Friday, August 16, 2013

Eight Tips for Sorority Recruitment

I am a shameless sorority girl.  I squat at the first sign of a camera.  I've probably spent more money on craft supplies than I have on textbooks.  I scream when I see my sisters, throw the hand sign everywhere I go (Luke Bryan knows what's up), and nearly everything I own either has my letters or my monogram on it.  Sorry I'm not sorry.

So, since my baby sister (whose tips for college life can be found here) is all moved in to college and will be going through recruitment soon, I offer all PNMs (that's potential new members in recruitment lingo), the following tips to make your recruitment experience the best ever (that is, except for every moment you have once you've accepted your bid).

Be Yourself

One of my friends went through recruitment twice: once as a freshman and once as a sophomore.  She rushed twice not because she didn't get in to a sorority the first time (because she did), but because the first time she didn't end up where she needed to be.  (For the record, she ended up exactly where she should have been the second time.)  Lesson number one is always be yourself.  Don't think that you need to act like Elle Woods to get into a sorority (unless you always act like Elle Woods, then go for it).  If you feel like you can't be yourself for a certain group to like you, then it's not the group for you.  Don't fret, you'll find where you're meant to be.  If you're fake when you're rushing, you'll end up in the wrong house with the wrong group of people, and you'll either drop out or be unhappy.  Don't be unhappy.  Be yourself, and you'll find a group of girls that likes you because you're you.

Don't Get Frustrated

You will be asked the same questions over and over again.  Where are you from?  What's your major?  What activities did you do in high school?  What's your favorite movie?  Get used to it and don't get frustrated.  Especially if you're on a big campus, you'll answer these questions at every house.  Be bright and cheerful every time--remember these girls are just getting to know you and you're just getting to know them.  Of course, with the popularity of Pinterest, there are all sorts of ideas floating around for out-of-the-box recruitment questions, so you may get some pretty clever ones that will make that chapter memorable for you.

Learn the Greek Alphabet

At least when I rushed, during the initial rounds each chapter had their letters on their t-shirts.  My school had ten sororities and I found them hard to keep track of.  I would forget which chapter I was visiting while I was with them, and even after I got my bid I told my mom the wrong chapter.  This would have been a whole lot easier if I'd learned the Greek alphabet beforehand and could have just looked at the t-shirt to remember where I was.  My sister is rushing at a school with more than twice the number of sororities I had at my school, so it will be important to keep track of who's who.

Avoid the Three Bs

Boys, booze, and bank accounts.  Don't talk about them.  Period.

Remember it's a Two-Way Process

People will tell you this over and over, but recruitment is a two-way process.  The chapter is trying to find new members that will fit with their goals and values, but you're also trying to find a group of women that you'll stay friends with for the rest of your life, not just people to party with next weekend.  So be selective.  If you get a funny feeling with a certain group, make sure you listen to it.  And, most importantly, ask questions of your own.  Are you into charity work?  Ask about their philanthropy.  Love girl time?  Ask what kind of sisterhood events they do.  Want to get more involved on campus?  Ask what campus events they participate in or if any sisters are leaders in other campus organizations.  If all else fails, the easiest question to ask is "what is your favorite thing about being in a sorority?"  Then ask for examples.  (For example, my chapter had a weekly Bible study group, dyed eggs for easter, and volunteered at art classes for the mentally and physically handicapped.)  You'll get a much better idea of what the chapter does on a normal basis and whether those things sound like fun to you.

Take Notes

If your recruitment kit doesn't include a notebook, bring one anyway.  After each chapter visit, write down absolutely everything you can remember.  Start with the name of the sorority, the names of the girls you talked to, what you talked about, and any gut reactions you got.  They can be words, they can be pictures (my note from my first visit to the chapter I joined is literally a giant smiley face), sentences, paragraphs, bullet points, whatever will help you remember later what you liked (or didn't like) about the chapter.  For my baby sister, visiting 20+ houses is a lot, and you'll be overwhelmed.  Taking notes is the best way to keep each chapter straight, which is incredibly important for ranking.

