By Brittany White
One of my favorite things we teach at Phired Up is this simple message: People don’t join organizations. People join people.
On our Dynamic Recruitment Assessment we ask the question, “Which of the recruitment methods listed below would most members say is the primary reason they joined your group?” Almost half of the respondents said Relationships. Relationships were indicated more than the events of formalized recruitment processes, our t-shirts, or our events. The relationships we build in our organizations continue to be the largest indicator of membership joining practice.
The word relationship is typically associated with romantic relationships. However, this word in the context of our fraternal organizations implies a more significant connection that is deep and meaningful. These strong personal connections to others are ultimately why I think we choose to join fraternal organizations We join because we have found a significant connection that we like to call a relationship which eventually turns into brotherhood and sisterhood.
Consider this: every time we host a potential member, we have the opportunity to create a new relationship with someone that we have likely never met. Recruitment is our opportunity to make friends with so many of the new men and women on campus. Whether they join our organization or not, we are still allowed to maintain a friendship with them.
Each of us has that one (maybe more) person that we created a relationship with and is the reason why we joined our organization. What would recruitment look like if every recruiter entered a conversation with a potential member with the attitude of just making a friend and creating a relationship? Would it allow us to worry less about making a good impression or covering our specific “talking points”? Would it allow us to focus more on developing a relationship that could cause more people to want to join us as people – and coincidentally join our organization? Here are three things we can implement to help build relationships.
1. Learn their story. Everyone has a story to share with the world. We don’t have to constantly stress about what questions we need to ask them or what information we need to share. Be present with the person that you are having a conversation with so that you can truly listen to what they have to tell you about them. We have gotten in the habit of spending far too much time talking about ourselves and we don’t take the time to learn the story of the person we are meeting with, a person who will potentially be our brother or sister.
2. Be authentic. We can’t form a relationship if we are not being who we really are. At some point in our lives, we have all encountered someone who we feel like is really “fake”. Those interactions are never fun and we tend to walk away exhausted. We want Potential New Members (PNMs) to like us and to like our organization, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of who we authentically are. True authenticity is about knowing who you are and what you are all about and not wavering from that to please someone else.
3. Be vulnerable. When we think about relationships and the reason we connect with people on a deep, meaningful level, we tend to find that at some point in that conversation we shared something that made us vulnerable. Vulnerability allows us to connect with people on a deeper level, but we have to have the courage to be vulnerable first with people. My favorite author and personal spirit animal, Brene Brown says, “Connection is why we are here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” Through vulnerability we can establish deep, meaningful relationships. Being vulnerable is not about spilling all of your guts every conversation; it’s about sharing a little bit of you to connect with another person.
Hopefully these things will encourage you to spend less time focusing on hosting the perfect event or finding the perfect tabling spot for your organization, and instead encourage your efforts towards the ways in which you build relationships. Remember: people don’t join organizations. People join people. People join YOU.
By Brittany White
Phired Up Productions has an ongoing Dynamic Recruitment Assessment to gather more information about the recruitment strategies of fraternities and sororities. We receive responses daily, and at our last analysis of over 1300 students from across the country, one of the responses that struck me answered the question “how much of your recruitment process clearly reflects your values?” Our respondents indicated less than half of their recruitment process clearly reflects our values.
We drop the word “values” all the time. We emphasize our values within our membership, but we still haven’t created a recruitment process that reflects our values. We understand our organization’s values, but we don’t talk about our values as a chapter or our values as individuals and how our organization shapes our values. Sometimes I think this task is easier said than done, so I wanted to share some tips on ways to implement and translate our values into our recruitment process. These tips certainly won’t cover all of our values, but hopefully will get your brain buzzing about other ways that you can infuse values into your recruitment process.
Every women’s fraternal organization has a value relevant to sisterhood and/or friendship. As we transition away from “skit” rounds, many communities are implementing a “sisterhood” round. One way that we can infuse our values into our recruitment is by using candid moments with our sisters and compiling those into a video – instead of a recruitment video that is staged and professionally recorded for us. Most college students have SnapChat these days. Many of us post pictures and videos with our sisters on our SnapChat and can easily save that fun, candid moment to put into a montage for later to show during recruitment.
