims.

  119. Little My*

    This is not job advice, but I just want to say that you sound delightful! Hold on to your understanding of your own worth, as you named (your smarts, your ideas, your strong belief in equality). It can be so demoralizing to struggle at work like this and it’s clear you’re really trying. You deserve to be able to earn a living, just like everyone else.

  120. A writer*

    I really empathize with you, OP. I’m neurodivergent, and I don’t fit into the typical white collar office culture. So many corporate rules feel frustrating and pointless. I’ve definitely blurted out inappropriate things at past jobs, and I cringe now thinking what my coworkers must have thought.

    A few strategies that have helped me:
    -Finding a career in a field that generally attracts people who are a little eccentric/weird/nerdy. Not always in the same way I am, but in general it means people are a little more tolerant of others’ quirks.
    -Finding a job that lets me work from home much of the time–for me, this lets me get my weirdness and wiggles out in ways that don’t impact other people. Nobody cares if I work sitting on the floor or take a five minute living room dance party break at 2 pm. If I have a funny thought, I text it to a friend instead of sharing it with a coworker.
    -I lean hard into the work persona. Sometimes, when things get especially Corporate, I fully pretend I’m an anthropologist embedded in a foreign culture. Making it into a game makes it feel less restrictive, somehow.
    -Reading this blog has been so helpful for me in terms of understanding what social norms I have to follow at work in order to be taken seriously.

    Re: being detail-oriented: I’m a writer, and I love what I do most days. I get to be creative and constantly learn new things. On the flip side, I would be the world’s worst copyeditor. I simply cannot make myself care about following style rules–I do my best to follow them in the work I turn in, but an editor is always correcting one or two things. I’m sure it’s a little annoying for them, but I’ve also had multiple editors tell me they’d much rather work with a writer who can do solid research and craft interesting, engaging paragraphs but mucks up a few oxford commas, than the reverse.

    I don’t know what your exact skills are, but I’m guessing there’s a job out there that will similarly value your creativity and big-picture thinking, and where you won’t be the last pair of eyes on the work that’s going out.

  121. Momma Bear*

    There are few jobs without some level of detail. However, if OP is like a lot of folks with ADHD they may thrive on short deadlines, fast-paced work that is a short duration, and in an area of high interest. I think OP should think about their hyperfixations or areas of high interest and start looking at jobs that pertain to those skills and interests. A job with a lot of moving around may also help.

    OP might also look for an Executive Function Skills coach. Many times an area of weakness can be scaffolded by an area of strength.

  122. Roger Elizabeth Dupree*

    You could try working in theatre!

    There are so many different types of jobs from acting on stage, to running lights, designing costumes, managing the audience, etc, even office type jobs like marketing, publicity, or writing.

    You work on a different project every few months. You can choose to freelance or work in a producing/presenting house. You work with new people all the time so you don’t have to worry about your “adorably quirky” personality getting old. Even if you did, everyone else is adorably quirky too. :)

    You can work with your hands, you can change your role, you can try something new.

    Theatre is all about trying and being creative. It’s ok if it’s not perfect the first time–you rehearse it and try it again. You design something and the director doesn’t like it? Try it again!

    Break a leg in your journey of discovery!

    1. KT*

      I work for a theater in an admin role (fundraising), and this does not strike me as a good fit. My job is all about communication and is extremely detail oriented. What you describe might work for an artistic role, but those jobs don’t pay well and are really hard to get with no experience. It is hard for me to imagine how someone with poor boundaries, poor attention to detail, and poor ability to maintain social norms would do in marketing or PR, or in the business/HR office, casting, production, or basically any other admin department.

  123. HIPAA-potamus*

    STEAM! Allison, I work for a pediatric health system as a content strategist and I’m currently drafting a blog/interview with a child life gaming tech specialist. The role is a unique one and allows one to excel in STEAM careers. Not sure if OP would be interested in a gaming path, but happy to share the link with you when live to share with OP for further context.

  124. sunshine*

    Hello, fellow ADHD-er here!

