Heading into graduate school, I was fortunate to know the functional area I wanted to work in. My experience in fraternity and sorority life during my undergraduate years played a large role in who I was as a person and who I wanted to be. Myself and my peers were positively impacted by the fraternity and sorority life staff and that was an impact I wanted to make on students.
During my time in graduate school, I learned the trends of when fraternity and sorority life positions opened during the year, the proper places to look, and what to do to make sure I was prepared for when positions opened. I felt prepared with the experience I had in my graduate assistantship and the support from various mentors in the field. Spring semester of 2020 started and I was ready to land a job before my final semester ended in May. I applied to positions that I was interested in and was particular in various aspects of the position such as the university, the council they advised, and where in the country it was located.
I was feeling confident in my search until March came around and COVID-19 shook higher education. The more “We’d love to interview you but we are on a hiring freeze” emails I received, the more discouraged I felt. From April to June, any position that was open regardless of location, institution or organization, and position, I applied for. The rejection letters that came, while normal in any job search, hurt that much more because it was one less opportunity on the table for me to take that next step into my career in fraternity and sorority life.
In my mass desperation for a job, I applied for a position at a fraternity headquarters. I wanted to work with fraternity men, but the job description of working with harm reduction was not something that excited me. To no surprise, I did not make it past the first round but was encouraged to apply for an open position with the organization. After much hesitation, and many cold calls from team members, I applied and landed the job.
As one of the first two females working in a coaching role with chapters for this organization, I knew that there would be barriers that I would have to overcome. There was the unknown of how my degree would help me in this new role but now 4 months into my role, I have never felt more prepared. I was prepared to connect with the fraternity men I work with and build rapport. That rapport allowed me to push them outside of their comfort zone to be better. Working on a campus at the beginning of COVID allowed me to help them think outside of the box not just in the current circumstances but also moving forward. What I was not prepared for was the impact these men would have on me. Having the education to work with students from various backgrounds set me up for success to show these men that they can be better and they can improve the fraternity experience. These men push me every day to be a better professional, to learn, to adapt, and to find that balance between empathy and strictness.
I won’t sugar coat it, the job search is difficult. However, the job search does not define you or your worth as a professional. Whether it’s at an institution or an adjacent field, you can still make a positive impact on students that will last a lifetime.
Author: Lauren Stills (she/her/hers) works as an Expansion Development Specialist at Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. Lauren works weekly with existing groups to advise them through fraternity operations as well as creating and facilitating educational content for new expansion projects. She loves coffee, working out, and exploring the new state she lives in.