Save Your Judgment

Did you hear a trashy nickname for a chapter?  Did you meet one person from the chapter that just seemed a little weird?  Did your best friend's mom's sister's best friend say that Delta Nu is a really horrible chapter?  Put all of those things out of your mind when you visit a house.  Save your judgment until after you've met and talked to several people from the chapter.  It may be exactly the right fit for you, but you'll never know if you don't give them a chance.

Ask for Help if you Need It

Your leaders and lifelines throughout the recruitment process are there to help you no matter what.  We called them Pi Chis (I've also seen them called Rho Gammas), and they voluntarily disaffiliate from their sorority during the recruitment process just to help you find the right one.  They are unbiased and will offer you really great advice.  Whether (God forbid) there's a family emergency in the middle of recruitment and you have to go home, or you're trying to rank and you're torn between two chapters that you want to rank number one (that's me), they will always always always be there for you.  Don't be afraid to ask them.

I'll never forget asking my Pi Chi about my final round ranking.  I was torn between two chapters--one of them I had loved every girl I'd met there and I knew they were the kind of girls I could be silly with, and another I'd gotten along well with most of the girls but I met one that stole my heart and I wanted so badly to be her sister (and to not let her down).  She sat and talked with me for a good half hour, going over each visit, looking at my notes, and helped me decide to rank the former at number one.  It was the best advice I ever received, because I ended up in exactly the right group for me.  And it turns out that the group I ended up ranking second was her sorority.  She was able to see better than anyone where I belonged and helped me to get there, all because she was completely unbiased and willing to help.

So good luck to my baby sister and all of the lovely PNMs out there.  Recruitment is truly one of the best decisions you will ever make.  You'll meet lifelong friends, you will always have a group of cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, roommates, girls to party with, girls to drive you home, and, most recently for me, best friends that will stand beside me on my wedding day.  It's an important (and sometimes stressful) process, but I promise you, it will all be worth it.

What's the best recruitment advice you've ever received, or what do you wish you'd known before starting recruitment?  Tell me in the comments!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Job Searching is a Full-Time Job

In two weeks I've applied for twenty-four  jobs.

Want to know how many I've heard back from?


I realize I'm probably not the only one feeling a little overwhelmed by the process, so here's several tips that I've realized firsthand or read somewhere that may be able to help someone else.

Realize that job searching is a full-time job.

From everything anyone's ever told me, companies are demanding more and more personalization and specialization when picking candidates.  So editing my résumé so it contains the right information for each employer, writing a new cover letter for each one, and then on top of that going through each individual application process is really time consuming.  I set out a little bit of time every day to apply to jobs.  I keep a running list of postings I come across that I could be qualified for, and then check them off the list one by one.  As long as I commit to doing two to three a day, it's not as overwhelming and I can still feel like I'm getting something accomplished.  Also, when I'm not feeling overwhelmed or rushed, the cover letters and application components are always better quality.

Don't discount personalization.

I write a different cover letter for each job I apply to.  (Although I do admit that I keep the same basic outline for each.)  I always mention the company's name, address it to a real person (if a name is given), and include a snippet that shows that I've done my research and I know about the company.  I also change up my résumé.  For example, I'm interning for a wealth management firm, so having that on my résumé is going to look more impressive to someone looking to hire a business and finance copyeditor.  But if I'm applying to a job in a University Dance Department, that's less important than the fact that I worked for two years in the dance industry.  Add relevant experience based on the needs of that company and you'll look much better.

Keep yourself organized.

I'm staying on top of things by keeping a spreadsheet that says exactly what job I applied for, which company, the date I applied, and any extra notes (like a follow-up phone number or application number to reference).  Once I start getting e-mails or calls from companies, I'll track the date I heard from them, the person's name that spoke to me, interview dates, interview notes, and whether I've sent a thank-you note yet.  I also highlight them based on what I've heard back (so the one I've heard from that said "thank you for your interest" is highlighted in red).  I also save each cover letter that I submit, and a copy of the résumé if it's different than my general one, in a folder with the company's name.  That way, if I get called for an interview, I can remember exactly what I told them.

