As an undergraduate I had a very clear idea of how to plan for life after college: take the LSATS, create a killer resume, get set up with a great recruiter, do some networking and land the perfect job. During the fall semester of my senior year I discovered that, despite my best laid plans, life after college was going to be a little more difficult than I anticipated.
I put together my resume and started the job search. I decided not to list my sorority, fearing it would make me appear as an immature party girl; not the type of professional candidate who deserved a chance in a tough economy. I was also concerned that my affiliation with a local sorority might alienate hiring managers who had been in National groups. I cast a wide net – across different industries and different states – and waited patiently for recruiters to contact me. Instead, I received rejection letters, emails and text messages (yes, text messages).
There was clearly a lot to learn, so I took a job with a company where I had once interned and set out to re-evaluate myself as a candidate. As a member of Zeta Phi Gamma, I had expertise in recruitment, development, project management, event management, peer mediation and fundraising. These experiences should appeal to all types of industries from non-profits to major financial services companies, and the leadership titles might just get me past the screeners!
I started to make some headway, but still wasn’t achieving the desired result. I decided to take a more active role in my job search. Again, I looked back to my sorority experience. In Zeta, I flourished by being creative, being driven and leaning on my support system. So I called a sister to vent my frustrations about the job search. Her reassurance and support gave me a much needed burst of motivation.
Being a part of Zeta helped me realize that getting a job and eventually a career would take more than just ‘showing up’. So I called. I emailed. I got the personal cell phone numbers of my contacts. I left messages. Repeatedly. I dialed from private numbers. I did WHATEVER I could to get someone on the phone.
Once I had them on the line, I did not let go without an appointment. This included settling for ‘informal meetings’ as opposed to real interviews, which turned into real interviews when I showed up with portfolios of my projected business plans for the company.
My sorority experience provided me with the emotional support structure and the skills to tackle the job market and achieve success. But it didn’t come without putting in the work. Had I not showed up to events, helped out with projects, or taken on even the smallest leadership role, membership would have been something I looked back on with nostalgia as opposed to something that changed my life for the better.
Finally, I booked some interviews and approached them with both vigor and nervousness. On one occassion during the elevator ride up to an interview, I found myself silently chanting my sorority creed. It calmed my nerves, and seemed like I was actually listening to it for the first time. I truly believed that I was a strong woman and I really could do anything I put my mind to.
Ultimately, it all paid off and I am excited to bring my sorority experience to a new job and my future career!
Sarah Palagyi is a graduate of the College of Wooster and a member of Zeta Phi Gamma.