Another creative way to infuse a shared value of scholarship and intellectual development is to use our sister’s “A papers” to make our decorations during recruitment. Instead of showing boards with information about all of our women who are in honor societies and talking about the GPA requirements of our chapter – we can utilize this simple thing to showcase that grades matter to us. During recruitment, we can ask our sisters to wear a special pin that indicates if they are on the Dean’s List or Honor Roll. When the Chapter President or Recruitment Chair welcomes Potential New Members (PNMs) back to our house, we can mention that we are proud of the academic accomplishments these pins represent. It’s a super easy way to be more reflective of our values. It also doesn’t require us to spew facts and figures about every honor society our members are in, or all of the scholarships they have received. These are visible ways that we are demonstrating what is important to us.
I think most national organizations value life-long commitment. A cool way to demonstrate life long commitment may be for us to pull out an old composite and hang it during recruitment and have a chapter member tell a story about a rewarding experience she had with one of our most engaged alumnae.
Let’s take it a step further, though. We need to spend time identifying the values that apply specifically to our chapter and our members. What makes our chapter different? In our recruitment workshops, we need to have conversations centering around this point. Many of us take time during recruitment to love on ourselves and talk about our identity as a chapter on our campus. In order for us ensure that we are continually reflecting our values during recruitment, it is incredibly important for us to identify the things we value that are unique to our chapter.
Once we understand our organizational values, our specific chapter values, and the values that we hope our new members hold, we need to identify the best ways to communicate those values in our conversations. I wrote a blog about how to have more values based conversations. Longer and more intentional conversations can allow for more values-based conversations between members and PNMs – we can talk about the organization’s values, our chapter’s values, what is important to us personally, and get to know what the PNM’s cares about and what matters to her. It’s just as important for us to understand the PNMs values as it is for us to share our values with her.
I think there are so many ways that we can utilize our values in our recruitment process. It might just require some thinking outside of the box. It is becoming more and more important for us to know and understand what’s important to us, how the values of our organization impact us, and the ways in which we live our values out loud. Our values aren’t just words but rather guidelines that we choose to live by.
What are some ways that you and your campus community are doing to reflect your values during your sorority recruitment process? We would love to hear about them. Just tag @PhiredUp on Twitter or PhiredUpProductions on Instagram to show us your ideas!
By Brittany White
As we talk more and more about implementing Values-Based Recruitment, it’s important for us to ensure that our Potential New Members (PNMs) understand what it means too. When I was on Panhellenic Council, I remember struggling to watch PNMs make decisions about a chapter based on frivolous things – like a rumor they had heard about the chapter or women in the chapter, or which chapter gave them more “social” capital. So from my experience, I can understand why PNMs struggle to determine what their values-based criteria for selecting a chapter should be. I could have used some guidance in what the expectations were of me as a member, and the questions that I needed to be asking chapters to find a group of women that I fit in with.
This list of “Five Ways to Help Potential Members Find Their Perfect Sorority” was not given to me when truly I could have used the suggestions during recruitment. My hope is that Panhellenic officers and Recruitment Counselors will take these strategies to help the PNMs on their campuses.. I would have benefitted from a personal system that helped me choose a chapter rather than just using my gut or best guess in the heat of the moment.
1) Help them determine what they want out of their sorority experience.
It’s important for PNMs to know what they are looking to gain from this experience – whether it be sisterhood, leadership opportunities, academics, etc. If a PNM is passionate about volunteering and giving back to the community, then we need to make sure that they are gathering information at each chapter about each chapter’s philanthropic efforts. If a PNM is looking for leadership opportunities, then it’s important for them to ask questions about women who hold office in the chapter or women who lead other organizations on campus. We also need to prepare PNMs that sorority women will probably ask them what they are looking for in their sorority experience so the chapter can ensure that they can meet their needs.
2) Help them identify their values.
