Life-long value of sorority experiences during college

from Jean M. Mrasek, National Panhellenic Conference chair:  NPCCentral@NPCWomen.org & 3901 W. 86th Street, Suite 398; Indianapolis, IN  46268

CONNECT THE DOTS: THE REAL VALUE OF SORORITY MEMBERSHIP

  I like being around people who make me smarter by the force of their intellect and the level of their devotion to their life’s work … I found accord with some, disagreements with others and valuable leadership lessons from all.

— Lynn Hardy Yeakel, “A Will And A Way”

Many graduates are starting their first jobs or preparing for graduate school. Job applications often ask about leadership examples, campus activities and honors. Graduate school interviews include questions about campus involvement.

Sorority women can readily provide answers to these questions. Our members list participation in a sorority on varying levels. Some sorority women have served as chapter presidents, treasurers, standards committee members or alumnae relations chairmen. Interviewers want to know background on how an applicant can work in a group. Our members share stories of involvement on chapter teams — whether it is community outreach or intramurals.

So how does this translate? What is the real value of the sorority experience in the workplace or the next chapter in life?

During a time when sorority membership has come under scrutiny in the media, it is timely to evaluate how the sorority experience can teach skills and core competencies that are transferrable into other settings. There are valuable lessons gained by being a sorority member.

Leadership

Employers want individuals who know when and how to lead. This adds strength to the company roster and provides hope for the future. When interviewing, the chapter officer or committee chairman can speak to the fact that she has led and managed a chapter comparable to operating budgets of a franchise business or nonprofit organization. Many of our chapters have membership sizes over 100. To make a point, it is no small feat to lead 100 women in a sorority chapter and motivate them to fulfill their obligations to the organization and work toward common goals. Proven leadership is valued.

Community Outreach

Employers encourage employees to establish connections within their communities. This signifies a deeper commitment of an employee to make a difference. Sorority teaches intrinsic fulfilment from helping others. And our rituals inspire us to extend ourselves in selfless ways to better the world. In prior research studies conducted, sorority alumnae account for what is termed as social capital in their communities, by serving on boards at schools, in churches and charitable organizations. Contributions of time, talent and resources are critical to communities.

Teamwork

Employers want staff members who can work together to find solutions and make positive change happen in an organization or business. The best lessons about teamwork can be found inside our chapter houses and within our College Panhellenics. As one university official stated during a recent campus visit: “Panhellenic is the engine on campus. Sorority women know how to come together and get things done.” Results speak volumes when you look at the number of volunteer hours donated and money raised for charities by sorority women. Teamwork can accomplish desired outcomes.

Mediation/Conflict Resolution/Communication

Employers appreciate individuals who can bring professional skills to the table that infuse tact and diplomacy into the job setting. Sorority leaders are trained in mediation skills and encouraged to offer constructive feedback in respectful ways. The goal is resolution through artful conversation and diplomacy. Skills like these are taught at leadership conferences and reinforced with support of alumnae advisors. Face-to-face interaction is part of the process. Chapter officers have thanked me years later for these conflict resolution experiences that prepared them for other encounters in the workplace.

Strategic Planning/Project Management/Organizational Development

Employers look to potential leaders among their staff who can help articulate the vision and steps to be taken in order to reach company goals. Sorority women know how to plan and prepare for events as there are many opportunities to put skills to test. The chapter-wide focus on effectiveness and efficiency results in desired outcomes. Sorority leaders are directly involved in managing organizational change and implementing strategies to achieve positive change. This translates well into any setting, whether it is the workplace or another organization.

In her book, Lynn Hardy Yeakel, Delta Delta Delta, shares that her career has been a series of distinct episodes, “connecting dots in the pursuit of a useful life.” Lynn’s work has been dedicated to accomplish fundamental changes in society and achieve gender equality. She is the founder of Vision2020, which NPC supports.

Lynn’s story is not unlike many stories of sorority women who would describe their career as connecting dots. There is real value in the sorority membership experience in that skills can be applied in new ways and in different settings beyond the college years.

We need to connect the dots and talk about it.

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