When people think of sororities, the first thing that comes to mind is not always career skills. I’d say themed mixers, cattiness, the movie Legally Blonde, and the color pink are other things that may possibly come to mind before job success. But actually, sororities are a great place to learn certain skills that will carry you through the rest of your career.
A huge one is networking. A big component of Greek life is the social aspect, and though rush may not seem like the most serious thing at the time, it’s actually a great launching pad for being an expert networker. Nancy Leavy Hoag, vice president of marketing for Schechter Wealth Strategies, told Levo, “This may seem like just socializing, as I thought of it in the sorority, but it’s so much more than that. When I work with someone who is reluctant to run a meeting or join their trade association, I’m reminded of those skills I learned early on in a friendly environment of sorority sisters.” We talked to many women who say their sorority experiences gave them amazing networking skills. Here’s what they learned:
Treat Your Contacts Seriously
Selena Cuffe is the president and CEO of Heritage Link Brands, which helps transform African products into iconic, global brands. But before that, she was a member of the iconic black public service sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, at Stanford University. She tells us: “Managing relationships is tantamount to managing a business—treat your contacts seriously, with respect, and as you might want to be treated.”
You Learn How to Talk to Anyone
Samuella Becker, CEO and founder of TIgressPRSpecific, said even the most bashful of sisters learn to proactively initiate conversation during rush.
Hoag says the ability to walk up to a complete stranger and start a conversation becomes routine. “From rush parties, which scare the pants off you, to addressing Panhellenic councils or the appropriate dean of students, you need to always be ready to smile and say hello to a new person.”
Dorothy C. Handfield, CEO of DCH Consulting Services, says as a member of the Alpha Kappa sorority, she interacted with women of many diverse backgrounds. “Even though AKA is the first African-American sorority, we have members who come from different ethnic and economic backgrounds. Not everyone will look and act like you. By dealing with different personalities, I also learned how to collaborate with members who I may not personally like. The bottom line was the betterment of the chapter and the sorority and not letting personality differences hinder our goal as a group. I had to learn how to intermingle with all members within our chapter in order for us to implement programs and events. As a result of my sorority life, I learned that during networking I must remain focused and stay professional. I must portray an image of a team player not a soloist.”
Keep Your Network Intact
It’s no coincidence that the estimated 10 percent of college students that participate in Greek life breeds 120 Forbes 500s CEOs, 48 percent of all U.S. presidents, 42 percent of U.S. senators, 30 percent of U.S. congresspeople, and 40 percent of U.S. Supreme Court justices. You have to figure that some of that was due to blatant connections. Ellen Barnes Pfiffner got her first real job because she talked to the dad of a sorority sister. “His contact made an introduction and that person referred me to the dean of a nearby college. I taught at the University and left it to work for a Fortune 500 company. I now have my own consulting firm,” she said.
You Learn How to Walk the Walk
“You have to dress the part, and the sorority definitely had rules at the time to make sure you looked your best when it counted. I still struggle with shyness in certain social situations, like parties, but I just tell myself to think of each one like rush and start rushing anyone that I meet. It usually works, and I’ve met some interesting people along the way,” says Alice Agnello, a chief marketing officer.
You Learn How to Be Careful of What You Say
Watch what you say at all times, because you never know who’s listening, says Ashley Kutach, the director of training and development at Core Insights. “I lived in a sorority house with about 30 other girls. We all shared a huge bathroom area. I overheard way too many comments spoken by someone who did not realize the target of their comment was within earshot. Some people never learned, but I certainly learned from their mistakes. Same thing goes in the break room, at the park, and in a restaurant. You never know who is within hearing range. So, be kind and avoid using names when at all possible. It’s difficult to network with others when you are known to spread gossip or unkindness.”
You Learn About People
Kutach says you learn that all people are just people. “I remember being so intimidated by some girls that were outgoing and popular. I really felt like they were better than me. In the end, they’re people just like me. They, too, have fears, gifts, and struggles. Once I came to realize that we are all human and I don’t need to be intimidated, I was more open to networking with people at all levels with many behavioral styles. When I find myself falling in a trap of, ‘Oh, that person is too busy, popular, well-liked, or successful to talk to me,’ I remind myself that she, too, is a human, not a super hero.”
What are some lessons you learned from being in a sorority? Tell us in the comments!
Sign up for The Weekly Slice: Your guide to top stories, jobs, and videos.
Photo courtesy of Aligator.org