It’s all Greek to me.
My college fraternity, Theta Chi, was founded on April 10, 1856 at Norwich University in Norwich Vermont by two undergraduate military cadets: Frederick Norton Freeman and Arthur Chase. 137 years later — on February 7, 1993 — I was one of 56 undergraduates who founded what became the Theta Sigma chapter at UC Santa Barbara on March 4, 1994. Sadly, the chapter closed in the mid 2000’s.
As an undergraduate, I embraced the opportunities presented and served my chapter as Historian, Secretary, and, my personal favorite role, Chaplain. I also participated in local, regional, and national events. I embraced the opportunity with enthusiasm; interestingly, my fraternity experience was a uniquely entrepreneurial endeavor.
I am keenly aware of how important my four undergraduate years with Theta Chi Fraternity were. The activities I participated in taught me important lessons that gave me a competitive advantage over individuals who were not involved with the Greek system; the seven skills my involvement with Theta Chi taught me include:
1. Time Management Skills
From appointments to meetings, deadlines to simple errands, each of us has far too much to accomplish in the few short hours available to us each day. College life is no different, in fact in many ways it is more complex.
In addition to contending with the basics (e.g., laundry, bills, groceries), college students must also contend with the far less predictable rigors of academia.
For fraternity and sorority members time is stretched even thinner. With weekly chapter meetings, committee meetings, participation in Fraternity-Sorority Council events, philanthropic endeavors, house maintenance duties, and other time commitments, we have a great deal to contend with on a daily basis. However, I believe that my fraternal experience taught me the modern art of prioritizing.
In order to win the war against time, the powers that be invented the (infamous) Day Planner, the modern day equivalent to a sidearm. Although I now use this scheduling device on a daily basis, during my years as an undergraduate member of Theta Chi, I was constantly forced to balance my numerous fraternal, academic, and personal commitments in a similar fashion.
When I served on the Executive Council, effective time management skills were absolutely essential, as they are now, in the real world. Through my involvement with Theta Chi, I learned the value of prioritization. Because of this skill, I fulfilled all of my responsibilities, while graduating a quarter early, with honors.
2. Communication Skills
During my four years with Theta Chi, I served in a variety of positions that required an ability to effectively communicate, however, none were as demanding as Chapter Secretary. During these two important years, I strengthened my ability to not only express my thoughts clearly through written media, but I also developed a powerful oratory ability.
My position also required that I maintain an open line of communication with our International Headquarters and National Officers who expected a high level of professionalism at all times. Now, as an employee in a corporate culture, I am able to apply the professional communication skills I learned while an undergraduate during my daily interactions with everyone from my immediate supervisor, to the President of the company.
My fraternal experience also gave me the opportunity to improve my ability to effectively socialize and network with a broad cross-section of people. Although a strong command of the written word is essential to success in business, perhaps the foundation upon which any business transaction rests, is verbal communication.
A recent survey of large corporations indicated that an ability to effectively communicate verbally is the most important quality an employee can possess. The importance of verbal communication is perhaps most evident during the critical interview process, when it becomes your responsibility to intelligently expound upon your written resume. You may have the best credentials in the world on paper, but if you cannot convey your abilities verbally, you will most likely encounter difficulty in any real world scenario.
Hashing during membership recruitment, general chapter meeting, and elections, whether you are running for office, or simply participating in the process, are all perfect opportunities to develop your public speaking acumen. Furthermore, the success of your fraternity or sorority depends upon the active participation of its members, and communication is the foundation upon which participation can grow.
3. Collaborative Skills
Dedication to teamwork is an essential trend within corporate America, presenting a member of a fraternity or sorority a valuable personal marketing tool. After all, the point of the Greek system is to mold a disparate group of individuals into a cohesive body, committed to the fulfillment of a common objective, as defined by the Ritual.
An effective Ritual stimulate its members individual talents while also reminding them of their commitment to something far larger than themselves. Through the Ritual, a member of a fraternity or sorority will hopefully develop an understanding of their own potential in relation to the needs of the group (society) of which they are a part.
A positive fraternity or sorority experience allows a member to try new things and, by doing so, nurture preexisting talents and discover an impressive latent ability. From something as mundane as By-Laws, to an event as pivotal as the performance of the Ritual, a fraternity or sorority allows its members to sample new things, within a relatively sheltered environment.
Furthermore, the communal living structure of a fraternity or sorority teaches its members to peacefully coexist with people who are often very different than them, but again, are bonded together by a common vision (the Ritual). An ability to get along with a diverse cross section of individuals is absolutely critical to success in the real world, and, more specifically the corporate world.