We aren’t calling it values-based recruitment for nothing. If you are anything like me when I was 18 and heading off to college – I had ZERO idea what my values were, let alone how to determine them. Never fear, there are plenty of places on the Internet to help get PNM’s mind jogging (like Phired Up’s Values Bracket). We can help PNMs determine values by giving them a prompt. For example, think about a time in your life that made a significant impact on you (good or bad) and what some of the values and lessons were that you learned from that experience.
3) Provide PNMs with some reflection questions
It’s important for PNMs to have some reflective prep time for values-based conversations. They might get asked, “Tell me something that you are passionate about…” If they have never thought about it before – that’s a tough question. The goal of asking reflection questions is to help them identify qualities, experiences, and values that they possess which sorority women might ask them about. We don’t want them to be floored by any deep questions, but we also want chapter members to engage in intentional, values-based conversation. Panhellenic officers can send reflection prompts in a mass email leading up to recruitment or put them in the PNM Guide. It’s important that these reflective responses remain confidential. We wouldn’t want anyone to read our diary, so we shouldn’t read a PNMs either. Here are a few examples of some reflective prompts for PNMs:
4) Provide PNMs with some questions to ask
When I went through recruitment, I didn’t think I was allowed to ask questions. However, it is so important that PNMs ask questions to the sorority women in each chapter relevant to their values, and what they are looking for in a sorority. Once we have helped them to identify their values, we can walk them through some questions that they can ask sorority women to get a better understanding of each chapter.
5) Help them to establish their criteria
Once they have gathered their values, reflections, and questions it’s important to help them create a criteria. It will be the same for every chapter and as they go through the recruitment process. Recruitment Counselors and Panhellenic officers can encourage them to write about each chapter. So it might look something like this for PNMs:
As they go throughout recruitment they will continue to make notes by each of their criteria. For example:
Encourage PNMs to make short hand notes because it might be easier. They may not have time to write a novel, but they can come back to their short hand notes and expand on them later.
By using these five tips, PNMs can create a criteria that is tailored specifically to their values during the recruitment process. Encouraging them to use these as a baseline will certainly help them find the organization that is best suited for their growth that they will love and enjoy!
Need some help implementing this stuff? We are here to help!
By Brittany White
When I went through recruitment, I had no idea what the sorority women were going to ask me. I had no idea that I could ask them things. I feel like every conversation surfaced around the same questions: Where are you from? What’s your major? What dorm do you live in? Who do you live with? These were superficial questions that didn’t really matter. We live in a world where so many of our first interactions with people happen over technology. The fact that we are growing up in an age where technology is our vehicle means that we aren’t always trained to be comfortable with in-person conversations. As this becomes more and more evident, I think it has become even more critical that we help our Potential New Member (PNMs) prepare for conversations in recruitment.
As Panhellenic communities across the country implement values-based recruitment practices, I want to take some time and focus on the PNM’s role in values-based conversations during recruitment. Unfortunately, I think my experience in recruitment suffered because I wasn’t prepared for my conversations with sorority women. Formal recruitment is built for extroverts to succeed because for many extroverts it is very easy to jump into a conversation with a stranger. However, for the other women in recruitment that may not be super comfortable, it’s important that we provide some tips and training for all PNMs so that they are able to carry on a conversation. Mostly, I want to help since when I went through recruitment I had no clue what was going on and it was awkward. Ultimately we are doing PNMs a disservice by not training them for conversations. Here are three ways we can do better:
1. Have PNMs ask more questions. We have the opportunity to start encouraging PNMs to ask questions to chapter members. Our process isn’t an interview. However, our chapter members are trained to ask questions and get to know the PNM. We need to provide training for the PNMs about how to ask relevant questions about each chapter so they can better understand the women and the organization.
Remember, recruitment is about creating relationships. Relationships are a two way street.
2. Make Better Use of Recruitment Booklets. So many Panhellenic communities print booklets for PNMs with information about the community and each chapter. We should consider utilizing these as a method of training for the PNMs – particularly in conversations. Our booklets give us a vessel to provide reflection questions for the PNMs to answer that are relevant to our values-based recruitment systems. It’s important for us to give PNMs the tools necessary to prepare for their values-based conversations, and our reflection questions can be a great way to help them. Reflective questions will give them opportunity to think about relevant discussion topics for their conversations.
