Career Advice for Job Seekers

Is Joining a Business Fraternity Worth Your Time?

William Frierson AvatarWilliam Frierson
June 20, 2013

Greek letters representing a business fraternity on yellow and black sign

Greek letters representing a business fraternity on yellow and black sign. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

When Michael Berthelot was searching for his first job after college, he noticed that the hiring manager who was interviewing him had a Beta Alpha Psi certificate decorating an office wall.

Berthelot mentioned that he too was a member of Beta Alpha Psi, the international honor organization for financial information students and professionals. Although brotherhood in the prestigious fraternity wasn’t the sole reason Berthelot was hired for the job, it certainly didn’t hurt his chances. Berthelot today works as Chief Executive Officer of Cito Capital Corporation in Rancho Sante Fe, Calif.

“It launched a career that I am grateful to have had,” he says.

Business fraternities can help students in many ways. They provide vital opportunities for developing job-related skills, internships and networking. Here’s a closer look at the importance of business frats and whether joining one is worth your time.

Benefits of Joining a Business Fraternity

Business frats aren’t like most social Greek organizations — your keg-standing skills are not going to be tested. Business fraternities are more about building and developing professional relationships and polishing the skills that can help you land a job and further your career. Most business fraternities stress the importance of team building and professionalism through business-related functions. For instance, a business frat might organize a social, community service or fundraising campaign rather than a mid-day undie run across the campus quad.

“Business fraternities are only as helpful as the group itself,” says Paul Chittenden, co-founder of map-based job search app JobKaster. “If they are run well, they will constantly be putting on networking events and will have a pipeline of companies that want to hire the best candidates. They will have practice interview sessions, professional career experts coming in to speak to the group, and an active alumni looking to help out the group as well. Not all business fraternities are run this way, but the ones that do are definitely worth joining.”

Can Joining a Business Fraternity Help Your Bottom Line?

The corporate world is full of CEOs who were part of business or social-based fraternities in college, including:

•    William Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard
•    Allen Jacobsen, former CEO of 3M
•    John P. Surma, Jr., CEO and Chairman of U.S. Steel

Well-known business fraternities include Alpha Kappa Psi — the first business frat, Delta Sigma Pi, Phi Gamma Nu, Phi Chi Theta. Many of these organizations operate at the top business schools in the country, and membership does carry a certain cachet that looks good on a resume.

But the experience gained in a business fraternity only goes so far, Chittenden cautions. Companies don’t really care, he says, but individual hiring managers might — as was the case when Cito Capital’s Berthelot began his career.

“If the hiring manager was in the same fraternity or one similar, there will be a bond based on past experiences between them and the candidate,” Chittenden says. “It does give you an edge, but only if the hiring manager shares the same bond. If there are two equal candidates, the one that shared the same experiences wins (it’s the same if both were college football players).”

The Bottom Line

Joining a fraternity, whether a business or social frat, can help you advance your career in a number of ways. Forbes magazine recently ranked the top fraternities for developing future chief executive officers, and the majority of organizations on the top-10 were social-based frats such as Beta Theta Pi, which has 11 members who head Forbes 500 companies. Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Chi both have nine members leading some of the biggest firms in the nation.

Former Wachovia chief executive officer G. Kennedy Thompson said membership in a fraternity helped him meet people from different backgrounds and places, connections that continued away from college and into the workplace. And certainly, a major aspect of business leadership involves managing people from diverse backgrounds and different ethnicities — skills that first can be refined in business fraternity events.

Megan Pittsley-Fox, a San Jose, Calif.-based career coach, says the most critical aspect of membership in a business fraternity is how you spend your time there, however.

“Understand that you’re building a network,” she says. “Most job seekers find their next opportunity through networking, so the network you establish could help you long into the future as long as you maintain that network with regular communication. Fraternities provide extensive social opportunities to members, so ensure that you’re making the most of building relationships with others, including related administrators and alumni.”

About the Author:

Rob Sabo writes about business and careers.

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