Friday, January 25, 2013

Going (Professional) Greek

During my sophomore year I saw a poster in my hall for Phi Sigma Pi. I had several friends in it, but at the time I did not have the gpa to join. So I spent the fall semester working hard and I pulled my gpa up enough to join. When I rushed, I met a whirlwind of wonderful people who made me certain that I had rushed the right fraternity. And then, after pledging, I started making even more friends, and met my Big. I’ve since become a committee chair, and have never looked back.

What are professional greeks?
Professional fraternities (and in a few cases sororities) are Greek organizations based around specific careers or values. For some that value is community service, for others it’s international service, and for others it’s academic honors. Whatever the group’s central value everything will be based around them. If you’re not in the slightest bit interested in International Service, then you’re not meant for that fraternity/sorority. If on the other hand you intend to make it your career, then that may be just the fit for you. Of course, there are other benefits to joining a professional Greek organization. One is the often co-ed aspect. While social sororities are full of interesting women, professional Greeks don’t limit to just one gender.  This expands your horizon by about double.  The dues are also often much lower than socials. 

Why Rush?
If you only want to join a sorority or fraternity for the social aspect, then I suggest you join a social sorority or fraternity.  But if you want to join a group of people with the same core academic or community service values as you, then stay tuned, because a professional fraternity may be just right for you.  When you rush you get to meet the active brothers and find out if they really are your kind of people.  Rushing allows you to find the right fraternity as much as it allows the fraternities to find the right pledges.  Go into it with your eyes open and if something doesn’t feel right, don’t pledge that fraternity.  Be you, not who you think they want. 

Just to be clear, rushing is not the same as pledging.  Rush is a series of events where you come to meet brothers and find out more about the fraternity and specifically that chapter.  Pledging is once you’ve been accepted by the fraternity and you’ve chosen to accept their bid to join. 

Big/Little
I can only really speak about my chapter, but I know that many chapters don’t do Big/Little the way we do.  The AU attitude about everything is “Go big or go home” and that includes Big/Little Week.  For our chapter Big/Little Week is about halfway through the pledge process.  For the previous weeks you interview active brothers and get to know them, then decide who you want as your Big.  Your Big acts as your mentor, your guide, your confidant, and your friend, as well as your brother.  As such, you want to choose a great brother, someone you really connected with and would love to have as a friend forever.  Think about which brother you’ve met who you would want to stand beside you at every major event in your life.  Who do you want in your wedding party?  Who do you want to come to your college graduation and all of your kids’ birthday parties?  If there is a brother you’ve met that fits that description, then that’s the brother you want as a Big.  Our matching process includes a preference list from both the Bigs and the Littles. 
For Big/Little week at my chapter the Big makes a fake Facebook for you with a silly name like “BigLoves LittleJane” and uses that to communicate with their Little about what times the Little should be out of her room.  During those times the Big, and often friends, will come to decorate the Little’s room and leave her presents.  Many chapters don’t do it this way, but my chapter does and I can’t imagine what pledging would be like without it. 

Benefits Professionally
I don’t know about all the other chapters of Phi Sigma Pi or the other fraternities, but in my chapter you have to be in a committee.  We also change committee chairs every semester, so it’s very easy to get a leadership role in the committees.  This semester, I’m the Spirit Chair of my chapter.  There are also a handful of positions on the E-Board which is the elected board, they govern the chapter.  These leadership roles look great on a resume.
We also have a national network of collegiate and alumni Brothers.  When looking for a job you can reach out through the alumni network to find one. 
Hiring managers mostly just glance through the resumes, but there are more than 9 million people nationally who are or were in Greek life, and when they see Greek life on a resume, they’ll take an extra glance over.
When I find out someone else is in Greek life, especially professional Greek life, I know something important about who they are and what they stand for.  Especially someone in my fraternity, because I know that they’ve been vetted by a chapter of Brothers through rush and pledging.  It’s the same concept as being introduced by someone rather than cold calling.  You’ll get better results from someone who feels that you’re worth their time because they know you’ve been judged worthy of joining a fraternity like Phi Sigma Pi. 

Leadership Opportunities
I briefly mentioned the leadership opportunities present in my chapter before.  There are nine positions on our E-Board: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Parliamentarian, Initiate Advisor, Rush Chair, Historian, and Brother-At-Large.  Most of these are exactly what they sound like, but to clarify Parliamentarian ensures chapter runs smoothly and knows our bylaws, Initiate Advisor teaches all the new pledges everything they need to know about Phi Sigma Pi, Historian takes photos and gathers other people’s photos, and Brother-At-Large is the liaison between E-Board and the rest of the chapter. 
Committee Chairs are also leadership positions, and many committee chairs go on to become E-Board members.  We have quite a few committees, and each has a chair.  Becoming a committee chair looks great on a resume and you get to work directly on events and plans for the chapter.  We have a chapter birthday party that I will be planning, a formal that the social committee will be planning, and a bunch of other events that other groups will be planning. 

Another unexpected benefit?  The blank space on applications.  Many job, scholarship, or grad school applications have a space that asks for anything else you want to tell them about yourself.  If you rush Phi Sigma Pi, you can always have something to write in that space.  The experiences of working in a team with your committee, learning parliamentary procedure, any leadership positions you may have had, planning events, balancing your time to maintain your GPA, there are a million things to write about with Phi Sigma Pi and any other professional Greek group.  Recently, one of my Brothers was applying for an abroad scholarship, and she had originally planned to leave the extra space blank, but then she hit upon the idea to write about Phi Sigma Pi.  She filled the space with three paragraphs about the teamwork, the confidence you gain, and learning to step up to do whatever is necessary. 

But most important of all, is the Brotherhood.  Phi Sigma Pi isn’t just about resumes and leadership, it’s about having a family and fun people to hang out with.  It’s about always having someone to study with and never having to be alone again. 

Why do I love Phi Sigma Pi? Because I always have someone to make silly faces with.

My brothers remind me every day, by their very steadfastness, that goodness does exist in the world. 

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