I never intended to join a sorority. Although it baffles me now, I used to believe some negative stereotypes about sororities. My decision to go through recruitment was serendipitous: after my high school friends and I went to see the Amanda Bynes movie Sydney White, we decided to register for recruitment at our colleges to find out if girls actually sang and danced during recruitment like they did in the movie. I ended up finding out that, yes, people do sing and dance– and that, yes, I wanted to join a sorority.
My sorority became my most supportive community at college. When I joined, I was fully accepted for being myself, and this acceptance gave me the confidence to run for a position on the executive board in the spring of my freshman year. During my time on the executive board, I learned time management, teamwork, and public speaking. I knew my thoughts would be valued, and so I also learned to contribute my ideas. If you ask anyone I work with now, it it is evident that I’m not shy and am quick to volunteer my ideas and opinions. I owe this to the many leadership opportunities my sorority provided.
The statistics speak for themselves: 70% of the U.S. Presidents’ cabinet members since 1900 have been fraternity or sorority members. 76% of U.S. Senators are fraternity or sorority members. All but two Presidents since 1825 have been fraternity members. And an overwhelming percentage of Fortune 500 executives are fraternity or sorority members.
Why is it that membership in one of these historic houses has such impact later in life? What is it about being involved in Greek life that is a catalyst for a successful career? I interviewed sorority members and alumnae to find out.
Lessons from membership in a sorority:
Alicia Scott (Phi Sigma Sigma), her sorority’s National President, told me that being a Phi Sigma Sigma has impacted her life in so many ways, and she is truly better for it. Through her experience as a collegian and now as an alumna, she has learned how to advocate for herself and others, confront difficult situations, and collaborate effectively. Alicia learned how to channel her introversion and capitalize on her strengths which enable her to successfully network, speak in public, and run meetings. She also found that ideals from Phi Sigma Sigma ritual – service to others, determination, honor, integrity, and more – help keep her grounded and focused on her “mission” at work. Alicia mentioned that Phi Sigma Sigma’s motto is Diokete Hupsala – or Aim High. The sorority aims to help each member excel academically and build the leadership skills necessary to advance in today’s society.
Caroline Ghosn (Kappa Alpha Theta), CEO and Co-Founder of The Levo League, says, “Being a part of the intellectual and open environment that the Kappa Alpha Theta house at Stanford University offered me gave me a safe space to explore entrepreneurial avenues with my friends, such as Jessica Lee of Style / Stalk, who have since become entrepreneurs, co-mentors, and supporters as well.”
Helena Hounsel (Delta Gamma) has served as her chapter’s Director of E-Communications, Vice President of Communications, and Director of New Members. Helena learned how to create a website from scratch, to use google documents, manage calendars, maintain listservs and increase her chapter’s social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. She explained that sorority membership, “has given me a strong network and connections that want to see me do well in my future. Our tagline isn’t ‘Do Good’ for nothing. Greek Life gives you an exclusive network willing to help you further your career after college and the opportunity to put leadership experience and real world skills on your resume even if you aren’t living in a city with immense internship opportunities like DC.”
Dana Glenn (Kappa Delta) was appointed as her university’s Secretary of State, a paid position in the Student Government Association, because students on campus were talking about how well she planned events for her sorority.
Angelique Hassanein’s (Gamma Phi Beta) role as her chapter’s Sunshine Chair geared her towards her decision to pursue a degree in psychology and, ultimately, her goal to become a Psychologist. She explained that, “it was such a great feeling to know that my sisters could confide in me with their issues and that I would be able to help them.” Gamma Phi Beta created a website called ShineBeyond.org, a network where new alumnae receive guidance on post grad life based on Gamma Phi Beta’s 4 pillars-Love, Labor, Learning, and Loyalty.
Kaitlyn Kirby (Alpha Delta Pi) developed intangible skills that have boosted her consulting career. Hosting her sorority’s philanthropy event taught her that thinking creatively is never frowned upon. She learned to voice her ideas at meetings because, “even if your ideas are not selected, it shows thoughtfulness and dedication.” Additionally, she learned that remaining calm and flexible around clients is vital. As she says, “oftentimes you’re the only one that knows the recruitment rotation broke down, so why let them see you sweat?”
Heather Reilly (Phi Mu) credits her sorority leadership with accelerating her career. Heather served as her chapter’s Academic Excellence Chairman and later as Chapter President. Her leadership positions taught her how to communicate effectively with professionals outside of her normal peer group, giving her the confidence she needs to ace job interviews. Her role as Chapter President taught her to think of situations holistically. She explained that, “our generation is often classified as being ‘self absorbed,’ but when you’re leading a group of almost 90 women as I did, it was vital to make sure that the many pieces that it took to make the the chapter function did so smoothly.”
