By Josh Gill
College students looking to create job opportunities for themselves sometimes turn to Greek Life as a source of networking during and after college.
While membership in a Greek organization, or any student organization, will not hurt students’ chances of being hired, business professors say more than just membership is needed to make students stand out to employers.
Dr. James Henderson, academic director of the MBA Healthcare Program and The Ben H. Williams Professorship in Economics, was the faculty adviser to the Texas Theta chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon from 2000 to 2010. Greek membership does help students with professional networking but much of membership’s effect on the job hunt is left up to the student, he said.
“Ultimately, it’s not the network that gets you the job, it’s your ability to sell yourself,” Henderson said. “Often times getting your foot in the door is the biggest hurdle. Fraternity brothers aren’t going to give you a job if they don’t think you can make money for them.”
Henderson said the networking benefits of Greek life are valuable and a key aspect of membership, but it is limited by geography even in regard to national organizations.
“I think it’s the opportunity of creating networks that’s most important when you’re a member of an organization,” Henderson said. “The benefit of a national organization is that you have similar groups all over the country, although the further you get away from your local group the less you are going to be successful.”
Katherine Evans, assistant director of professional development, said Greek life is one of many sources of networking for students.
“You can network with friends and family and alumni,” Evans said. “Greek organizations are just one more outlet of networking.”
As for how Baylor students can network best, Evans said students should make connections through any national organizations in which students are involved as well as create a profile on the professional networking website LinkedIn.
“You want your connections to connect you to other people,” Evans said. “Connecting to other people through your connections will hopefully lead to a job or good information. That’s kind of what LinkedIn is doing. It’s connecting you to other people.”
While membership in Greek and other student organizations can be beneficial in terms of networking, Dr. Henderson said its effect on students’ future employment depends on how students present their experience in their organization.
Networking is only part of the process of being marketable to employers, as students also need to demonstrate that they have had valuable experiences and possess skills applicable to their desired job.
Employers are looking for students with well-rounded skill sets, so students with varied experiences in their college career can appear more hirable to potential employers.
“From our interactions with employers, what we know they want to see is a holistic experience on campus,” Evans said. “If a student has been extremely involved in their organization, well then that’s another experience they’ve had in their Baylor experience.”
Leadership roles within Greek and other student organizations are experiences of particular interest to employers.
“I would say that we encourage any student involved in an organization to hold a leadership position just to highlight that they had the initiative to take a leadership position,” Evans said.
While good academic performance is a factor in getting a job after college, Heather Wheeler, assistant director of internships in The Office of Career and Professional Development, said the varied college experience that students can achieve through membership in Greek and other student organizations shows employers that those students can handle the nuances of the workplace.
“You still need to find an outlet other than good grades,” Wheeler said. “Employers want to see that the person has an outlet or will have fun. They need to see that you can handle the social settings of work, so you need to find another way, not just good grades, or else you need to find a way to explain that on a resume.”
Students can market their experience in Greek and other student organizations on a resume by highlighting leadership experiences, Wheeler said.
“It’s all about how you present it on a resume,” Wheeler said. “Are you presenting the fraternal ‘We’re having a lot of fun’ side, or are you presenting the leadership and service side? Resumes are more professional so you want to focus more on the professional side of things.”
While networking websites like LinkedIn can be used in tandem with membership in student organizations to connect with alumni in the professional world, less professional use of social media can hurt students’ image.
“The biggest thing is that you have to be wise in how you go about advertising what you do,” Henderson said. “I happen to know that employers will go online to find out more about you. So, what you do in college can come back to haunt you, but you don’t have to be a member of a fraternity for that to happen. Be careful about not only what you post but what others post about you.”