Five Ways to Turn Girl Scout Memories into Career Strategies

Five Ways to Turn Girl Scout Memories into Career Strategies

Girl Scout Alum Laura Vanderkam

Productivity expert Laura Vanderkam credits the lessons she learned at Girl Scouts as being some of the most important in her life. Laura, who spent four years as a Brownie and Junior in her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, found that those formative years provided the basis for the career and time-management skills she uses as an adult.

Today Laura lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and four children; writes for publications such as Fast Company and the New York Times; and is the author of several time-management and productivity books, including Off the Clock, I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours.

Read on for her advice about turning Girl Scout wisdom into helpful tips applicable to anyone looking to make a career change, expand their personal brand, or advance their company.

1. Be open to new things that could enhance your career.

“I’ve always enjoyed figuring out how to be more productive and effective, but I didn’t grow up thinking I’d be a time-management expert one day,” Laura says. “When I think of my Girl Scout badges, what I appreciate most was the push to try different things. This openness will set you apart as you figure out the career path you want to take or strategize about the career changes you want to make along the way.”

2. Break down big projects into doable steps.

When Laura contemplated writing her first book and getting it published, she knew she would initially need to break down the project into doable steps, just like she did as a Girl Scout working on her badge checklist. “It seems like a big thing to get a book published, but there are a series of [smaller] things you need to do to get there,” she says. “Anything you want to do becomes much less overwhelming when you take a step-by-step approach.”

3. Enjoy the journey.

Research shows that when people feel like they’re making progress toward a goal, they become happier. “One of the big things about [earning a] badge is that to receive it, you have to do a series of small steps to reach your goals,” she says, adding that attaching a badge to her vest or sash was an equally satisfying feeling. “In other words, you’re experiencing what it’s like to make progress toward a goal, and that’s what makes people happy at work.”

4. Go outside your comfort zone.

“When I worked on my badge handbook, there would be a list of ten activities, where two were required and you would get to choose eight others,” Laura recalls. “Having to do the two required activities was just as important as the eight I wanted to do, and this experience taught me that to be a team player, you often have to take on tasks that might not be your favorite. This is something higher-ups will notice, especially if you’re consistently the first person volunteering to take on a project or initiative that’s outside your skillset but you take it on for that exact reason.”

5. Remember that any position requires you to market yourself.

“Selling cookies was the first time I thought about trying to convince people to buy something,” she says, adding that one year she sold a whopping 200 boxes—earning props for being the top seller in her troop. “It also ultimately taught me that even if you aren’t in sales, you’re still going to have to market yourself if you want to be successful.”