Just do it.

Studies show that women tend to shy away from promotions, believing that they have to know 80-90 percent of their current job before they can consider a promotion.  Men, on the other hand, tend to believe that number is between 40 and 50 percent.  The same goes for applying for jobs.  Do you have all the characteristics listed on a job description except for one or two?  Drop your name in the pool anyway, and make sure to clearly highlight the skills you do have.  You never know, you may impress someone.  For example, a lot of jobs I've looked at require experience in Photoshop and InDesign.  Do I know a little about those programs? Sure.  Do I have the capability to learn them better?  Of course I do.  If I have all of the other skills or requirements on the position description, I apply anyway.  The worst thing they can say is no.

Don't get overwhelmed.

Even though I've been super organized, looking at my spreadsheet is really overwhelming.  Looking at my list of positions to apply for is overwhelming.  Not hearing back from companies right away is frustrating.  Not hearing back from companies after two weeks is even more frustrating.  There are times when I actually have to talk myself down and say, "It's okay, you're doing everything right, stop worrying about it."  Take some deep breaths and keep working--the right thing will come along.

I'm sure I'll keep my lovely audience updated as my job search continues.  To all of you in the same boat as me--happy hunting!

Got any other job-hunting advice?  I'd love to hear it, so please comment below!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Six Songs I Can't Get Enough Of

I don't listen to nearly as much music as I used to, but when I find something I like I tend to put it on repeat.  Here's six songs that I currently can't get enough of:

1.  Home—She & Him

Zooey Deschanel is my ultimate girl crush.  She's adorable.  She's hilarious.  She's multi-talented.  She's also in my favorite movie of all time.  So it's only natural that I adore She & Him.  Any time this song comes on in my car (which is frequently, because it's on both CDs that are currently in heavy rotation), I can't help but sway, smile, and sing along.  Any band that can make me instantly happy is definitely number one on my list.  It doesn't get better than home, now does it?

2.  Off to the Races—Lana Del Rey

I think I'm a little late in jumping on the Lana Del Rey train, but I'm just happy that I made it on.  I've been on a Lana kick lately but this song is easily my favorite.  The jazz funk/contemporary dancer in me can't help but love it.  If I were getting back into dance or choreography (which I suppose I may be doing soon), this would be pretty high up on the list of songs to use.

3.  Love Interruption—Jack White

Again with the creepy songs, but I also can't get enough of this one by Jack White.  I heard it randomly on the independent radio station out of Bloomington, IN, and have had it on repeat ever since.  I don't even know what it is about this song that makes me love it, but I do.  Also, Jack deserves some more love for helping to reopen the Masonic Temple in Detroit.  Maybe I'll get to see him play there, once I'm a Michigander.

4.  Crazy in Love—Emeli Sandé featuring the Bryan Ferry Orchestra

Don't get me wrong—I'm a huge fan of Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love."  But there's just something about a good cover, especially a cover that sounds nothing like the original.  And no, I haven't seen the new Gatsby film yet.  I've read mixed reviews—mostly because of the music selection—but I expected nothing else from Baz Luhrmann.  Anyone expecting anything less extravagant needs to go home and watch "Moulin Rouge" again.

5.  Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35—Bob Dylan

If I had to listen to one artist for the rest of my life, it would undoubtedly be Bob Dylan.  The horns in this song make me want to dance barefoot in the rain with an umbrella in New Orleans.  And I've never even been to New Orleans.  Does anyone want to take me?

6.  Hearts a Mess—Gotye

After "Somebody That I Used To Know," I wasn't all to impressed with Gotye.  But then I heard this song (also from the "Gatsby" soundtrack), and Gotye found my weakness:  I love songs that whistle.  It doesn't matter if it's Flo Rida's "Whistle," Jason Derulo's "It Girl," Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes' "Home," or Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy," I love whistling.  This song is no exception, and it also falls into the jazz funk/contemporary dancer category.  Do what you will with my whistling obsession.

