Can the Sorority Stereotype Help or Hurt Your Job Interview?

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Posted July 17, 2013 by Marilu Hagen in Career Moves
sorority

One of the most uncomfortable moments for me during a job interview is being asked a question in which the response leads to the mention of my experience in a sorority. Most of the time I don’t know enough about the person I’m speaking to beforehand to determine what their reaction will be at the mention of a sorority, but I usually assume its something along the lines of a mental eye-roll. I’m waiting for the day when the interviewer responds with, “No way you were an Alpha Chi?! So was I! Love in the bond, sister friend!!” (and I get hired on the spot). But for the much more likely scenario of speaking to someone who will have a previous stereotype of college greek life in their mind, I have had to decide how I will handle the discussion of my involvement in an organization mostly talked about for its party-life notoriety and snooty student involvement.

I spent some time debating whether or not to say “organization” instead of sorority when talking to a potential employer, but have since decided that I should not try to hide the true nature of where most of my biggest strengths evolved from. Is there a better way to learn how to work with others than joining a sorority and serving on its executive board where you’ve signed up to make decisions for 150 girls from all different backgrounds and upbringings?

 

I have acquired some of the most important real-world skills from my involvement in college greek life, all of which are skills that potential employers look for in every single potential new employee.

  1. Communication Skills
    Announcements for the house are made during Monday chapter meetings or via email and facebook. As someone who has been in the house for a while and had to make countless announcements, there are two simple rules for making sure as many people hear and understand you as possible: keep it short and sweet, then repeat. Within a sorority you may want to use attention-grabbers such as colorful fonts in an email or strategically dropping the phrase “free puppies” into the beginning of your announcement. In both the sorority and office place the idea is to get as simple as possible without excluding any important information and using all possible mediums to spread your announcement (in person, bulletin boards, email, etc.). Sometimes the most important part of communicating is the ability to shut up and listen. As an opinionated and talkative gal myself, I am still working on this one skill but I do know one thing for sure: if you speak before you listen there is a good chance you’ll ask a question that’s about to be answered or miss a chance to hear an idea that is, dare I say it, better than your own.
  2. Analytical Skills
    Throughout my year on the executive board I worked with twelve other girls to make important decisions for the house. This job required constant analysis of different situations, the creation of pro and con lists, and attempting to decipher how our decision would affect all 150 girls in our house as well as anticipating the reactions that would come from all 150 different perspectives. The reactions to our decisions would usually result in a compromise (“After careful review, we have decided that your black heels for the second day of recruitment can be close-toed OR open-toed. But you sure as hell better have a pedicure if they’re open-toed!”). If you intend to get involved in a sorority or join a company without an open mind or the ability to pick your battles, I suggest you start running in the opposite direction.
  3. Dedication
    When you accept a bid from a sorority or a job offer from a company, you immediately become part of a group of people that can only achieve success if each individual plays their part. You are required to dedicate time and effort into upholding the brand you now represent. The past three years in my sorority have taught me that even though I will always encounter people with different opinions than my own and often hear phrases like “I can’t believe they would plan our philanthropy event on the night of my 21st birthday! They don’t actually expect me to be sober, do they?!” or “If you don’t make our social on Thursday a date party, I’m dropping!” the sorority is a significant part of my life that has shaped me into the woman I am today and I would not be the same without these amazing 150 girls and the diverse personalities that come with them. In the future I hope to have a similar experience when I enter a career doing something that I love and dedicate myself to working hard and ensuring that I am benefitting the company I am lucky enough to be a part of.

I am proud of all that I have accomplished over the years and the skills I acquired because of the time and effort I devoted to my sorority. During a job interview, why should I be embarrassed that a large portion of what I can contribute to the company came from my involvement in my university’s greek system? My hope is that more employers will begin to understand the strengths of  students involved in greek life and how these strengths will contribute to the progression of their company.


About the Author

Marilu Hagen

Originally hailing from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, Marilu is currently a student the the University of Wisconsin-Madison and on track for graduating with a major in Communication Arts and minor in Integrated Liberal Studies. She is very excited to be one of the lucky summer 2013 interns for CGN and to gain experience as a marketing and public relations specialist for the company while bringing extra energy and positivity to the team. Her inspiration comes from powerful women working in the sports and entertainment industry and she has hopes to become one of these women herself as a sports agent or manager of team public relations. Marilu's favorite professional sport is ice hockey, having grown up with the Atlanta Thrashers, but her favorite sports team is the Atlanta Braves.

2 Comments


  1.  
    Anonymous

    Glad to know other women experience the same anxiety about this situation…thank you for the wonderful inspiration and insight!




  2.  

    I’ve absolutely felt the same way, and I often feel compelled to explain (in job interviews and social situations) that my sorority was a small, local organization and “very different than what you might imagine”! Regardless, the skills you listed are all huge assets. If more of my emails at work started with “free puppies” I think everyone would respond in a flash!





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