Meet Matt Shepherd

Being an ADHD parent

For me being a dad and having ADHD is a blessing because essentially I am a big kid and always full of energy. I have a beautiful 4 year old girl called Maisy Margaret and she is the apple of my eye. She does have my wrapped around her little finger and when she says jump I always say how high. I am also aware that there is an 80% chance she will also have ADHD as it can be genetic, but this doesn’t worry me at all because as I say to her my ADHD is my super power. It took me to the age of 33 to be diagnosed with ADHD and I lived a very normal life, and with everything I have learnt I will be able to properly support Maisy should she be diagnosed in the future. I also teach her that nothing is impossible and she can do anything she wants in life if she works hard and believes it.

The part I struggle with as a parent is discipline, and the reason for this is as part of my ADHD I also have something called RSD (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria) which in simple terms means I struggle to give or receive criticism. My wife will tell you this can be really frustrating as when she is telling my daughter off and playing the bad cop, I am usually the one consoling Maisy and telling her not to worry and take the role as good cop. I know as parents you need to be a team, and as much as a good cop bad cop approach is advised, I need to be better at the discipline side of things and support my wife better. Its something new that I am learning and getting better at, and my wife is also really supportive and understanding of this.

ADHD in the workplace

Since leaving school I have always worked in recruitment, which most people will tell you is probably not the best career for someone with ADHD. The reason for this is because there is always lots of change, lots of things that are out of my control, and it is very target orientated. I have also always worked in a cooperate environment which at first was really hard because it reminded me so much of school, and you have to be and act a certain way which I did struggle with at first. I have learnt to fit into a cooperate world, but to also still be myself and let my personality shine through.

The 2 reasons why I have been so successful is , 1 is my competitive edge of always wanting to be the best at what I do, and 2 is because I always give 100% in everything I do no matter what that is. I remember struggling at first in recruitment and being very up and down, I even considered a career change at one point and training to be a floor fitter like my dad. However through determination and being able to see the bigger picture and the earning potential I really put my head down and excelled. I now work for the biggest Luxury Retailer in the world Harrods, in a senior role and I love it.

Mental health wasn’t really a thing when I started my career, but in the last 5 years there is so much understanding in the workplace and I am able to be my true self without the fear of being judged. Over the years I have adapted my own coping tactics and ways of working, for example ADHD brains mean usually short term memory is not great, and when working in recruitment it is very important to have a good memory. I combated this by double doing things, and what I mean by that is I have a paper diary, and an outlook diary. I found that when I only used my paper diary I would often miss meetings, and be late, and only using my outlook diary I would always be on time but would lack the detail I needed because I wouldn’t write it all down electronically. Using both in tandem is more work, but I am rarely late, I am super organised, and I don’t ever lack the detail, if anything its the total opposite. I also like to physically tick things in my paper diary when complete as this gives me satisfaction.

I am in the process of setting up a neuro diverse network at Harrods and I will be the chair for this. Knowing that my experiences can and will help others is the best motivation for me. I want to help educate people in the work place further and understand that someone with ADHD is not just the naughty kid at school who talks a lot, but you can have a real professional career and be a success.

Tips for young people with ADHD for finding work, presenting themselves etc.

For me being diagnosed early is the best possible thing for any young person, as I mentioned it took me until the age of 33 to be diagnosed and when growing up I always new I was a bit different but didn’t no the reason for this and just felt I wasn’t normal. Being able to label it means you can step back from the diagnosis and realise it is a part of you but it does not define you. I hate the word disability as for me that is saying you are not able to do something, ADHD is a superpower and if you flip your mindset and look at it like that it will massively help. Do not be ashamed of it, use it to your advantage be open about it, and don’t hide behind it and use it as an excuse not to do something.

When it comes to finding work I would always advise that when you go to an interview your honest and open and tell them you have ADHD. In the last 5 years mental health has evolved massively and businesses have a better understanding, and do more to support people with ADHD and other neurodiverse superpowers. Its also real important to find a carer doing something you enjoy, the reason for this is ADHD brains are able to calm down when your doing something you like, go into hyper focus, and switch off from the noise in your head. I don’t see work as a chore, I see work as a chance to focus on just one thing, and because I like what I do I excel. You must have the belief in yourself and preparation is key, for any interview I always make sure the night before I prepare by reading the Job description, making sure I know exactly what is on my CV, and using google to practise interview questions. If your like me and leave everything to last minute that is also fine, but give yourself time to be the best version of yourself, and not preparing is preparing to fail.

With finding work ultimately there will be rejection which for young people can be really hard and damage confidence. Again a mindset shift here can help, lets say you have an interview and you don’t get the role naturally you will be disappointed and nothing will change that feeling. However if you ask for feedback, and get this in an email it gives you a reference point and something to refer to when you line up your next interview. That way you can focus on the things you didn’t do well and improve them, and the things you did do well continue to do. In life I’m afraid there will always be rejections, but this helps to build resilience and over time you will be numb to it. In my job I might tell one person they have been successful and got the job which is great, but there is likely another 5 or 6 people I have to tell have been unsuccessful. I am very careful with how I do this and make sure I deliver the feedback in a fair an concise way, and always follow up with an email so the candidate has a reference point.