Editor’s Note: This article was first published in October of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists of 2013. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
I was what every freshman girl in college was: new, bright-eyed, and looking for friends. Although my campus was small (2,100 people total), I wanted to find my niche. I decided to go through the sorority-recruitment process in order to meet other girls on campus and, hopefully, find a home away from home. Although recruitment season usually indicates long days, sleepless nights, and over-caffeinated, stressed-out girls, this process does teach life lessons–such as how to be strong in an interview or a good conversationalist.
I know this last sentence sounds preposterous. How could going through the process of recruitment or “rush” to join a “house” of women on a college campus prepare anyone for life? Or a job interview? Or how to carry on a conversation?
Hear me out.
The point of the recruitment process was to learn as much about the girls visiting your house as possible in a short amount of time–and for you to market your sorority’s priorities and values as well as you could. This took the form of skits, singing, clapping, and playing games. I know. Girls. But sorority girls spend A LOT of time together doing these things and you wanted to know which of the visiting girls were a good fit for your house’s makeup and your organization’s mission.
Throughout the process, we all tried to look extremely calm and poised. In reality, we were all excited wrecks. We wanted to like you and we wanted you to like us. Desperately.
Sounds like a job interview, right? That’s essentially what it is. Sorority recruitment is the candy-colored, sugar-coated version of a job interview.
Here’s what I learned…
1. I Learned How to Talk to Anyone.
Going through the recruitment process as a prospective new member to a house, and then being on the other side as a sorority member meeting new women, we learned how to talk to strangers really well. (In this case, unfamiliar sorority girls.) This might seem like a basic skill, but most humans are really bad at a) striking up a conversation with a stranger, b) continuing this conversation for 20 minutes to an hour, and c) coming off as welcoming and interested throughout it all. Recruitment challenges you to do this hundreds of times during your college career. We are the masters of conversing with shy girls, mute girls, crazy girls…etc.
This skill definitely comes in handy during job interviews, as well as in general, day-to-day interactions. Personally, I’ve found that I don’t get nervous before or during job interviews because I don’t find talking to a stranger that awkward anymore. After being a girl going through recruitment and then a sorority member meeting visiting girls, I know what it’s like to be on both sides of the “interview” process. After you’ve been in both places in an environment as crazy as sorority recruitment, job interviews don’t seem so intimidating. You’ll find yourself taking interviews and high-stakes social interactions in stride–after all, nothing can top glitter, skits with chanting and rapping, and MC Hammer pants.
2. I Learned How to Talk About Anything.
Sometimes in recruitment you were dealt a “clam” (aka a girl that was so nervous/shy that making conversation was almost painful). If even the strangest of topics caused this kind of girl to open up and speak, we ran with it and put everything we had into it. I once had to talk for 20 minutes about goats (yes, the animal)—but I did it because the visiting girl I was talking to blossomed when the subject came up. Whatever floats your boat, honey!
I was in an interview a few weeks ago and the topic of brass knuckles came up (yes, I know)—but the woman who was interviewing me started on this tangent about brass knuckles and ended up telling me a hilarious story about her brother. I ended up telling her a related story about my friend. We ended up getting totally sidetracked from the interview (we went 20 minutes over) but we had a few laughs and we now share a personal connection that neither of us will forget. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. I’ll be a memorable interviewee—that’s for sure.
3. I Learned How to Shake a Hand.
We won’t graduate wearing our sorority cords without doing this 1000 times.
You will not believe how many dead fish I’ve been handed since I moved to Washington, D.C. Obviously, these people never went through sorority recruitment. One of the many things sororities do well is teach a woman how to shake a hand AND look the person in the eye. We all know a good interview starts with a firm handshake. Thank you recruitment for giving me endless practice.
4. I Learned How to Read Situations and Interpret Body Language.
After spending hours upon hours with every type of girl imaginable, we become pros at reading people and their body language.
Again, I’ve found this skill to be extremely helpful in interviews. I’ve become very good at reading other people and then adjusting my behavior to complement the style and demeanor of the person interviewing me. (Knowing how to carry oneself around a reserved interviewer is vastly different from a bubbly, type-a interviewer.) Like the example with Miss Brass Knuckles above, I knew I could get away with being more candid and relaxed—and I used this opportunity to tell stories and let her get to know me at a deeper level. However, later in the process, I was interviewed by an executive who was more rigid. She leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms, and didn’t smile. She reminded me of the recruitment girls who had already made up their minds and didn’t want to visit my sorority house. I knew I had to switch from telling her stories to selling her on my skills. I switched up my rhetoric and changed my body language to match her. By the end, she and I were telling personal stories. (Again, being able to talk to anybody). Being able to change gears seamlessly and interact appropriately with whomever you meet in life is extremely valuable. Thank you recruitment for sometimes giving me the crazy girls.
In short, there’s more to the glitter, catchy songs, and matching outfits during sorority recruitment. It may be the root of some of the hardest, longest days on the sorority calendar, but the skills you learn through the process actually have outside application. In a way, this makes even the toughest moments more worth it… such as talking about goats!