Heather Kirk (Zeta Tau Alpha), the sorority’s Director of Education and Communication, explained that, “in Zeta Tau Alpha, we focus member development education for graduating members on transitioning from college to the job world or graduate school. We encourage chapters to utilize ZTA, campus and community resources to provide education about resume writing, interviewing, job searching, salary negotiation and more.”
Norah Carroll (Delta Gamma) was her chapter’s Vice President of Communication. In that capacity she built her chapter’s social media strategy, an experience which gave her a solid foundation when she began interning for the social media strategy company, Lava Row. Norah works for Lava Row full-time and mentioned that, “companies love to see students who have real-world, practical experience, and my sorority leadership role provided that experience-and the opportunity to help my chapter move forward at the same time.”
Sheila Koohpai (Pi Beta Phi) explained that her sorority membership has empowered her experience with on-campus leadership and her overarching career aspirations. When Sheila started the first human rights chapter at her university the first members were Pi Phi’s. Their support helped her turn the organization into the most active and well-known humanitarian club on campus. As Sheila states, “this was my first mini experience with entrepreneurship and it would not be as successful without the support and encouragement from my sisters. In turn, my entire experience with Pi Phi has opened multiple doors for my career and the bond of sisterhood helped me be where I am today.”
Carly Petertyl (Chi Omega) served as Director of Alumnae Relations for her chapter and Assistant Vice President of Recruitment for her college’s Panhellenic Council. She hosted an event where women from her chapter were able to network with local Chi Omega alumni. The alumnae provided the chapter with advice on how to utilize their sorority membership as a networking advantage. Attendees were so impressed by Carly’s execution of the event that she got business cards for potential jobs!
Lisl Knizner’s (Phi Sigma Sigma) role as Public Relations Chair for her chapter taught her how to be in professional type meetings, delegate in a leadership position, and see a project through completion. Lisl says, “I take lifelong learning, leadership through service and inclusiveness and run with them in my professional life.”
Amanda Pouchot (Alpha Omicron Pi), Founder of The Levo League, served as her university’s Executive Vice President of Panhellenic Council. Amanda learned to clearly articulate the importance of events as well as the importance of transparency.
Jenna Meranda (Delta Delta Delta), has served as her chapter’s Secretary, Vice President of Administration, and House Supervisor. Jenna’s internship at a local Blacksburg hospital requires her to assist and communicate with dozens of people on a daily basis. Her leadership roles in Tri Delta have significantly aided her ability to effectively aid patients and truly understand their medical needs. She explained that, “leadership in Tri Delta has enabled me to gain a level of confidence that has been of great significance to me in the healthcare field. I am able to talk with doctors and nurses in a manner in which prior to my leadership roles, would have seemed a daunting task.”
Katie Solomon (Kappa Kappa Gamma) the President of her chapter, found that, “having a leadership role in a sorority helps you learn how to work with people who are also your friends. Finding a balance between what is business and what is friendship can be really difficult and having a leadership role in a sorority can be a great way to learn how to find that balance. Also, the importance of delegating tasks to others as well as giving others responsibility with the hopes of them stepping up to accomplish group goals is an important lesson because in real life you will rarely accomplish big things by yourself and working as a team is very important.”
Shannon Maloney (Alpha Gamma Delta) served her chapter’s Social Liaison. She explained that her position, “has fostered the importance of time management and good communications skills in myself. I currently have a summer job at Hobby Lobby and I believe that being Social Liaison for my chapter has led me to be able to interact with customers in a more clear and concise manner.”
Fiona Conroy (Phi Sigma Sigma) says that “if it hadn’t been for my membership in Phi Sigma Sigma, I’m not confident I’d be where I am today.” Fiona’s time as Chapter President and Panhellenic Council President taught her how to recruit candidates and persuade voters, manage budgets and develop spending priorities, build strong interpersonal relationships, raise money, train candidates and volunteers, facilitate strong communication skills, and create positive press and effective marketing campaigns. While her involvement in student government and internships at various DC government organizations were helpful, Fiona mentions that “it was, in fact, an unplanned experience that best prepared me for a career in politics: specifically, joining Phi Sigma Sigma.”
We have heard it time and again: networking and support are essential aspects of career development and success. And a successful career cannot survive without leadership opportunities– during college, these are abundant and available for experimentation. Confidence and success are intertwined. You cannot have one without the other.
Go out and find your leadership opportunity and gain the experience and confidence you deserve!