Greek Life and Real Life

Guest essay by Amanda Kocefas, Alpha Chi Omega, Michigan State University 2011
Have you ever interviewed someone with fraternity or sorority experience on their resume?  Did you overlook it? Did it come up in the interview?  Maybe or maybe not, but did you ever think that someone with that experience could have that “something extra” your organization is seeking?  You should.  Almost everything I learned about accountability, recruitment and conflict management, I learned from sorority life.

I know what you’re thinking, “How could you possibly learn anything from pillow fights and chick flicks?”  It is commonplace for people to imagine sorority life as this fantasy-ridden, girly, imaginative adventure into oblivion, but it’s not like that at all.  In my experience, sorority life was a serious business – there were rules, standards and processes – and I was in charge of enforcing them.

Much like any business, the primary driver for a chapter is recruitment and getting the right people to join your organization.  If you are not bringing in the right people, ultimately your business and your reputation will fold.  In the instance of a failing Greek chapter, you would lose your charter and another organization will take over your house, hang up their letters and fill it with their memories.  Tell me, if the President/CEO of your company led your organization to shambles, wouldn't someone else take over?  The same basic principle applies here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard colleagues stress how important it is that we “get the right people on the bus” in order to excel.

As a participant in Greek Life, our membership was contingent on upholding academic, personal and social standards.  Women who did not meet grade requirements were ineligible for participation at events and in some instances, dismissed from the organization.  Being a member of Greek Life is about contributing to the organization in a positive way that ultimately leads to philanthropic and academic successes, while still having fun.  During my final semester, I was the Director of Greek Week, a series of philanthropic events that raised over $265,000 for charity.

They say that there are 3 major decisions you make in life: the person you marry, the job you have and the house you buy.  I viewed joining a Greek chapter as a critical step toward my future of securing an enjoyable occupation and for a while, it was my home.  I joined for many reasons that took precedence over the social aspect – I wanted to be a part of a tradition and ritual, an organization that had true values and worked to uphold them.  It is from that ambition that I became the VP of Chapter Relations and Standards, which is essentially the same as being the head of HR.  This involved tough conversations with people who were my friends, neighbors and roommates.  This also involved dismissing women from our organization, penalizing those who jeopardized our integrity and reputation and having to be the “bad guy” in a slew of other situations.  These lessons, although tough at the time, have allowed me to develop and grow into someone who can handle conflict in the workplace and address most problems with a diplomatic approach.

You see, our occupations can vary across industries or functions, target audience and more, but at the end of the day, a business is a business.  It takes a team to run one, whether it is a Greek organization or a multinational corporation.  They both have an executive board, a group of people with similar interests, rules and regulations, targets/goals and a social aspect.  In Greek Life, you get out what you put in, and in my case, I feel as though I completed the most rewarding unpaid internship I didn’t apply for.  I can literally travel the world and somehow find a connection back to the people I collaborated with during my time as a Greek member.  These doors are continually opening for me.

In short, these experiences and leadership opportunities that I took on have prepared me to be an active and influential member of my company – investing loyalty and time into something for the greater good.  You will never hear me say “that isn’t in my job description” because I am invested in this company from the top down.  It is this attitude that allows my team to achieve things such as “Best Marketing Team” or “Investors in People” status.  It is because we come together under a united set of values and definitions of success that we are able to achieve these goals.

So, all that I ask is the next time you see a Greek Life organization on a resume, consider the experience and accountability that membership requires and ask questions to tap into those lessons learned.  The person you are interviewing could truly breathe life into your company’s goals – be it monetary targets, recruitment goals, or community involvement.

The author currently serves as a Junior Marketing Manager for The FiveTen Group, primarily focused on positioning Greythorn US & UK, a specialist technology staffing firm (IT), and also their legal recruitment brand, Laurence Simons. In her professional career, she hopes to travel internationally and learn the different market dynamics throughout the world, as well as manage various campaigns in such markets.
An alumna member of Alpha Chi Omega, Amanda has a Bachelor's degree in Advertising from Michigan State University. As an undergraduate, Amanda served on the Greek Fall Welcome Committee, as Vice President of Chapter Relations and Standards 2010 - 2011, as the Mary Beth Knox Memorial Brunch Coordinator, and as the Director of Greek Week at MSU 201, which raised $267,000 for Relay for Life & 3 local charities.  She is truly passionate about raising awareness for several non-profit organizations such as Relay For Life and One World One Future, and now the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago.  Follow her on Twitter (@mandyresh)