Sunday, July 16, 2017

Black, Corporate and Greek: Part 1 (The Resume)

Membership in professional and social organizations can be a great way to network, scout out new career opportunities, and to actually make meaningful connections with other people within your industry and across industries. These organizations can be cause-related, general society groups or industry-specific. This post is the first of a series which specifically takes a look at Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) and Black Corporate culture. These are sororities and fraternities whose memberships consist primarily of college-educated Black people, mostly professionals and many Black Corporates.


My sorority is on my resume. When I was in grad school, my career adviser, a black woman, suggested that I remove it. I heard her explanation and considered her advice, but I decided that in my relationship-based profession, it was it more useful than harmful. The below describes some of the pros and cons of including a BGLO on a resume and best practices for including it.

Reasons to include your Greek Affiliation
  • Create a connection with your resume reviewer: If your reviewer has a positive association with BGLOs, the reviewer may view your resume more favorably or better remember your resume. The odds are more in your favor that this will be the case give the numbers of political leaders, scholars and artists who are members of BGLOs and the impact that many chapters have on their local communities.
  • Emphasize Community Service: Good corporate citizenship is en vogue. Companies want to hire good people who do good work. Community service signals selflessness, compassion and dedication to a cause.
  • Highlight Involvement and Leadership: Most companies want a team player who is willing to be involved and committed beyond business hours. By showing involvement and leadership outside of your academic and professional pursuits, you show a willingness to contribute. You signal to potential employers that you are more likely to join and even lead company committees and initiatives. 
Reasons not to include your Greek Affiliation
  • Alienate your resume reviewer: Maybe your reviewer dated someone in a BGLO and things did not end well, maybe your reviewer sought membership and didn't get in, or maybe your reviewer has only seen Burning Sands and has no real context for Black Greek life.... Any of those situations and others could cause your interviewer to prejudice your resume if you choose to include your affiliation. However, this "negative association" risk could be true for any affiliation you may include on your resume, including your alma mater.
  • Being perceived as less mature: Highlighting your Greek affiliation could cause an uninformed interviewer to conclude that you are immature and have not let go of the glory days of college. This is partially due to the party and prank culture of fraternities and sororities displayed in popular culture, e.g. Neighbors.
  • Space: Once your resume reaches a space limit you will need to start removing items that are less relevant to your desired role, the space taken up by your Greek affiliation may be better used.
If you do decide to include your affiliation on your resume, you have a few options about where to include it:
Where to include your Greek Affiliations

Activities: My sorority is listed under my college activities in the education section of my resume because I was chapter president in college and actively involved in the community around my school. I am still financial and actively involved in my sorority on a more minor scale. Listing my sorority under my college activities acknowledges it for a reviewer, but it is not a major component of my resume.

Leadership Experience: If you are currently holding a leadership role or leading a major project within your organization and you have room on your resume (maybe you’ve only had one or two jobs), you can set out the experience as a separate section and describe it in detail like you would any other role. The goal is to describe the role in a way that highlights leadership and relevant experience for the role for which you are applying. For example, being the Financial Officer or Treasurer may be good to highlight for an accounting position.

Professional Affiliations: If this is the only professional organization you are affiliated with, 1. don’t include it under this heading and 2. join some professional organizations in your industry or desired industry. If you are a member of other relevant professional organizations, you can include your BGLO within the list. Try a list of 2-4 organizations. Any longer list looks like you are a serial organization joiner and not really committed. 

Where do you come out? Is your fraternity or sorority on your resume?

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