As I have mentioned before, I am a recent graduate. I don’t know about you, but the concept of the infamous “job search” left me completely terrified. I had no idea where to start, I was so busy with finishing up school that I had no time to look, and not knowing where my life was going made me nervous. I had worked since I was 16, mostly in retail but with one summer internship. I didn’t know if my work experience was enough to differentiate myself in the competitive job market. I figure that many of you out there are dealing with these same fears and wondering what to do- so hopefully I can help you out a bit. This is a long post but bear with me, you may find something useful!
Not only did the job searching scare me, but even scarier was the idea of the actual interview. My greatest fear was being asked a question that I couldn’t answer. I began searching interview questions and asking around. I came to realize that interviews are about more than just employment experience, they are about life experience. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my sorority experience had provided me with answers to the majority of the interview questions I was asked. I had three interviews over the course of my final semester and received offers for two of the jobs. I knew my sorority experience had taught me valuable lessons that would be impressive to employers, which helped me relax a bit. So, here are a few of the lessons you’ve probably learned, even if you haven’t realized it yet!
-Academic Achievement: Most Greek organizations have academic requirements that must be met and maintained for membership. It is crucial to keep your grades up not only to be eligible for Greek life, but also because education is the reason that you went to college in the first place. Your Greek organization may also have an academic program that requires you to meet for study groups or something along those lines. Use that time to your advantage and don’t blow it off, it’ll help you achieve more. Employers will be impressed with a high GPA, but they also want to know that you care about learning and that you are willing to learn throughout the remainder of your life. If you begin to slip, ask for help! Asking for help when you need it is not something to be frowned upon. Even if you get good grades, it is still beneficial to get extra help with papers etc. Going above and beyond is always a plus in the eyes of employers.
-Networking: Networking can be vital to the job search. Starting early (freshman-sophomore year) will help you to gain more contacts and perfect your skills. Your Greek organization has esteemed alumni and programs to help you grow and develop. There are usually a variety of conferences throughout the year as well as educational programs held by your chapter. I highly recommend soaking up as much of these types of things as possible. You will meet new people, see what kinds of opportunities are out there, and become more confident in yourself. Remember to also build relationships on your own campus. Positive relationships with university faculty and staff can really put you ahead of the game. Many times, companies will call to inform faculty of new employment opportunities and ask for recommendations. If you have built a positive relationship with your professors and those you work with, they are likely to remember you and pass your name along to employers.
-Leadership: Sororities and fraternities would not function without strong student leadership. Each group offers a variety of leadership roles that can teach you many things if you take advantage. Many times it seems that students go Greek just for the “fun” aspects. Having fun is a huge part of the Greek experience and can be the best part of college, but taking ownership in your organization will give you a sense of accomplishment and look better on a resume. When I first joined my sorority, I had just begun college and was still a little shy. I was hesitant to speak my mind, wondering if the others would agree with me or not. After awhile, I realized that just going to meetings and sitting there with my mouth shut wasn’t true involvement. At the time, my organization was still just an interest group. I began to think about the future of the organization and visualize the day we would receive our charter. Then it dawned on me- I didn’t want that day to come and be thinking to myself “they could have done this without me, I really didn’t make any difference.” From then on, I began taking any leadership role I could get my hands on, no matter how small. I began sharing my ideas in meetings- and my sisters loved them! Their feedback gave me the confidence to keep striving for more. After five semesters I had held all of these positions:
-Public Relations Chair
-Co-Director of Formal Chapter Events
-Involvement Fair Chair
-Homecoming Queen Candidate
-Risk Management Chair
-Installation Committee Chair
-Honor Council Meeting Coordinator
-Honor Council Goals Coordinator
Seeing this list on my resume, employers recognized that not only was I in a sorority, but that I was dedicated, I was a leader, and I was loyal. I believe it made them realize that I wasn’t the type who would sit back and let others take the lead; I was a self-starter and had the ability to motivate others.
-Conflict Resolution: In a group, no one gets along 24/7/365 (surprise, I know!). There will always be conflicts on a personal level, as well as a business level. Some of the conflicts I experienced were due to differences of opinions in how the sorority should run or what course of action we should take. Other times the conflict was with a sister, but had nothing to do with the sorority. These things happen. At the time they may seem bad, but look for the good in these situations because they can teach you a lot. I learned quickly that people work differently and can have a wide spectrum of attitudes. Though these conflicts arise, at the end of the day you are working with your brother or sister and you typically work it out somehow. These experiences teach you how to handle different work methods and attitudes. When I was looking for a job, multiple employers asked me to describe a time when I had to deal with conflict and how I overcame it. I had plenty of examples to pull from, and I felt confident in my answers because I knew that I had handled those situations in a mature way.
-Discipline: Greek organizations differ from other student groups often because the rules and obligations are stricter. Attendance, conduct, service, and campus involvement are just a few of the obligations that come with joining a Greek organization. Mixing these things with school and work can often make life hectic. So, how do you survive and how do you multi-task? You prioritize and you work hard. If you are a Greek, you probably know all about pulling all nighters, getting help when your grades start to slip, asking a brother/sister for help when you need it, juggling service, social, academic, and business meetings with school and work, and ultimately managing your time wisely. Employers love to hear these types of things. They know that if you could handle all of that in college, then you can most likely handle whatever a job throws at you.
-Team-Work: In many ways, your fraternity or sorority can be viewed as a team. You have certain goals that must be achieved, and you have multiple people that must work together to achieve those goals. You may be divided up into sub-groups to help distribute tasks, but your chapter is still a team. Employers often ask about experiences you’ve had working with groups. There are many times when you have worked with other members and achieved a goal- so discuss those situations.
-Motivation: I was once asked in an interview to describe a time when I motivated someone to do something. It was not something I had ever really thought about so it took me a little off-guard. I took a second to think about it, knowing that I surely had motivated someone at some point (at least I hoped!). I started to draw a blank so my brain headed straight to the “Sorority” section. Then I remembered a time that I mentioned to a sister how perfect I thought she would be for a certain officer position. She said it had crossed her mind but she didn’t think she could get it, so she was going to settle for a lesser position that she had already held. I explained to her the strengths I saw in her and how I knew she could do it. I encouraged her to accept a new challenge and see where it could take her. The next day, she submitted her interest form for the position- and sure enough, she got it and did a spectacular job. This is the story I told to the employer and she seemed impressed. Employers want to know that you will be a benefit to their environment as well as just their business.
These are just a few of the ways that your Greek experience can assist you in “the real world.” I could go on an on but let’s face it- it’s summer, you don’t want to read a book! These tips worked for me and I hope they work for you as well. I encourage you to get involved and really pay attention to the situations that arise in your lives and how they may come in handy down the road. Best of luck to all of you job-searchers!