I’m not going to lie – being in a sorority while you’re trying to actually become a badass professional can be extremely tough. If you’re in an intense major like pre-med or pre-law, the time commitment of Greek life involvement can put a strain on your grades and study hours. You worry that job recruiters will see your sorority involvement as shallow or negative, and those not in Greek life will scoff at you and make you feel like you’re wasting your time when you should be doing something more “worthy” instead. This doesn’t even mention that juggling work, unpaid internships, and voluntarism while serving in office is enough to drive anyone insane. While you’re getting so many mixed messages from advisors, professors, peers, and interviewers, I want to tell you that as a young professional a few years out of undergrad, being in a sorority was the single-best thing I have ever done in my professional life for one main reason: networking.
When I was a nervous freshman going through rush, I was as introverted as they come. I hated talking to people I didn’t know, and if I was about to cross paths on campus with an acquaintance I didn’t have anything to say to, I would panic, and take a different sidewalk route to ensure I didn’t have to have any awkward conversations. By the end of my senior year, this couldn’t have been more different. While still an introvert, I would classify myself as an “outgoing introvert” thanks to three years of practice just slaying at recruitment.
Going through recruitment “on the other side” as a sophomore could not have been more different than going through recruitment my last senior semester. My first conversations started out being actually, physically painful to myself as well as whichever poor girl I happened to be talking to. I stalled, I asked the same five “get to know you” questions, and I always looked around desperately for a sister I could pawn the PNM off on. As it turns out though, the saying “practice makes perfect” is a cliché for a reason – it’s true. After personally meeting well over a thousand new girls over the course of a few years, you get the hang of this small talk thing. You branch off from your script. You start to understand the cues they give you. You pick up on their interests and are actually able to get into a real conversation. By the end of your time in chapter, you’ll be able to talk to anyone – and I mean ANYONE – and instantly make them fall in love with you.
Fast forward to your professional life, and let me tell you from experience that no skill will come in handy more than learning how to talk to strangers and quickly make them click with you. During recruitment, you learn how to sell your sorority, and in the job hunt, you sell yourself. In many cases, you only have a few minutes at best to make the best first impression possible – one so good that these people are willing to make a several year commitment to you based on what they see (sound familiar?).
In addition to the baller work roles I’ve had since graduation (including one with “Director” in the title at age 24), I ultimately decided to go back to graduate school in the interest of bettering myself and being able to come across as an even more awesome individual on LinkedIn. That networking thing I was just talking about? As it turns out, that’s proved to be the biggest key to my success so far. I joined multiple professional organizations, knowing that I would have to attend meetings by myself, talk to professionals in my field by myself, and get them to love me all by myself. From showing up, putting my nerves aside, and learning how to make people like me in an environment not all that different from rush, I ended up making some amazing connections. One connection made me the head of graduate student involvement for this large, multi-national professional organization. Simply saying “thank you” in person to someone I had a brief e-mail interaction with started the ball rolling for a summer internship with one of the most competitive companies in the country for what I do. While most of my classmates will be in unpaid public service roles this summer to fulfill their internship requirement, I’ll be working under the CEO for a multi-billion dollar company making more money than I did at my last two jobs…..combined.
So yes, I may have paid for some of my friends. But I’m making that money back exponentially thanks to the skills I learned along the way. To all of my peers, advisors, and professors that encouraged me to end my involvement in Greek life because of the intense time commitment, all I have to say is don’t hate me cause you ain’t me. Like everything in life, you get out of it what you put into it, so trust me when I say to completely throw yourself into Greek life and give recruitment all you’ve got. Not only will your recruitment chair fall in love with you, but your first job interviewer will too when you’re able to sell yourself with the confidence you learned from none other than your very own sorority.