Personal Branding: The Hidden Gift of Greek Life
One of the coolest recruitment projects I have ever participated in was with a large office supply company looking for recent college graduates. Wanting to add dynamic trainees to their national sales team, the client made it clear they needed recent college grads who were active outside of the classroom. Immediately, I knew I would start looking for Greek letters on applicants’ résumés; but I also wanted to identify candidates whose personal brands connected to the values of fraternity/sorority life.
Sure, this whole thing could be about who can “do the job,” but in choosing to focus on those who fully invest in the baseline values of fraternity/sorority life, I’ve seen leaders who develop personal brands that resonate with employers. Western Illinois University’s Office of Student Activities points to leadership development, scholarship, campus involvement, and networking as some of the valuable aspects of fraternity/sorority life. As a recruiter who has worked with nearly 300 hiring managers, I can tell you that these folks love to see students and recent college grads with those kinds of qualities. As fraternity or sorority members, these individuals gained access to the tools to compete for great career opportunities from the day they were initiated. But did they incorporate this into their personal brand?
If you only remember one thing from this piece remember that fraternity/sorority life puts you under the personal branding microscope. Think about it. Your letters make you a walking billboard. Even if you don’t wear your Greek gear every day, your peers are fully aware that you are a member of a fraternity or sorority. When I was in the process of becoming a member of my fraternity, one of my big brothers gave our group our first lesson on personal branding. He said, “If you don’t wash your hands after using the bathroom while wearing your letters, the other guys won’t say ‘Eddie didn’t wash his hands,’ they’ll say, ‘That Alpha didn’t wash his hands!’” I realized that the relationship between what I am, as a fraternity member, and who I am, as Eddie, has to be symbiotic.
Your Future Is Now
Your personal brand, especially as a fraternity or sorority member, is currently under observation by leaders in the workforce. In my conversations with hiring managers, I consistently hear them mention that they are always on the lookout for future leaders. It doesn’t stop with hiring managers. Leaders of multinational organizations — whether they are private companies, organizations, or institutions — are fully aware they must identify the next crop of global leaders to keep their organizations successful. They are looking to colleges and universities around the world, but America’s institutions also attract highly coveted talent from around the world. That includes you.
Social Media and Your Personal Brand
For the past few years, members of the human resources community have debated employers’ use of social media to evaluate talent. The Society for Human Resource Management warns that employers may encounter legal challenges in using social media to vet potential talent, but organizations have actually increased their use of social media during the recruitment process. According to a 2017 survey by CareerBuilder and Harris Poll, 70 percent of the hiring managers and HR professionals surveyed use social media to screen job candidates. That is a 10 percent jump from 2016.
While we can argue the ethics or legality of using social media during the recruitment process, one thing is certain — organizations are protecting their brands. In fact, put yourself in the hiring managers’ shoes. Put yourself in a CEO’s shoes! If a candidate’s personal brand shows up as clean, professional, intelligent, and ethical in the interview; and video of that very same candidate publicly harassing someone goes viral, what would you think? Let’s take it further, if that candidate was seen in the video within a fraternity or sorority harassing someone, what would you think of both the personal brands of all seen in that video?
You’re Not Too Young to Have a Personal Brand
One of the most common misconceptions about personal branding is that it is based on titles, credentials, or popularity. The University of Iowa’s Pomerantz Center for Leadership and Career Advancement sees deeper value in personal branding in recognizing there are factors that: make you shine, provide a foundation to carve out your niche by using your major, provide opportunities to engage in campus life, network, and give you content for your online presence. You’re in a fraternity or sorority because people saw things about you that differentiate you from other students on campus.
While being a fraternity/sorority member gives you an advantage, it doesn’t mean you will corner the job market. After all, there are other great campus leaders competing for the same opportunities. With some of the negative press out there about fraternity and sorority members, you may even have to work harder than other students. As the saying goes, “None of the secrets of success will work unless you do.”
Your fraternity’s or sorority’s aims and ideals provide a foundation for you to set yourself apart. So, be cognizant of how you represent yourself. While others are simply trying to get a job, your personal brand communicates that you are the future and employers should take notice.
Eddie Francis is a talent acquisition professional, speaker, blogger, and active member of Alpha Phi Alpha. He has written about fraternity/sorority life for The Huffington Post, Watch the Yard, LinkedIn, HBCU Lifestyle, and publishes the Black Greek Success Blog. He also contributed to College Summit’s #BeAGrad Twitter chat about fraternity/sorority life and Al Jazeera America’s social media chat about fraternity hazing. Eddie earned his Bachelor of Arts in mass communication from Loyola University New Orleans and is pursuing his Master of Professional Studies in strategic leadership from Tennessee State University. He is a board member of the Purposeful Philanthropy Foundation which was founded by his wife and Zeta Phi Beta member Halima Leak Francis, Ph.D.