As much as we hope for personal success, we also must stop and realize that we are also parts of a greater whole. Because of this, it is important to remember that our actions affect more than ourselves, and our success often relies on the work of others. The balance between individual achievement and a responsibility to your God, your country, and your fellow man, is a precarious one, but is one that can most effectively understood through involvement in a fraternity or sorority.
4. Social Skills
Fraternities and sororities were started with the hope that through a system of values (the Ritual), members could improve themselves, their brothers or sisters, and humanity. Although the methods of our Rituals differ, the messages most likely revolve around the following concepts:
1. Respecting other people’s views, opinions, possessions, and rights.
2. Creating positive results for ourselves, our fraternity, and our community.
3. Taking accountability for our personal actions and those of our brothers.
4. Realizing a need, problem, opportunity or deficiency, and resolving it.
These easy to understand, yet powerful values represent the cornerstone of every fraternity or sorority. And, not surprisingly, they are a vital part of every business and personal encounter in the real world. Anyone who understands and practices these four concepts will be an asset to any company. Motivation, dedication, and innovation are by-products of any fraternity or sorority, and are the essence behind real world success.
Further, just as our own organizations have Standards Boards and Codes of Conduct that hold us accountable for our actions, house maintenance duties that teach responsibility, and methods of soliciting participation, so do all successful business, and, in a less formal way, all families. Without an awareness of these four important values, anyone will most likely encounter trouble in their future endeavors, personal and professional.
5. Competitive Skills
Greek Week festivities, participation in Intramural sports, attendance at local, regional and national fraternity or sorority events, undergraduate (and alumni) involvement with collegiate activities, and a strong presence of fraternal spirit are all ways in which you can increase your potential for success in the real world, while having fun in the process.
The power of fraternal spirit and a healthy desire for competition should not be underestimated. As Charles Darwin so effectively realized, only the strong survive. And what better way to ensure your survival in a highly competitive society than by getting involved in a wide spectrum of activities, either through your place of employment or beyond the walls of your office.
You will not only meet new people, experience new things, but you could pave the way for future success. Additionally, employers are constantly on the lookout for energetic, motivated individuals, whose effusive personality more than compensates for their lack of experience. Credentials get you to the door, personality can get you the corner office.
6. Adapting Skills
During my undergraduate years in Theta Chi, it was rare when a day went by without some element of “the great unknown” affecting it. Although we tried to plan events so they would run smoothly, inevitably, something always interfered with this simple goal.
While it is essential for a fraternity or sorority to maintain an organized infrastructure, any Greek organization must be able to quickly respond to a rapidly changing environment.
Again, life in the real world is no different. I re-prioritize my project list on an almost daily basis in response to the constantly changing, and often unpredictable needs of “Upper Management.” During the past year, there were at least a half dozen times when I was almost finished with a project only to have it suddenly fall by the wayside, in deference to a more urgent project. As frustrating as this situation is, because of my fraternal experience, I can rapidly adapt to a constantly changing environment.
7. Professional Skills
Although college is a time of great individual liberties and personal discoveries, it is nevertheless a highly regulated experience. From mid-term schedules, to term paper requirements, college students learn to function in a world with a great affinity for bureaucratic red tape.
Unfortunately, the paperwork jungle only gets more dense after graduation. However, a fraternity or sorority is an incredible resource through which a member can learn to function within a distinctively corporate hierarchy. There are numerous positions within any company that are remarkably similar to those in a fraternity or sorority.
For example, almost every company has a CEO or President (Chapter President), CFO (Treasurer), Documentation Manager (Secretary) Training Manager (Marshal/Pledge Educator), Marketing Manager (Rush Chairman), Environmental Health and Safety Manager (Risk Manager), to name a few.
Additionally, just as a fraternity or sorority experience begins with a pledge quarter, so too are (usually) the first three months of any job considered an introductory period. Most companies also have a handbook, which functions very much like a Ritual.
There are also opportunities for career advancement in any place of employment (annual elections), performance reviews (membership reviews), facility maintenance (house cleanups), and company (chapter) pride. The list of similarities is endless, and an astute member of the Greek community will capitalize on as many as possible.
It is important to remember that there are an unlimited number of opportunities available to any fraternity or sorority member. This article highlights only a small number of such opportunities. Fraternities and sororities empower their members to shatter John Stuart Mill’s claim that, “The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.” We should not be afraid to expect more from our affiliation with a Greek Letter Organization, in fact, it is our duty. Only through an active participation in our Greek experience will you discover the key to unlock the doors of real world success.