Greeks find career boosts through networking
Fraternity and sorority members report gaining significant career advantages from participating in greek organizations, which tout the networking benefits that they provide.
The University’s 16 Interfraternity Council fraternities and 9 Panhellenic Association sororities, among other selective living groups and business-oriented fraternities on campus, offer a number of programs and other opportunities to connect current students with alumni established in various fields. After graduation, fraternity and sorority alumni report lasting benefits from the greek system even receiving assistance from alumni who had long retired or had been in chapters from different universities.
“There are about 1,500 Sigma Nu brothers from Duke, which is already a big network,” said David Mainella, advisor for Sigma Nu. “Then you consider all the Sigma Nus in the country, and that adds on another 175,000 people you can spend some time on the phone or grab lunch with. That really shows the power of the network.”
Among a variety of programs, Sigma Nu offers a program for current sophomores interested in careers in finance. The program includes opportunities to shadow Sigma Nu alumni working in the field, a networking dinner and a three-hour seminar, with all expenses paid. The program is an enormous benefit to current Sigma Nu members, Mainella said, because the students who participate are then able to launch their careers with a solid base of contacts.
Alice Williamson, advisor for the Chi Omega sorority, said sororities also offered a variety of networking programs for students, especially those interested in engineering, medicine, law, business and tax careers. She added that greek networks could benefit alumni in any field, age or background.
“[The age range] is from 22 to 102, basically,” Williamson said. “There are women in their 50s and 60s who have ended their careers and are still willing to help. It’s huge resource to be able to tap into.”
Williamson noted that greek networking extended beyond boundaries between individual sororities and fraternities. Simply having participated in the greek system could help establish a connection between alumni of different fraternities and sororities.
“A lot of people interviewing have ties to the greek system,” Williamson said. “It could be like a man who was in a fraternity, but the connection is still there. The connection might not be there for somebody who hasn’t been in the greek system.”
Junior Kate Preston, incoming president of the Panhellenic Association, said the strongest alumni connections for juniors and seniors are with women who have graduated recently.
Networking benefits also extended beyond career opportunities, noted junior Eddie Chen, treasurer for the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity.
“A person in the fraternity was looking for housing in a city,” Chen said. “She posted on the national Facebook page for it and received like four different responses, offering her opportunities to share a lease, sleep on the couch or become roommates. It was awesome.”
Christian Horazeck, advisor for the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, said in an email that although greek organizations provided a network for alumni, the purpose of the network was to “ease first contact,” and it was up to individual members to initiate the connection process.
“Very few alums will come to the chapter and offer a position to anyone interested,” Horazeck said. “At the same time, most will be happy to help out those who seek them out.”
Horazeck added that while networking did not always lead to immediate job opportunities, connecting with alumni in certain pre-professional fields could be useful for gaining career insight and advice.
“While no alumnus will get you into medical or law school, they know what characteristics schools are looking for, which doctors to shadow, what courses to take and which administrators to talk to,” Horazeck said. “Their advice is often very reliable and up to date.”
Kevin Snyder, advisor for the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, added that the greek system could be very useful or less so, depending on an alumnus’s willingness to make use of his fraternity network.
“It’s not about what choices you make,” Snyder said. “It’s about what you make of those choices.”
Independents counter that networking gains from participation in greek organizations are overplayed and at best, slight.
Senior Danish Husain, an independent, said being in a fraternity was not a "guarantee" for a job and advocated letting relationships form naturally.
"Building relationships—it's like planting a seed," Husain said. "You have to let it grow."
Senior Andrew Yuan, an independent, added that making connections did not have to be done in a formal group and that most students built informal networks every day.
"Networking can be just talking to your group of friends," Yuan said.
Junior Christina Lee, an independent and member of the Duke Association for Business Oriented Women, said that finding a mentor and advocate—whether in a fraternity or sorority or an organization like BOW—was key to networking success.
Although the University’s selective living groups offer networking opportunities as well, the connections between alumni tend to be weaker, said Matthew Campbell, Pratt '08, an administrator of the Brownstone alumni group.
“There’s probably not as much community, which is a downside,” Campbell said.
Senior Annie Helbling, a member of Round Table, said SLGs focused more on personal connections on campus, as opposed to alumni networks after graduation.
"Our focus is more on being here at the school, and our social connection there, and being a family for each other within Duke," Helbling said. "The fact that we’re there for each other after graduation is an amazing byproduct."