When most people think of a sorority girl, the image that comes to mind is that of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde - gorgeous, well-dressed, tiny purse-sized dog named Bruiser, bubbly socialite, and a little bit ditzy. I'm almost positive that none of those adjectives have ever been used to refer to me. Okay, maybe I'm a little bit ditzy. All of this is to say that I am not exactly your stereotypical sorority girl.
When I graduated from high school in 1998, I had absolutely no intention of going through Sorority Recruitment when I enrolled at Transylvania University. Over the summer, people around me suggested that it might be a good way to meet people. As they pointed out, Transy's student population was roughly 90% Greek. My cousin, Emma, happened to be a Transy Phi Mu alumna. She urged me to give it a shot and to go into it with an open mind - after all, I could drop out of recruitment or simply choose not to join a sorority. Emma's influence was probably the greatest because she wasn't exactly the typical sorority girl, either.
You know where this story is going.
I signed my bid card with a single preference. I wanted to be a Phi Mu or an independent. There was no second choice.
After a short orientation period, I became a full-fledged member. Not only did I gain my cousin as a sister, I instantly gained thousands of women as my sisters. I was part of an organization with a long history of commitment to service, academics and the development of young women.
I wish I could say that I was a model Phi Mu woman while in school. I was not as philanthropic as I should have been. While I managed to graduate with a respectable 3.475 GPA, I was not as studious as I should have been, either. Additionally, I wasn't always the biggest fan of Greek life. I wasn't socially active on campus - choosing to move off campus earlier than most and spending most of my social life with friends who attended the University of Kentucky. Oddly, I was an officer and member of the Executive Committee one year. Even more oddly, I signed on to be in charge of Recruitment. Sometimes, my impulse to volunteer for things is pretty crazy (although we met our pledge quota plus the allowable additions that year!).
It wasn't until after graduation that I truly began to appreciate the positive effects of being in a sorority. I met women like Heather and Sarah - who all seemed like the independent, stylish, savvy, career women that I aspired to be. In search of my first really-real career position, I dutifully listed all my extracurricular activities in order to beef up my resume. I had no luck finding a position - after all, the market was flooded with accountants after Arthur Anderson went under in the wake of the Enron scandal - and accepted a low-paying government job where I had previously interned. I was surprised to get a call for an interview at a CPA firm six months later. I learned, during the interview, that my resume happened across the desk of a fellow Phi Mu alumna. She filed it with the intention to pass it along whenever she heard about open positions. She was committed to helping a sister out!
Essentially, I got my first professional position because I joined a sorority on a whim.
Since then, I've also learned that the things I experienced as a member of Greek life served wonderfully as life lessons. I learned that you don't have to love (or even like) all your sorority sisters or co-workers, but they are all deserving of your respect. I learned skills during recruitment like the ability to make small talk, remember names and details about a person translate really well to networking at business luncheons and conferences. Heck, I even learned a healthy respect for the protocols of Robert's Rules of Order. It turns out that the basic premises are really effective for running a corporate meeting!
While I may never be the woman who cites Blush and Bashful as her signature colors, or buys a "Future Phi Mu" onesie with carnations on the bum, I am proud to say that I am a sorority girl and Phi Mu woman. I will always recommend that other young women assess the Greek life at their prospective university and consider going through the Recruitment process.
Being a sorority girl is so much more than perfect hair and sitting down to smoke a cigarette - it's good preparation for life as a well-rounded woman.