As Jess and I made our tour of sorority conventions this summer I had the opportunity to see and chat with many unique, eloquent, intelligent and incredibly diverse women. I loved talking through their challenges and brainstorming together what the best strategy for attacking recruitment this fall might be.
However, one of the most disheartening conversations happened with a chapter president early on. She shared with me that the formal recruitment timeframe was one of the most challenging and frustrating times of the year for her chapter.
She went on to explain that her chapter struggled to find a theme that was “edgy” and competitive, and she was convinced that the clothing selection wasn’t “girly” enough. They’d thrown out all the previous ideas and were replacing a few of their work-week activities to focus on outfit selection and theme ideas. This was clearly important to them, and it showed.
I asked her what their new theme ideas were, she replied “Barbie” for one round among other ideas. Then I asked what their outfit selection looked like and she replied “Barbie outfits that help describe a members personality, you know if she plays tennis – she’ll be Tennis Barbie.”
O.K., to be honest, at this point it took a significant amount of self-control to not explode about why that was a bad idea. And to be fair, you might be wondering why was I frustrated and challenged? Some might even be jotting down the Barbie idea, thinking WHOA – amazing! My issue isn’t with Barbie, in fact I was quite fond of her growing up. So let me explain.
This woman poured her heart out to me about her chapter. She described a group of women that were passionate about service and giving of themselves. A group of women that were in love with their sisterhood and willing to do the work to continue to develop each other both personally and professionally. A group of women that would’ve likely never found each other, but their sorority had built a support system and changed their lives. Amazing, right?
Yet these amazing women were so worried about their “costumes” and how they would tell the story of who they are via their outfits- that they’d forgotten that the BEST way to portray the best version of yourself is to be authentically you.
Connect with potential members through powerful conversations and let go of the idea that our “costumes” that we wear during formal recruitment are the best avenue to tell our story. Don’t leave that up to your wardrobe. Be intentional about setting aside time during your recruitment preparation to practice telling the story of why you joined and what being a member means to you. Practice listening. Practice asking thought provoking questions and most important practice creating an environment where both you and the potential new member can be yourselves.
Let me be clear, there is a time and a place to be concerned about how our outward appearance reflects our inner beauty. We should all strive to be put together and give the best first impression possible, and yes, sometimes this involves Spanx. Having said that—while wearing Spanx or not, make sure you are embracing your chapters identity and not trying to portray something you aren’t.
You see, before me stood an amazing, beautiful, intelligent woman that was dressed head to toe in fashionable, yet edgy, clothing. (Think Rachel Bilson, post the OC.) She had a very beautiful and artistically done tattoo on the inside of her left wrist, and had a rockin’ lip piercing. This woman and the other women in her chapter that I’d met clearly had no desire to identify with Barbie in their real lives. I couldn’t fathom why they’d chosen Barbie, something so far from who they were, to market themselves. I shared this thought with her and, thankfully, we had a good laugh.
Don’t hide who you truly are behind costumes and themes this fall. Be you. Be the best version of you. Be authentic.