    As far as workplace accommodations go, I highly recommend checking out the Job Accommodation Network: https://askjan.org

    They have a lot of potentially helpful resources on offer, including an Accommodation Search function where you can search by the condition you need accommodations for to see suggestions of what those accommodations have looked like for other people. They also offer technical assistance.

  125. raincoaster*

    The old classic What Color Is Your Parachute is very, very good at helping people find careers that suit them. You have to actually DO the exercises rather than skim them, but they are very solid.

    This might sound flippant but you mentioned medication makes you clean things. Where I live, low level office workers get about $20 an hour. Independent house cleaners start at $30. It’s not prestigious but it plays to your strengths.

  126. Amy with ADHD*

    Questions for LW: What sends you into hyperfocus? What jobs involve that skill/topic/genre? You like to be outdoors, would leading hikes or doing trail maintenance or producing walking videos for people using treadmills sound exciting? What about working on a goat farm? Becoming a consultant who explains to business people how to take those 94-step procedures and actually make them more efficient and user friendly?

  127. BorisTheGrump*

    What about entering a trade? If you can apply to a union, you can get paid while you apprentice. The tradespeople I know are wonderful, swear like sailors, and many many many of them are adhders. The union ones have incredible benefits.

    And you know what plumbers smell like at the end of the day, right. That’s right, they smell like MONEY.

  128. DogsNotDesks*

    I’ve had friends make pretty good money with pet sitting and walking businesses. You can go through an existing agency or try it on your own. If you get multiple regular clients you can spend your days outside walking dogs and getting paid for it.

    1. raincoaster*

      I’m petsitting right now! The real money is in dog walking, where you can charge for each dog and take a bunch of them out at a time. You do need a car for that though.

      There’s also drop in catsitting for an hour at a time: that runs $30-50.

  129. Forensic13*

    Hi, late-diagnosis ADHD here! I’m an adjunct, and what’s worked for me has been trying to make everything I don’t HAVE to do mentally into something done by computers or my phone (reminders, scheduled submissions, etc). Then, because I’m also quite impulsive, I’ve found for me it helps to let myself do all the “little” impulsive behaviors (I realize these may not be easy to recognize) so I have more executive function to control the “big” impulses.

    ADHD works for my style of teaching because I can think on feet a lot and let discussions go wherever the students want to take them, and my brain makes those types of connections easily.

    In general, OP, I suggest that you consider what I’ve had to learn—“should” can be the ADHD kryptonite. You “should” have a high-paying job now, you “should” have this white collar jobs. . . well, there’s should-world and there’s reality. I “should” just be able to focus on things, but I can’t. So I can obsess over “should,” or I can bribe myself as needed and just actually get it done, even if that takes longer or is more efficient. Consider this—you want a high-paying job vs a low-paying one, but consistently keeping a low-paying job /that you can work toward earning more in/ will get you more money in the long-run than running after a theoretical high-paying one and getting fired all the time in the meantime.

    And all in all, be kind to yourself while also being realistic! There are things that are nearly impossible to control with ADHD and stuff that can be learned, and I’ve personally seen much more success since I’ve accepted that.

  130. SoThatsWhyIDoThat!*

    I’m still going through the process of figuring out what my own personal combination of neurodiversities is. I’m in communications, and recently learned that I have “remediated dyslexia,” and very low processing speeds. I may be on the autistic spectrum. My journey to figure this out has been prompted by the combination of moving to a job with an organization that is NOT neurodiverse friendly in the slightest, and finding out my son is on the spectrum concurrently. A very close friend of mine has also recently gone through the process of switching jobs multiple times as she figures out what career works with her and her ADHD. I’m still very much learning, but here are the things I’ve learned so far:
    – Freelancing may be hard for you because of all the very low dopamine to-dos required, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, or that you have to have an outdoor job. (I used to have a very outdoor job, the lack of stability wore on me eventually)
    – If you do want to freelance and you can, hire a coach or someone along those lines to help you get everything set up and then use technology and automation to your advantage
    – You CAN find neurodiverse friendly organizations! From what I have seen and experienced tech sector organizations tend to be more likely to be ND friendly (obviously that’s a generalization and not true across the board)

