Consider Your Ideal Workday

Today’s blog is part 3 of a 4-part series. The first two blogs shared ways to support the students in your life through discovering their natural talents and values. You can find those posts here and here.

The third installment in our series shares an activity and conversation starters to help students move beyond thinking about college choice and majors, to considering their ideal day at work.

Preferred Skills

“What might your ideal workday look like?” This question reveals the skills we prefer using and find motivating.

Skills are not strengths. Skills are learned and developed through experiences. We tend to prefer working within one or more of the following categories: people, ideas, information, or things.

Our most preferred skills are defined as:

  • A skill we’re good at and enjoy using
  • A skill we haven’t used but sense we would enjoy

Our least preferred skills are defined as:

  • A skill we’re good at but do not enjoy using.
  • A skill we’re not good at and do not enjoy using.
  • A skill we haven’t used and sense we would not enjoy it.

Ideally, we should spend a minimum of 80 percent of our day aligned to our preferred skills. Otherwise we are under-utilized. We should also seek to spend less than 20 percent of our day using our least preferred skills. Otherwise, burnout can result.

Colossians 2:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (ESV) This command is all the more joyful when we endeavor to align our unique, God-given design to how we spend our time.

Ideal Day Exercise

Have you ever thought about your ideal day at work? Most people don’t.

My Ideal Day exercise, taken from my book YouMap, is instructive and eye-opening.

Our ideal day can change over time, so it’s a good idea to encourage your child to revisit the following exercise periodically.

Consider your experiences and list everything you enjoyed.

Include paid and unpaid experiences such as part-time or summer jobs, schoolwork, projects, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work. Think about people you impacted or helped, and accomplishments you were proud of. Even if you disliked a job or project, you likely enjoyed at least one thing about the experience.

For example, when I was in high school, I worked in a donut shop. I didn’t enjoy mopping floors, or cleaning bathrooms. But I enjoyed chatting with the regulars each morning. I enjoyed connecting with people, hearing their stories, hopes, and dreams. This skill is something I later used as a coach, even though it had little to do with being a counter person at a donut shop.

Evaluate your completed list.

What top two categories are most represented in the list? Working with people, ideas, information, or things?

Following are example skills from each of the four categories:

People Skills – leading, caring, supporting, serving, or selling, like a teacher, manager, or salesperson

  • Cooperate – Work with others to reach goals
  • Deal with Feelings – Understand and deal with other people’s emotions
  • Lead Others – Be the leader in a group of people or friends
  • Perform – Speak or perform in front of an audience
  • Sell – Able to convince people to buy a product or accept your idea
  • Teamwork – Work with others, or play team sports such as soccer, baseball, or lacrosse

Idea Skills – use creativity, thoughts, and knowledge, like a writer, or actor

  • Create – Draw, sketch, take pictures, or make things
  • Ideas – Think of new ideas or grow other people’s ideas
  • Imagine – Think or daydream about what is possible or what could be
  • Innovate – Improve things or make things better
  • Risk-Taking – Leaves comfort zone to try new things
  • Write – Create poems, stories, or write letters

Information Skills – work with data, numbers, facts, and procedures, like an accountant, or scientist

  • Make Decisions – Make choices for yourself instead of others making your decisions
  • Numbers – Solve number or math problems
  • Observe – Notice, see, and watch what happens around you
  • Plan – Think about all the steps before starting to work on something
  • Research – Read and look for information on the Internet
  • Study – Read information in detail or carefully

“Thing” Skills – work with machines, tools, instruments, animals, and resources, like a mechanic, or veterinarian

  • Change – Handle or deal with change
  • Computers – Using computers or technology
  • Mechanical – Repair or fix things, or take things apart 
  • Organize – Keeps your room or desk neat; keep your things organized Play
  • Instruments – Musical instruments such as piano, guitar, drums, violin
  • Play Solo Sports – Individual sports such as snowboarding, golf, figure skating, and bowling

Ask your student to discuss skills they have learned and what skills she does best. Offer examples if she gets stuck.

Which skills did he think were easy to learn? Which skills did he think were hard to learn? Which skills does he enjoy most and enjoy least?

Combine and Apply Your Skills

What subjects interest your student?

Encourage your child to learn about a subject that appeals to him or her and combine a skill to apply learning.

For example, if your student is interested in science, history, or horses, and enjoys one of the following skills, have them:

  1. Write – Create a story about horses/space/history, or create a booklet with facts and information about the topic or subject of interest
  2. Create – Learn to draw or sketch pictures of characters, places, or objects related to the subject of interest
  3. Perform – Create a play or presentation about the subject you have researched and perform it for the family
  4. Cooperate – Engage in a hobby based on the subject of interest with a friend or family member
  5. Mechanical – Watch YouTube videos to learn to make or fix things related to the subject of interest.

Applying preferred skills to learning helps your child build skills and reinforce learning. Customizing how your student applies learning will make sure the learning sticks.

Knowing preferred skills is useful when choosing activities and hobbies. For example, if your child or teen likes information and things, a coding class for kids might be a better hobby than a sport. If your teen likes “Solo Sports” but not “Teamwork,” perhaps tennis or skiing is a better option over soccer or baseball.

Periodically reevaluate your student’s preferred skills with him or her. You will help your student avoid “burning out” as an adult in his or her career. Many adults perform burnout skills and feel exhausted from their job because they are unaware of their preferred skills and the skills which burn them out. We think we should perform skills we’re good at, without considering how they make us feel.

Next week, the final post in this series addresses how personality informs our interests, needs, and preferences in our work.

This post was written by Kristin Sherry.  Kristin is a member of the Crossroads Career Board of Directors.  She is the best selling author of YouMap & Your Team Loves Mondays…Right? She joined our board in 2019 and lives with her husband and 4 kids in North Carolina.


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