3. Intentionally explain what Values-Based Recruitment really means. Once PNMs have arrived for recruitment (and hopefully have done their reflection questions), we can provide some tips about values based conversations, what to expect in them, and how these values conversations will benefit our overall recruitment process. The word values can be intimidating for PNMs, so it’s important for us to take the time to explain what it means for them and provide them the tools to be successful in those conversations. Our training can also include some tips about how to stay away from superficial conversations. We train our chapters to have deep meaningful conversations and we want our PNMs to understand that those conversations are encouraged.
Our conversations are vital components throughout our process and to values based recruitment. In order for our PNMs to connect with our chapter members, their conversations are critical. That makes it critical for us as sorority women to take the time to help our PNMs understand the importance and value of their conversations, and give them a little guidance on how to do it.
By KJ McNamara
Feelings of depression, anxiety, and issues with self-esteem… are they a reflection of sorority recruitment, or words to describe the life of an 18 year-old girl? For me, and millions of other young women, it was a reflection of both.
The recruitment process causes heightened levels of anxiety for many women who participate. It does in the same way that applying for college increases levels of anxiety, the same way that fear of rejection can cause us to feel depressed, and the same way being in middle school can lend itself to issues of self-esteem. Leaving your family for the first time causes these emotions. Trying out for a sports team causes these feelings. Dating causes these emotions. For many, daily life can cause anxiety, depression and lower self-esteem.
Going through my own recruitment process I had a phenomenal support system waiting back at home for me. My mother is a professionally trained counselor who spent an entire week sitting by the phone at night waiting for her baby to call with any news. My recruitment was ‘successful.’ I received my number one pick from preference, but that does not mean it was all rainbows and butterflies along the way.
For the most part I had a perfect resume for a Potential New Member (PNM) minus the fact that I was not a legacy to any chapter, which was not a deal breaker at Washington State (or any of the Pac-12 Schools for that matter). I was in the top 5% of my high school graduating class. I had hours of community service, served as captain of the cheerleading team, president of DECA, and volunteer coordinator for National Honor Society. Minus a pretty dramatic hair dye job my childhood friend and I shared together the summer before college, I am confident my pre-rank score was on point. But I still remember the first woman who was rude to me. I remember her hair, her name, and her shoes. Like a picture. I remember the first stonewall being built around my heart in sorority recruitment.
I remember sitting outside of Delta Delta Delta on Philanthropy day and hearing stories of family wealth that I had no idea existed. I remember being ‘cut’ or released from my top pick going into preference. I wanted to be in that chapter because my incredibly intelligent and developed high school boyfriend told me it was the ‘hot chapter’ (He was a year older me, and already went to WSU and joined a fraternity). I remember desperately wanting to be pretty, beautiful and perceived as hot in college. I was always a late bloomer/ugly duckling (I drove myself to get braces – and wore them to my senior prom). So, I just wanted to arrive.
There was a lot of anxiety wrapped up in sorority recruitment for me. I wanted to be good enough. I wanted to be understood. I wanted to win, because I have always been competitive. Mostly, I wanted to find where I belonged.
As a junior and senior in high school, I knew my chances. I went to a small school and the probability of someone like me succeeding at a large state-funded institution was dismal. I heard horror stories of women in my older sister’s high school class having panic attacks at the University of Washington because they were now a small fish and they just could not hack it. My own older sister selected a small private school because of the warnings we heard about those scary large schools. I saw this as a challenge. I read in every college prep book to get involved. During each of my college tours the tour guide would say going Greek was a great way to make a large campus feel smaller. I had found my in. I did not join to increase my self-esteem… I joined to belong.
