As I continue talking about wellness and try to incorporate more personal development topics into my blog, I realize that I have some explaining to do. In order for me to share my insights I feel I have to share my experiences to prove my credibility. But, I have a potential “problem”. The majority of my experience comes from helping college-age women…in my sorority. That word (sorority) brings a whole lot of stereotypes with it. Which make me worry that when I say I’ve learned so much about my own personal development because of my time working and volunteering for my sorority many people won’t understand and will stop reading or think “right, okay, Caitlin.” So, today I want to talk more about my unique experience and what the sorority experience is really about.
Before I go any further, I want to clarify that these are my thoughts and are not a reflection of the organization of which I’m a member.
College years are life-changing. You spend time away from your family, learn about yourself, experience different people and cultures, and juggle being involved on campus, having a social life, and keeping up with classes. It can be stressful but it can also be so much fun. Personally, my college experience was filled with ups and downs but I do look back at it fondly. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t left home and had that experience. One of the biggest factors for me was joining a sorority. I don’t think I noticed it so much back then, but I see now how much I gained from being a member.
Sororities and fraternities weren’t big at my school but that didn’t keep me from embracing it. I took positions, attended conferences, and most importantly made some really awesome friends. Early on I realized that being part of this organization meant I was part of something bigger than myself. Something about that spoke to me, and it still does. (Maybe that’s why I like blogging?!) So, in my senior year, I applied to be a leadership consultant – which meant I would work for the national organization.
Bigger Than Myself
Working for the organization opened doors for me. I met SO many women- from National Headquarters staff, the national council, collegiate women, and the group of women that were consultants with me. I still keep in touch with a lot of them on social media. It was the craziest year of living out of a suitcase, traveling to colleges across the country teaching leadership, conflict resolution, recruitment skills, positive financial practices, and more. Afterward, I knew I wanted to stay involved and give back to this organization that has given me so much, but in a different capacity. There were breaks between roles as I started cosmetology school or worked on myself and my personal life- but the great thing about my sorority is that it’s always there for me. My sisters are supportive, understanding, and always seem to bring out my best self in some way.
I actually just started an exciting new volunteer role after about a year and a half break! (I wrote about why I needed a break last year.)
So, even though my collegiate chapter years weren’t always great, I’m grateful for my sorority experience as a whole. Of course, my experience is not the same that most women have. But, what they got out of it – whether they were only involved during their college years or much longer- is the same. This list can go on and on so in the interest of keeping this post to a tolerable length, haha, I want to talk about the ways being a member help in professional life.
Values: At my current job, they consistently talk about values. My sorority emphasizes living out our values. Having a solid understanding of values-based decision making and learning how to live out my values set a solid foundation for my adult life.
Leadership Skills: As a college-age woman you can hold a position and make decisions. Is there a better life experience? For me, knowing that I can adapt to new situations has encouraged me to take on new opportunities with my own career.
Development and Growth: Both personally and professionally. I thank my volunteer roles for getting me hooked on personal development. I have years of ballet to credit for how I carry myself. But for my professional image and understanding of tact, I have to credit my time as a consultant. As a consultant, I was the face of the organization for the chapters I visited. Now, I represent myself and my coworkers when I work with other departments.
I Can’t Leave These Out
While they don’t really pertain to professional life I can’t talk about sorority without mentioning these.
Sisterhood: Probably the biggest benefit! When I see women talk about their memories they almost always mention their sisters. Your chapter or house becomes your home away from home. Knowing women that share the same values as you and therefore want to support you in everything is priceless. And the friendships can last a lifetime. If you’ve ever been to a convention you know that feeling of hundreds of women saying the creed together. Goosebumps.
Lifetime Membership: If you say you WERE in a sorority- don’t forget that you ARE a lifelong member. While the college years shape the foundation of your experience- alumnae years can be rewarding, too. There are still opportunities to be involved like alumnae chapters in your area and continued education or advancement.
The More You Know
After working for my sorority I see the efforts these women’s groups are putting into changing the stereotypes and making membership a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. And that’s engrained in me now, too.
If you’re in a sorority or curious about one, I hope you are inspired to fully embrace it. If you never joined or think negatively of them- I hope you see what sorority is really about. The matching t-shirts, getting ready in each other’s closets, and the mixers are all fun but the benefits that set you up for a lifetime of success are irreplaceable. I’m passionate about many things and advocating for the sorority experience is one of them. Being in a sorority has helped me realize that I’m also passionate about inspiring women to reach their potential. My blog has given me a platform to do that and I hope I can make the most of it.
Thank you so much for reading!
Are you in a sorority? Which one?