So there you go.  Six songs that I can't get enough of.

Also, if someone wants to make me a CD of all whistling songs, that would be awesome.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"...and then she started to Facebook stalk..."

I go to fiction to escape, as cliché as that sounds.

For one thing, I get enough of real life.  I live it every day.  Books give me a way to forget that the real world exists for a while and get completely caught up somewhere else.

For another thing, I find that a social commentary is much more effective when you're so far removed from real life that you can start seeing the similarities.  Think Gulliver's Travels.  Or The Hunger Games.  Somehow, Katniss and Peeta's relationship wouldn't have been nearly as fascinating if they'd made it Facebook official.

All of this is leading up to the fact that I really hate references to pop culture or modern technology in books.  Yes I know, it's nearly impossible to escape.  And yes, I know even Shakespeare did it.  But my question is, if someone picks up a novel 50 years from now, will they know or care what Facebook is? Jay-Z?  Rihanna?  The song "Umbrella"?  I would argue, probably not.

So, the last two books I've read were George RR Martin's A Clash of Kings and JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy.  Georgey definitely is not guilty of mentioning pop culture in his novels (but I will admit that I'm really only hooked because of HBO, and I don't think that the writing is all it's cracked up to be).  A Song of Ice and Fire fits the bill, for me, because I'm transported somewhere completely foreign when I'm reading.  If George is making some sort of social or political commentary, I'm not paying enough attention to notice it--probably because I'm too busy flipping to the index of names in the back wondering "whose side are they on again?".  Regardless, I went into the series after watching two seasons of the series on HBO, I knew what to expect, and I got it.

I'd like to say I went into The Casual Vacancy with no preconceived notions, but that would be a lie.  How can one not have Harry Potter in the back of one's mind when picking up anything that says "JK Rowling" on it?  I'd argue that they can't.  Anyway, I know that this novel isn't fantasy, it isn't for children, and I'd read enough reviews to know that it's much darker and grittier than anyone expected.  On that front, I was not disappointed.  Where I was disappointed was the references to pop culture and modern technology that jarred me out of the small-town mysticism of Pagford and into my own daily life.  And I didn't like that.

I can play devil's advocate and say that these references are meant to jar us.  The crumbling Abbey in Pagford, the death of Barry Fairbrother, and the pop culture references, I believe, are all symbolic for the same thing--the deterioration of an older way of life and an uncomfortable, sudden transition into the new.  While the older, established Pagford residents cling desperately to the old, the younger intruders come steamrolling in with the new.  Do the references to Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Facebook cyber-bullying make that argument any stronger?  I don't think so, but maybe.

Overall, The Casual Vacancy didn't disappoint.  I read it in a day.  Couldn't put it down.  But reading about someone sending Facebook messages or playing "Umbrella" at a funeral definitely shocked me--and not in a good way.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

9 Tips for the College Class of 2017

My little sister is graduating from high school this week, so in honor of her wonderful achievement, I have several pieces of advice to future college freshmen everywhere, from someone who's been around the block several times:

Recognize that College is EXPENSIVE
If you're lucky enough to be like me--with a wonderful four years on the "daddy scholarship"--it's easy to forget just how much college costs and how much your loved ones sacrifice for your education.  So actually look at the bursar statement and see how much your parents are paying for you to be there.  And then figure out just how much each class meeting costs you.  Knowing how much your classes actually cost puts a whole new perceptive on wasted Wednesdays when you know you have an 8a.m. bio lecture on Thursdays.  Be respectful of the sacrifices others are making for you, and get your ass in class.

Watch What You Wear
This sounds super shallow, but first impressions are lasting.  I'm not saying dress up for class every day (because I've worn my fair share of sweatpants), but shirts with inappropriate sayings, the outfit you wore to that great Jersey Shore party, and your Halloween costume are not appropriate for class (and I've seen all of those and more).  Also--wearing clothes with your graduation year on them may earn you respect in high school, but they'll definitely get you judged in college.  Just put them away.  This includes letterman jackets.

