How has being Black, female and Neurodivergent shaped your career?
I’m a Careers Adviser by vocation but I’m also a Creative Agency owner and serial entrepreneur. Being Black, female and ND for me has been a life of living between the margins and self-awareness of living so close to the cracks. I believe that due to all the identities I fit into and the overlapping experiences between them I am very intuitive and empathetic to the needs of my clients and those that I help. I can pick up on when someone’s main issue is them struggling with self-doubt, I can relate to the external pressures by family, the feelings of failure when comparing trajectories to those of NT high achieving peers etc. I tend to just “get it”.
Before I was diagnosed with Inattentive ADHD my career was marked by frequent job losses, failed probations, anxiety inducing performance reviews and an overwhelming feeling of shame and failure. I did too many things, I had too many interests and life wasn’t linear and structured. This used to be something I really beat myself up over. Why couldn’t I find something, and just stick to it and progress in a predictable forward motion like everyone else? Since my diagnosis and the radical self acceptance that has taken place since then, I’ve learnt to embrace my unconventionality, my chaotic ways of doing things and dumped the stereotypical review of what a “career” should be and look like. I was a Grad consultant, then marketing exec, then film club turned creative agency owner, self-employed careers adviser and now I’m toying with the idea of being an XR developer and rock star in the future.
Whilst the experiences of being ND, black and female has meant I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of trauma, lack of understanding and even less support, those same experiences (without romanticising them in the slightest) have taught me a lot about myself. That I’m constantly changing, evolving, transforming. That I’m curious, resilient, resourceful. That im innovative. A risk taker. That change is the only predictable thing in this life.
Which industry do you work in and what do you love and/or loathe about it?
I am a Careers Adviser currently working in education. I love helping people unlock their potential. I love the fulfilment that comes from seeing people flourish and achieve due to my guidance. Money has never been my main driver and this is a role where I genuinely feel I make a positive impact. The CIAG sector (careers, information and guidance) as a whole though is as a whole very rigid, unimaginative and complacent (in my opinion)
Industry leaders and senior executives that govern this sector know the impact of effective careers provision to those who fall into minority groups but are very slow moving in delivering tailor-made holistic support or lobbying for policies that they know will improve life outcomes.
I run regular careers webinars for women with ADHD and the feedback is always that they've never had a session so tailored, relevant or useful. Whilst I’m happy I’m making an impact, the fact people are only being able to say this for the first time in their life because I sat down one day and put some slides together is shocking and terrifying. I don’t take pride in this at all. More is needed to provide effective careers provision to those with unique nuanced needs as we know conditions such as autism and ADHD have significant impact on our careers anf thus our finances and stability. This entire sector needs to seriously sit up instead of obsessing over league table reports that prioritise the outcomes of high achieving students, many of whom aren’t ND, black, disabled etc.
Does the work that you do feel like a good 'fit' for you as a neurodivergent woman?
Definitely! As someone with inattentive ADHD it’s very stimulating and dynamic. I’m meeting different people from different backgrounds. I have a wide variety of activities to do such as coaching, cv writing, running events, curriculum design etc. It’s stimulating and interesting as I need to keep up with trends in the labour market and have my ears to the ground on the latest opportunities. With that being said though it is a very autonomous role. Managing your own caseload, clients and time is a struggle as the lack of structure and clear direction triggers my inattentiveness and other adhd symptoms. Admin and reporting is the bane of my life! Being self employed and running your own business can be really overwhelming also as you also need to be on top of your taxes, finances and paperwork or face hefty penalties.
I’m getting better through delegation and also making the decision to stop working for myself to get that structure and discipline I desperately need. At present I work in education which is amazing because I absolutely love learning and really passionate about youth development. This environment is great for my adhd and mental well-being as it’s not profit focused so the culture is a lot more supportive when compared to cutthroat corporations. Also due to the pandemic and it’s effect on “work” as we know it, it’s an exciting place to be and one with great prospects and longevity as people have been forced to rethink their careers. I’m really happy as a careers adviser and I want to work on delivering more tailored support To fellow ND women like me.
What advice would you give to another neurodivergent woman in work or life?
More often than not we try to adapt to this world, contort ourselves into society and follow scripts on how we should live. We read self-help books that do not factor in ND, we mask, we overwork ourselves to make up for our shortcomings, we people please, we try and try and try to be normal like everyone else and by doing so we shrink and shrink and shrink until we fail to have a sense of who we are. We experience crippling paralysing shame when we fail to live up to the norms of gender, that tell us women need to be clean, tidy and organised, dainty and feminine and not skip a beat.
We see fellow women seemingly excelling at being parents, employees, and responsible adults (all at once!!!???) as we struggle to meet basic deadlines and keep our rooms free of mess.
I’m not a guru, I certainly don’t have the answers and if you know me you know my life is one of sophisticated chaos but one thing I do know is that as an ND woman the importance of bending this world to your will. You need to create your own world within this one and live wildly, recklessly and unashamedly. You need to follow your own rules, create your own standards and expectations and rewrite scripts that put your needs and well-being as the focus. You need to live for you. Whatever that looks like. You need to accept, truly accept and embrace the fact you’re a neurodivergent woman and all that comes with it, good and bad. You need to find comfort in yourself. You need to understand that you’re valuable just because you are you and dance to the beat of your own drum. You may not be like other women but so what? You’re you! Be you. Always. Oh, and speak more kindly to yourself too and get the support you need sis!