Friday, April 16, 2010

Networking and Hazing

This is a guest blog post from Tracy Maxwell, Executive Director of

Networking has always been one of the biggest selling points of fraternity/sorority membership. The instant connection of the same affiliation can indeed get your foot in the door mainly because the employer can identify with and knows the value of your experience. However, wearing the same letters alone will not land you the job. YOU must have something to offer.

When I was a Greek Advisor, I used to chuckle about students who ran for leadership positions solely for resume padding. You can spot them a mile away. They don’t really have any fresh ideas or enthusiasm for the position, the often skip meetings and events, and they don’t garner the respect of their peers. These days, I imagine it is more difficult for these types to get elected to or stay in office for long.

They were missing the point anyway. It wasn’t about having something else to list on your resume. Like the network, the resume just gets you the opportunity to earn a job. Most interviewers will want to hear what you DID in the positions you held; how you improved or grew or created something. They will even ask what you learned from your failures, and unless you never took any risks at all, you will have some to share.

Since my work is about hazing prevention and I was given this opportunity to blog on that topic, you might wonder how this relates. I will tell you. If you are into hazing, you likely spend a great deal of time thinking up new activities, carrying out traditional ones or keeping people in line and making sure they stay mum about organization secrets. You have probably honed some authoritarian tendencies from this practice, and possibly even have a highly developed sense of creativity. However, you can’t share any of that in a job interview.

Try explaining the “special bond” that comes from surviving something difficult together like crawling through mud in the dark while holding a brick, or sitting bare-assed on a block of ice for as long as you can, or helping each other finish a handle of vodka in under five minutes. These are not the anecdotes you share with a potential employer.

Consider the fact that hazing is illegal in most states, and if you’re ever caught and actually charged with anything – as more and more students are learning these days – the criminal record you now have can seriously hinder your job search or even prevent you from attaining professional credentials such as M.D., J.D., C.P.A. or others. Nevermind that you majored in, and earned a degree in accounting, you can’t be a C.P.A. now with a criminal record.

On top of that, most employers will not be impressed by stories of torture and abuse no matter how creative or “educational” you have deemed it. You won’t tell anyone outside the confines of your organization about what is going on behind closed doors, you certainly aren’t going to brag about it in an interview. Further, I’m guessing the huge amount of time you spend thinking up and carrying out creative hazing activities or administering hell week, probably keeps you from being that involved on campus or holding any leadership positions that you can actually learn from and talk about.

When I began working in higher education, for many years in fraternity/sorority life, I realized that my “network” stretched far beyond my own affiliation. I was reminded of this recently when I connected a friend looking for a new career to several other friends and colleagues in cities he was interested in living. Even though I hadn’t seen him in several years and our connection was fairly limited even when we did know each other, a former colleague responded very enthusiastically to my request for help. As we chatted a bit through Facebook, he shared this story of why he was so eager to help my friend who had worked for a presidential campaign, on capitol hill and as a consultant for his fraternity.

I have to tell you, the first job after HQ/Grad School I applied for, I interviewed with the VP for University Advancement. It was a five PM meeting, I walked in and sat down, we chatted for about three minutes and then he said something I'll never forget:

"There's two kinds of people I never pass up the chance to hire, people who've worked on the Hill, and people who've worked for their fraternity. You can't match their professionalism or their passion." Then he offered me the job.

Professionalism and passion are both key to career success. You can certainly have a passion for hazing, and believe in the power of that experience to toughen people up and make them good members and better people (and many, many hazers and formerly hazed will say the experience did just that for them). You can spend an inordinate amount of time on hazing too. Time, in my opinion, that could be much better spent doing something good for society, serving in a visible leadership position and networking on campus, or developing new leadership skills that you can use to land you a job. The latter activities develop professionalism. Screaming obscenities and calling new members maggots does not.

In this tough economy where jobs are scarce, and many are out of work, which of these people do you want to be when you go into a job interview?

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