Empowering People, Launching lives

Does neurodiversity exclude you from creative careers?

Author: David Lever


6th June 2023 | 4 mins read

Often neurodiversity and creative careers aren’t seen as overly compatible, but it’s time that changed. Hear from David, who is a communication consultant for BrightCarbon, a presentation and eLearning design agency, on how he found a job that met his neurodiverse needs. He also shares some tips on searching and applying for creative roles.

The backstory

When you’re neurodivergent, it feels like lots of doors are shut to you, and lots of others need a good shove. Personally, I never thought a 9-5 job in a creative industry would work for me. With my ADHD and ASD, looming deadlines and long periods of concentration didn’t seem like the best fit.

I studied Zoology at university, and although it was intense, I loved it. And in between essays and labs I found time for art, which offered the freedom and creativity that academia didn’t. So, when I started looking for a job, I wanted something both scientific and creative. Where I could jump between projects and devise interesting ideas to suit my ADHD, but also methodically determine how to execute those ideas, which my ASD likes. Eventually, I found BrightCarbon, a design agency that makes scientific eLearning and presentations, but with a focus on using interesting visuals. Scientific and creative. With flexitime and remote working! I applied and I got the job. Story over? Not quite. There were some stumbling blocks that might be familiar to other neurodivergent folk.

Problems at work

Initially, it was difficult to sustain my concentration, and when I found a slide tricky my instinct was to avoid it by jumping to something else. Even stopping at the day’s end was hard, because I was used to working until everything was done.

Deadlines made this worse. I didn’t just need to finish the task, I wanted to, which played into a frequent ADH-Demon, perfectionism. To do right by BrightCarbon, each slide needed to be faultless. If it wasn’t, who knew what could happen? What if we lost a client? What if the company went bust? The classic ‘What if?’ anxiety spiral, like a twister that lists your character flaws. The ASD part of me was busy catastrophizing, while the ADHD part struggled to regulate that emotion. It was exhausting, and it took time for me to communicate this to my managers. If I’d considered this, I might not have applied.

And I’m not alone here. Research indicates that fear of non-acceptance discourages neurodiverse individuals from applying for jobs[1]. Societal stereotypes often push us away from the careers we’d like, and towards ones that fit pre-conceived notions instead. Autistic? Must like programming. Dyslexic? Better avoid journalism. And the troubles don’t stop once you’re on the clock. Neurodiverse workers face many workplace issues, including increased likelihood of stress-related illness, interpersonal conflict, and even dismissal[2].


You have the power!

But thankfully, this isn’t the whole story. Neurodiverse people are… diverse, with a variety of skills and lots of adaptability. We develop coping strategies and often have to advocate for ourselves. When we enjoy something, we are enthusiastic and dedicated. This means we can thrive in creative industries that might seem closed off.

For me, there were two things that changed the game: understanding and self-confidence. I explained what I needed, and my managers listened. I have more flexible hours and receive clarification on instructions. Regular positive feedback helps to motivate me and build my confidence. By starting on smaller projects with flexible deadlines, I silenced those ‘What-ifs’. I can now tap into the benefits of my ADHD and ASD; the ability to switch gears quickly, improvise, and problem solve, and forensic attention to detail. All of these are major assets in creative roles.

And we’re seeing this shift in industries that value creative thinking. Many companies, from HP to Salesforce, are looking for neurodiverse candidates to bring innovation and diverse thinking. And research shows that traits and brain activity characteristic of ADHD match those characteristic of creative thinking[3]. So, although our previous experiences can make creative jobs seem daunting, we do have a place in this industry. What if you successfully apply for that dream job?


Tips for job hunting

Now that I’ve convinced you that creative industries can be a good fit, here are some job-hunting tips:

  • Don’t undersell yourself: Remember, neurodivergence can be an advantage. If you see a job you like, don’t rule yourself out before applying.
  • Do your research: Check whether the company embraces neurodiversity. Do they seem welcoming? Do they have clear inclusivity guidelines? Do they offer inclusive policies, like flexible or remote working, that could help you work better and happier?
  • Prepare for interview: Jotting down some basic notes before an interview can help you stay calm and unflustered. But avoid writing out full answers so it doesn’t sound rehearsed.
  • To disclose or not to disclose: That is the (big) question, and one only you can answer. Some of us shout our diagnosis from the rooftops, others keep it quiet. You don’t have to disclose anything, but an employer can’t make adjustments for something they aren’t aware of.

BeyondAutism resources

We want to see more autistic people with the skills and confidence to enter the workplace. At the same time we want employers to feel more confident in supporting autistic employees. At BeyondAutism, we’ve created an award-winning employability toolkit to improve access to and support in employment for autistic people. Download the toolkit for free today, now available in easy read format.


[1] Levitt, Barri (2022). Factors Determining Attraction of Neurodivergent Applicants to Organizations. Senior Honors Papers / Undergraduate Theses. 45.

[2] ADDA (2016). Impact of ADHD at work.

[3] Mehrotra, Pronita (2017). How Neurodiversity Helps in Creativity.

Registered Charity No. 1082599. Registered in England and Wales Ltd by guarantee No. 4041459 Registered Office: Ashurst LLP, London Fruit & Wool Exchange, 1 Duval Square, London, E1 6PW