    The best thing for your to do is spend some time really deep driving into your strengths and weaknesses in a non-critical/no moral judgement sort of way. Make yourself and your strengths and weaknesses your own hyperfixation for a bit. And then figure out what things you can do on your own to play to your strengths and mitigate those weaknesses. Then you can look for an organization that aligns with that. So, for me this looked like:

    – Working remote is the best thing ever for me, and I’ve committed not to work in an office ever again. I have almost no drive to socialize with my colleagues, people make me anxious, and I hate being interrupted when I’ve fixated on a project. Im also super sensitive to sound.
    – I need to work on a team that’s happy to work via asynchronous communication, because this gives me more time to process. Otherwise I miss details, or misunderstand things. I could happily do all of my work using direct messages and project management software and just not talk.
    – Project Management software is my best friend. Because of my processing issues I get overwhelmed (and then shut down!) very easily. PM software allows me to plan out my workflow in a way that doesn’t require me to process ALL THE THINGS every time I sit down to work
    – I need a solid team around me that I can rely on for editing, especially if a doc has a quick turn around time.

    Come up with your own list. Basically a description of how you would prefer to work. Use it to develop interview questions for the organizations you interview with, and to guide your research on the companies you apply to. My big takeaway this past year is that I have to double down on being my own advocate, and the first step to that is knowing inside and out exactly what I need.

    Our ND brains serve a purpose! Lean into it, and try and find somewhere that will lean with you. Yes, it limits your options in terms of organizations to work for, but its so much more positive when you can be (mostly) your whole self at work!

  131. Ellis Bell*

    OP you’re going to get lots of career advice in your life from neurotypical people. It’s a type of advice that gives you a more or less permanent headache, so I’m going to go ahead and give you the “bingo card” of typically useless advice which you can just cross off for amusement in future: 1) Just pay more attention, and be more careful 2) Set your watch five minutes fast, 3) Be more mature, 4) Be more organized 5) Think before you speak 6) You should know how to do this by now 7) Stop acting on impulse, 8) Just make more notes and 9) Stop making excuses…..
    So much for the bingo card, but here are some strategies that actually work: 1) Let other people lead in the conversation; it really is good advice for everyone but truly become a good listener. 2) Only use validated, checked, tried and true anecdotes at work. Don’t decide on the fly to share from your heart. 3) Get a really good night’s sleep and good food. It’s hard to organize but keep it as a goal because it helps with everything else, 4) Find your hyper focus: is it when you can physically move around, or is it fast paced deadlines or absorbing work? Don’t stop till you find it. 5) Have some set routines and scripts. By now, you’ll have some weak points that come up again and again. Prep for them. Don’t assume you can figure it as you go just because some people can.

    1. Cyndi*

      Oh my God I’m so mad about how much a regular sleep schedule helps me. I’m fortunate that I do fine on six hours (no really, even on weekends with my alarm off I’ll wake up around the six-hour mark) but five and a half? I’m a wreck in the morning. So unfair.

      1. Mill Miker*

        Them: “Your ADHD seems really bad lately”
        Me: “Yeah, I haven’t been getting enough sleep, and that always makes it worse.”
        Them: “Oh no! What’s wrong?”
        Me: “Well, my ADHD’s been bad lately, which always makes getting sleep hard.”
        Them: “Well why’s your ADHD been so bad?”

        and round and round and round and round.

        But yes, breaking the cycle is amazing while it lasts.