Being rejected from my top pick rattled off a downward spiral in my brain of negative self talk, starting with, “Maybe you did not wear the right thing.” This quickly transpired to, “You are not very funny, you are not that cool, you really are not that pretty, your parents do not make enough money, you are not a top person… why would you be in a top chapter?” That lasted for about 98 seconds, because I was being scooted in my dress and heels to preference day ceremonies (finally sans braces).
If you had asked me in that moment if I was depressed, I would have said “yes”. I also experienced anxiety because I did not think my Recruitment Counselor liked me as much as the others. I hated that. It gave me more anxiety because I knew there were girls in my group who were texting their friends from other chapters – and that was against the rules. I was also experiencing anxiety because I knew through the grapevine that my boyfriend had cheated on me with MULTIPLE people at WSU who were in sororities, and it was AWFUL trying to navigate the conversations and figure out which chapter was which so I would not join a chapter and be immediately ostracized! These are not just sorority recruitment problems. They are problems that sadly, some portion of 18 year-old freshmen experience every year. They are the problems of an 18 year-old female who is a competitive achiever.
Like I said before I got my number one pick from preference… but not overall. Which, in all honesty, has been the BEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO ME. Bid day started out amazing and ended terribly… with me crying alone.
Three weeks after bid day I broke up with my boyfriend (he was in a really “good” fraternity on campus… but lets be clear there are plenty of fish in the sea). Homecoming happened, and it was amazing. We had “the Freshmen talk” as a pledge class where the executive board come into our meeting and yell at us about how we are “THE WORST pledge class ever” and how we party WAY too much. Mostly they told us that they worked too hard on our chapter’s reputation for us to destroy it and we had to shape up. None of that could have prepared me for what was coming next.
My first semester, I felt constantly alone. I felt exhausted, dancing 10 – 15 hours a week, taking 15 credit hours. I remember walking home to my residence hall after dance feeling dizzy, exhausted, burnt out, and just not having the energy or stamina to go to a lonely dining hall and eat all by myself. I did not become anti-social, but I became tired. I lost about 15 pounds and 3 pant sizes. It was pretty traditional depression. Not being able to run down from your bedroom and eat with your parents kind of stuff. Not seeing your Mom right before you go to bed, or having your Dad come into your room every morning and kiss you goodbye before he went to work. It was the loneliness that tormented every other person at my school at some point.
The day that saved me was the day our Chapter President Ashley announced in her first ever chapter meeting that there were 6 spots opening up in the chapter house for anyone who wanted to move in. In order to move in you had to have points, and if there was a specific reason then you had to submit those reasons ASAP. I went up to Ashley after meeting and begged, pleaded and cried to her… Little did I know I had the highest points allowance of anyone in my pledge class.
I moved in on January 6th. I immediately gained the weight back and a few extra pounds. When I was lonely I walked downstairs. My grades decreased a little but bounced right back up after that semester. For the most part, Kappa Delta saved me. I continued to suffer from self-esteem issues with my body image, dating, imposter syndrome, and the overall fear that I was not good enough. That was not Kappa Delta, or Washington State University’s Panhellenic system… that was me, that was my environment, and mostly that was being a girl growing up in America. This is how it feels to be a girl. This is not a result of sorority.
We criticize sorority for hurting the self-esteem of our young women. We say recruitment causes anxiety, depression and lack of connection for joiners and our would be joiners but we don’t criticize Universities for creating the same emotions because they are prestigious organizations that are only accepting of the best. Maybe we are that as sorority, too. It is not our job to accept everyone. Some people are going to feel rejected. I felt rejected when I was declined by the University of Washington for graduate school. It took me two months to bounce back. Do we see any similarities?
We cannot protect you from the rain, we cannot protect you from the dark, we cannot prevent the sadness and loneliness that comes with college, and from living a full-hearted life!, However, sorority, will be here when the rain clouds darken your life. We will be here when the wind howls at your door. We will be here when the rain soaks your soul. And we will be here when you are not healthy, happy and confident. We will hold you in the dark and tell you to hold on.
I did not join sorority to never feel pain, anxiety, depression, sadness, or fear. I joined a sorority so when those emotions did set in I had a support system to get me through it… and Kappa Delta did. It did all of that and more.