We are all told that joining a fraternity or sorority will create job and networking opportunities. Adding a fraternity membership or officer position to a resumé can be intimidating. As someone who worked for a fraternity national office for almost six years, I understand the challenge of selling a fraternity experience to an under-informed audience. Even those of us who work[ed] at fraternity and sorority organizations can struggle to answer: “What do you do?” This post doesn’t answer that question; it does offer some tips to help you answer it.
The esoteric language used by many fraternities - everything from the names of positions to committee assignments - can leave too much room for interpretation. Someone with no fraternity or sorority experience (and that’s most people) may not know how to relate your Greek Life experience to your job application. (ex. Recruiter says: “So, I see you were Archon. Did you wear a hood?”)
Provided below are several tips to promote your fraternity experience to the professional world, in your resumé, on your LinkedIn profile, and during interviews.
1. Include Only What Matters - Unless you truly lack experience, you should try to cater to what you put in your resumé to the job. It may even help to have two or more resumés (ex: one for public relations jobs and another for marketing jobs). So, your stint as the social chairman may have no relevance for a work-from-home accounting position. Save that space for something else and throw "Social Chair" in under "Other Involvement" (or whatever you call it!).
2. Translate the Ritual - “Sergeant at Arms” is not an instinctively clear term. Try your best to translate quirkier roles into practical, human terms. Explain “brotherhood” as “team-building.” Swap “members” in for “sisters” and “organizations/clubs” for “chapters.” These simple adjustments make your resumé easier to understand on the first read-through.
3. Use Numbers & Accomplishments - This is a standard tip for resumé-writing, but you should consider your resumé as a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. So, instead of listing the typical responsibilities of a “Treasurer,” focus on what you accomplished as Treasurer. Did you save the chapter $10,000 over two years? Put that in there. That’s a great conversation starter! This tactic also shows that you measure and pay attention to your performance level.
4. Link to the Web - Be sure to include a link to your LinkedIn profile somewhere near your contact information (or wherever; it's your life!). That said, if you did some great work for your fraternity organization, and if that work is documented online, then consider linking to it in your resumé. If you have websites, portfolios, or social channels to share, create something like a Link Tree (Fraternity Man example).
5. Objectives/Descriptors - You may notice that some people include a few "objectives" on their resumé. A chapter brother who offers resumé consultations advises to keep them general or don't include them in a resumé. Objectives can help potential employers understand the career path you have in mind. In place of "objectives," you might include some descriptors. Use adjectives, numbers, and experiences to describe your work ethic, talent, or interests. (ex: "Well-spoken and experienced sales professional with a passion for creating mutually beneficial relationships between businesses and their clients.")
Think of LinkedIn as a living version of your resumé which can socialize with other living versions of other people's resumé. Or just call it a professional social networking site. The more you focus on treating it like a living resumé; however, the better you'll get at using LinkedIn.
6. Add reference material - The description of a job might be the same on your LinkedIn profile as it is on your resumé. That said, you can attach images and files to your positions and places of work on LinkedIn. So, if you talk about writing newsletters in your resumé, you can share examples of those newsletters on LinkedIn. (Or, back to No. 4, link to them in your resumé document).
7. Skills & Referrals - People can write general referrals on your LinkedIn profile and “endorse” you for any number of skills. Here’s where “networking” (Remember that? From recruitment?) can pay off! Ask advisors, members of your chapter, and leaders of other clubs to endorse you for one or more of the skills you choose to list. Ask that advisors and contemporaries write referrals for your page. Make this a common activity for all junior and senior members. Be sure to return the favor (if applicable).
8. Share & Comment - Share what you accomplish or are looking to accomplish on LinkedIn. Share articles that relate to your professional interests or about you and/or your chapter. You can also write articles directly to LinkedIn. A kick-arse treasurer may write an article called “How I saved $10,000 for my Fraternity Chapter,” for example. If you do not have specific information to share, then follow people who interest you and comment on their work. It may result in new conversations or connections.
9. Join Groups - Speaking of networking - join a group, or two. (or twenty!) Groups on LinkedIn are similar to those on Facebook, but they are mostly focused on professions and professional interests. There are also many groups for fraternity and sorority organizations. For example, there’s a “Marketing Professionals of Delta Sigma Phi” group with over 1,000 members. Connecting with someone through a group transforms them from a “cold lead” to a “warm lead” (as we say in sales-speak). Warm leads are far more likely to close the deal (i.e. hire you or get you hired).
I turned back to my chapter brother, Bill Thompson (his company success website - I have no financial interest, just a brother ?) to help with this question. Here are some thoughts on interviews:
10. Research the company - Search their name in the news, look through their website, and talk to anyone you might know at the company. Know their products, and see if they have upcoming products or initiatives in the news. Companies like Patagonia emphasize environmentalism, so expect questions related to that in one of their interviews.
11. Impress everyone - It is a big mistake to show your RBF to the receptionist (Urban Dictionary: RBF). It is an even bigger mistake to make eye contact with only one person during a panel interview. So, make sure you show your best self to everyone in the building. The man or woman who checks you in has sway.
12. Know what to ask - Treat your interview as another opportunity to learn about the company. After all, there may be other interviews and it helps to be able to recall important information. Employment is a relationship, so be sure to ask what they are looking for in a candidate or what they feel can be improved in a role. Are their answers satisfactory? Great employers want to know that you are looking for a great employer.
13. Don't try to sell yourself - As Bill says, "you are not looking for a job - you want a job with this company because of your research, contacts, etc." Focus on asking great questions, and relate your answers and examples to how you can be of help to the interviewer. Show your capacity for teamwork (BROTHERHOOD!) right out of the gate.
14. Follow Up - Send a thank you email the following day and put a thank you card in the mail. No need to exaggerate - just say that you appreciated the opportunity and that you are thankful for their time and interest. (If you are a menace - for example, the CEO offends you so you lock their bathroom key in the bathroom - then best skip the note)
15. Questions to prepare for:
"Prospective employers tend to ask open-ended questions about subjective matters in hopes that you will reveal your personality."
What are your short/long-term goals?
What are the best/worst aspects of your previous job?
What do you know about our company?
What would your former boss/colleagues say about you?
What other tips do you have? Connect with me on Twitter (@FraternityNik) Facebook (FraternityMan) or Instagram (@FraternityManBlog) and share. Perhaps I will update this with your thoughts!
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