  132. Zap R.*

    I know people mean well, but there’s a fair amount of misinformation and misguided advice in about ADHD in this thread. Alison, is some sort of explainer or interview with an expert (i.e. a neurologist, a psychiatrist) possible in the future? I feel like ADHD comes up a lot in the comment section and the same misconceptions appear every time.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      I think we all just need to try harder and stop making excuses, think before we speak, write things down in a planner, and do yoga ;)

      1. starscourge savvy*

        Don’t forget about changing your diet and avoiding sugar and caffeine! Oh, and meditate. :D

    2. Anon Autistic*

      I agree that there’s a lot of misinformation here… but “experts” are not immune to spreading misinformation. I have seen an unfortunate convergence of how slow it can be for contemporary understanding to trickle through the medical community and the cocky personalities that are attracted to/nurtured by a medical degree. This has contributed to members of marginalized groups (women and girls, ethnic minorities, etc.) being underdiagnosed. I would much rather hear from a neurodivergent professional such as Terra Vance (who founded Neuroclastic).

  133. Alanna*

    I am cracking up at this comment section. It is really showing the best and worst of people with ADHD — we love to talk about our own experiences, we love to make connections, we love to give advice, and maybe we love to do it while we should be working?

    Work you might be suited to: I can only speak for my own ADHD, but I’m creative, *great* in a crisis, and unafraid of novelty. My happiest times at work pre-medication were working at startups or small companies where there was lots of room for growth and few people to tell you no. I thrived on the fast-moving, creative atmosphere, and if I got bored with one role, I could figure out how to make another one for myself.

    Accommodations to ask for: Get your working memory right. The biggest gamechanger I had this year was around notetaking. I realized that I engage better in a meeting if I write notes on paper, but I have to be able to search those notes later because I can’t remember anything. so I take a photo with my phone and upload it to Evernote. Someone suggested that I could request a digital notetaking setup as a reasonable accommodation. You might have different problems — the point is to move from “oh, I’m just bad at this” to “I believe I can be better at this, and here’s what I’m going to try.”

    Finally, a counterintuitive piece of advice that goes directly against the startup note above: You might do better at a company with a pretty strict, uptight culture. A place where you wear business clothes and show up to the office and interact with other people in business clothes, and where your boss is your boss, and you do two minutes of small talk and there is no pressure to make jokes on email or quips in a chat, where nobody pretends you should bring your whole self to work. Honestly, it makes me want to die a little inside. But if you are trying to transition into being an eccentric but competent professional, and you’re struggling with the “professional” end of that, there’s something to be said for extremely clear boundaries, a costume you put on to become Work You, and a meeting / email setup where it’s extremely clear that no one else is trying to send worm costume photos.

    I am not saying you have to do WORK you find boring, just that you can find a role that caters to the strengths of ADHD — creative, flexible, good in a crisis, and yes, personable — within a structure that helps you figure out who Professional You is. ADHD brains crave structure and routine, and also novelty. Let your office provide the structure and the routine, and your work provide the novelty.

    Good luck!

    1. Afiendishthingy*

      Why yes I DID devote time to this comment section that probably should have been spent on working, thanks for noticing

  134. Katrina*

    Hi, OP! Fellow ADHDer here.

    At least speaking for myself, having ADHD means that the bigger and vaguer a goal is, the more time I am going to spend staring at a blank wall, only to wonder afterwards where my day went.

    And becoming a “high-achieving eccentric with a high income and a stable career” is a huge and incredibly vague goal. I think you need to step back and break this way down. Start with the smaller goal of trying to find a line of work you feel suits you. Take the suggestions here and write down what sounds interesting. Plan out the small, concrete steps you are going to take to explore each one. It could be taking a class or volunteering or applying for a starter position in that field. Plan out how you are going to evaluate each one. Get an accountability partner if you can.

    For me, “reasonable accommodations” for ADHD are things like: a flexible arrival time (in jobs where that’s feasible), a work space free from distracting noise, shorter/more frequent check-ins, memos written as bulleted lists rather than paragraphs when possible, copies of important documents provided digitally rather than physically…that sort of thing. You can’t simply ask people to overlook mistakes in your work. You also can’t ask people to ignore when you cross too far over social boundaries. It’s not ableist for someone to tell you that you’ve made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

    Part of being neurodivergent is the uncomfortable fact that a lot of the time, your judgment isn’t going to line up with everyone else’s. And that sucks. But it’s so