Watch What You Say
Stop saying "um," "like," and "I mean."  It makes you sound stupid.  I actually tallied the number of times a girl in one of my classes every time she said "like."  In the hour and fifteen minute class, she said "like" a grand total of 57 times.  Especially in discussion-based classes, formulate your ideas before you speak, and be confident.  Otherwise, people like me will tally the number of times you say "I mean" (16 for a girl in another class and she only spoke for about 5 minutes) and then write about you on their blog.  This also includes starting your sentences normally and then runningeverythingattheendtogether.  Nobody likes a mumbler. 

Be Open to Change...
I changed my major four times.  Yes, four.  While that's slightly above the average, statistics show that you'll probably change your major at least once.  So embrace it.  Try new things.  Take introductory courses in subjects you think you might be interested in. Take an introductory course in a subject you didn't even know was a subject.  You'll broaden your horizons and you might learn something too.  This doesn't only apply to changes academically.  College will undoubtedly change you in more ways than you can imagine.  You may change friends (more than once), change your style, you'll change the kind of alcohol you like to drink roughly every week.  You'll take classes and meet people that force you to question beliefs you've never questioned before.  Welcome it.  Ride the wave.  But hold on to the values and principles that make you you.

 ...But Stay in Touch with Your Past
I know I just said to be open to change, but if you have great friends from high school, great memories, great connections in your hometown, don't lose those.  Make it a point to meet up with your childhood friends who went to different schools over Christmas break.  Get coffee with your favorite elementary school teacher.  Volunteer in your little sister's school when you're home.  Those connections help keep you grounded.  They remind you of where you came from and where you're headed.  It's easy to get swept up in the "college experience," but before you know it four years have gone by and you realize you haven't talked to those friends who went to other schools in ages.  One of my biggest regrets is not keeping in touch with the people I grew up with once I left for college, so don't let it happen to you.

Find a Major You Love, and You'll Never Do Homework Again
You've probably heard the saying by now that if you find a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life.  The same goes for your major in college.  Over my last two semesters (when I crammed all of my major in), I wrote over fifty papers.  Yes, you read that right.  Over fifty.  But here's the thing--I love my major, and none of those papers felt like homework.  Maybe I'm a nerd, but I genuinely like writing papers (maybe that's why I like to blog).  The point of all of this is, if you like math, it's not going to feel like homework when you have a huge list of math problems to do.  If you love to read, it won't be a bummer when you have to curl up with a novel for an entire weekend.  If you love working with children, that service learning assignment at 6am every week won't be that bad.  Do something that you're passionate about, and you won't ever feel like you're working.

Don't Take a Class because Someone Told You It Was "Easy"
Even if that person was an academic advisor.  That's not to say that the class won't be easy--because it very well might be.  The reason I hate the concept of taking an "easy class" is because it puts you in the mindset that the material in the class doesn't matter.  Maybe it won't matter to you in the long run, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take it just as seriously as your other classes.  Not to mention this attitude is incredibly disrespectful to your classmates and to the instructor.  And ultimately, this kind of attitude closes you off to anything you might learn in the class because you're already so negatively oriented toward it, and that only hurts you.

