The subject of Greek life can be unexpectedly polarizing. When I talk to women who were members of a sorority in college, their takes run the gamut from unadulterated passion to an embarrassed dismissal of the entire system.
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That said, most of the career experts, sorority women, and hiring managers I spoke to agreed that for the most part, being in a sorority helps your job prospects simply because it expands your network, allowing you to connect with women who are both older and younger than you. “When I was looking for an internship in college, I went through my sorority—an alumna member got me in the door and I had to prove myself through the rest of the way,” said ABC News contributor Michelle Katz.
Kate Connors, a 2010 graduate of George Washington University and member of the sorority Alpha Phi, said that being part of the Greek system helped her connect with influential people in the D.C. area, where she continued to live after graduation. “George Washington University has a strong alumni community in D.C., and many of those members were in the Greek community,” she said. “I’ve hired several GW students who were part of Greek life as interns since I graduated.”
In addition to the networking possibilities, many women I spoke with expressed their desire to hire women who were active leaders in their sorority. “As a business owner who has hired sorority women in the past (and as a sorority woman myself), I see Greek involvement as a positive,” said Abbi Johnson of SugarBomb PR. “It means the applicant is already part of a [community] that works together to accomplish group goals, much like a business. Bonus points go to the applicant who has held office in her sorority and can prove that she took advantage of the opportunities sorority life has to offer, such as participation in planning events or volunteering, rather than just attending mixers with fraternities.”
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Indeed, a few career experts emphasized that job applicants cannot expect the fact that they were in a sorority to speak for itself. “Membership to a sorority doesn’t necessarily help or hurt a woman’s prospects,” said Andrea Berkman-Donlon, founder of The Constant Professional. “It is more in how she pitches this to prospective employers. If she is able to pivot membership away from simply a sisterhood of young women and more in the direction of philanthropic efforts which are important to her future because [insert reasons], then membership is a huge asset. In my experience, women wrongly position membership alone as an extracurricular activity that deserves respect when that is not the case.”
Many of the women I spoke with held leadership positions in their sororities, and they made sure potential employers recognized the tremendous amount of work required. Brette Rowley is a Millennial career coach who not only has been hired because of her leadership roles in her sorority, but now helps women position their Greek life experience to potential employers. “While there are certainly stereotypes to overcome, it helps to be very specific about the value you brought to your chapter and how you grew as an individual through being a part of that organization,” she said.
Leeyen Rogers, VP of Marketing at Jotform, was heavily involved in Alpha Delta Phi during college, holding officer positions including Public Relations Chair and Leadership Chair. “I helped direct our organization’s philanthropy efforts, including our three-day event that raised over $50,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Foundation,” she said. “Directing over 100 women as well as organizing the event for over 600 other university members as well as members of the South Florida community, I had the opportunity to gain valuable experience during college which benefited me in my early career. I had to quickly learn leadership skills, public relations, event planning, promotion, and marketing, all of which I continue to use at work.” Now that’s how you pitch your sorority membership.
[Related: How My Sorority Turned Me Into a Go-Getter]
Many said they use their sorority connections, especially in online alumni communities, to learn about internships and ultimately land their first jobs. Alpha Chi Omega alumna Cheryl Koning said that the AXO networks on LinkedIn and Facebook constantly provided job tips and opportunities during her search. Now, in her job at Minted, Cheryl pays it forward. “I am always posting to the AXO job boards and groups to give those girls a heads up when we have openings,” she said. “I love knowing that, in theory, those girls share the same values that I do.” Executive Assistant Emily Ruch said that she never would have even known about her current organization, NAMIC, without her Zeta Tau Alpha sorority network. She too posts open positions at her company directly to her collegiate chapters and other ZTA chapters she knows.
The only time sorority membership can hit a snag? Millennial career expert Jill Jacinto said that being part of a Greek community is a fantastic thing, unless of course the sorority has been the subject of recent public scrutiny. “Was your sorority in the news for drinking or hazing while you were there? Hiring managers will research everything about a new candidate. If they find something negative about your experience, they may just move onto the next person,” she said. If you feel like this may apply to you, Jacinto recommends the following game plan: “If your name is closely tied to the negativity, distance yourself. For example, say that you held a leadership position in a national sorority, but don’t specify which one. More importantly, if you do get a call back, be prepared to address the incident to a hiring manager if this is brought to her attention. Try and steer her toward the positive and use it as a learning experience,” she said.
Photo: Greek At Duke/ Flickr