Listen to Older Students and Follow Their Lead
When I was a freshman in high school I (somehow) was a grade ahead in math, putting me in sophomore geometry instead of freshman algebra.  My biggest fear in that class was that the sophomores (or juniors, or seniors who flunked the first time) would know I was a freshman.  On the surface that makes me sound a little insecure, but hear me out.  Once you're an upperclassman, you can practically smell freshmen a mile away.  Sometimes it's because they're wearing hoodies and sweatpants with their graduation year on them (see point number two), sometimes it's because they're wearing the lanyard they got at orientation around their neck with their student ID attached, and sometimes it's because they talk when they have no idea what's going on, and that's really annoying.  Last semester I was in a 400 (senior) level literature course and somehow two freshmen weaseled their way in.  And when all of us seniors (who have been taking literature classes for a long time) were drawing overarching conclusions or interpreting complicated imagery, the freshmen would say something like, "well he uses alliteration in line nine," or "do you think this has something to do with apartheid?" (in a class about South African literature).  The message?  If your comment doesn't fit with the discussion, don't say it.  If you're pointing out the obvious, don't.  If everyone is discussing the meaning of life, now probably isn't the best time to giggle and ask if that staff is really a phallic image (answer: yes it is).  If there are questions you have or things you want to talk about that didn't get touched on in class, make it a point to go to the professor's office hours (they don't bite, one professor actually made me a pot of tea when I went).

Your Education Doesn't End at Commencement
Since you might be reading this as you sit in a crowded gym full of other soon-to-be high school graduates, you're probably not thinking much about your college graduation.  But call me cliché, the four years will fly by faster than you think.  I sat in an even larger, crowded convention center listening to commencement speeches at my college graduation and was honestly depressed.  I LOVED college.  I get upset going through the course catalog for next fall because there are awesome classes being offered that I want to take.  But remember, to commence is to begin.  Your college (and high school) graduation is not the end, it is the beginning.  After graduation, you have an entirely new world open to you.  Right now for you, that's college.  Right now for me, it's the prospect of working in the real world, making a significant difference in the lives of others based on  my (undecided) occupation, and even the possibility of continuing my formal education in a graduate or doctoral program.  Commencement is like the doors and the windows flinging open--you pick where you're going.  It's scary, and it's a lot of responsibility, but you're now equipped with the tools you need to succeed.  So take advantage of every moment.

So there you go, class of 2017.  My advice is my graduation gift to all of you.  Take it if you want, but if you get funny looks because you're wearing the same thing you wore to that "Risky Business" party to class, don't say I didn't warn you.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Wuthering Heights

I read Wuthering Heights every Christmas.  And it's really kind of silly that I still read it this Christmas, because we're studying it in my British Literature class later this semester.  Did I let that stop me?  Absolutely not.

I love this book.  It's definitely in my top five, maybe even my top two, if you discount all of the Harry Potter books.  There's just something about the wild romanticism of the English moors, the winter air that bites through you, the rain that soaks you to the bone, the glow of a dying fire in the kitchen at night, that you can literally feel from your armchair.  And most of all, there is Heathcliff and Cathy's tragic romance that you can't help but feel in some deep, forbidden place in the heart that many people forget exists.  That is why I love Wuthering Heights.  Emily Brontë reminds us what it means to be human: what it means to love and lose, how a person can be driven mad and then saved by love's powerful embrace.

I get why people hate this book.  I really do.  It is confusing as all get out.  There's flashbacks, changing narrators, way to many characters whose names begin with H (Heathcliff, Hareton, Hindley), Heathcliff is in itself a first name and a surname, Hareton and Hindley both sound like surnames but they're first names, and the air is literally "swarming with Catherines:" there are two, and they both go by Cathy.  It's incredibly daunting.  I understand why people need to read the Sparknotes after every chapter to make sure they "got it."  I glanced at them more than once my first time through the book.  But every time I read it, it gets easier and easier.  I no longer need the family tree in front of me to know who belongs to whom (although if this is your first or second time through the book, I would keep that handy).  And as the plot and the character relationships become easier, I find more and more to love about the book.  Every time I read it I underline a different passage that speaks to me, a different character to explore further.  Wuthering Heights never gets old to me.

If anything else, this is a book you should read just to say you've read it.  It's on all of those "books you must read before you die" lists, it's a canonized classic of British literature, and you can brag about it to your friends.  Okay, the last one is iffy.  I don't know what kinds of friends you hang out with, they may not appreciate the tragic genius that is Emily Brontë.

Anyway, there's my love letter to Wuthering Heights.  I can't wait to read it again for class this spring, and then pick it up again next Christmas.

Read forever,