The Power of Phi Beta Kappa in the Job Space

Alexandra Anderson photo

By Kaylee White

Many Phi Beta Kappa members include their membership status in their resumes or CVs, but what does this mean to employers? How can Phi Beta Kappa membership help recent graduates as they enter the job field, and how can they get the most out of their Phi Beta Kappa membership?

Alexandra Anderson, senior associate director of the Center for Career and Professional Development at Southwestern University, might be able to shed some light on these questions.

Anderson began her Phi Beta Kappa journey through her induction at the University of Texas at Austin, where she graduated with a BA in Spanish and linguistics. Continuing her education at UT Austin, she later earned an MA in Spanish linguistics and an MEd in Higher Education Administration before finding her way to Southwestern University. Anderson has been working in the nationally recognized Center for Career and Professional Development at Southwestern since 2000, advising and preparing students for their careers beyond Southwestern. Not long after her arrival at Southwestern, she became involved as the secretary of the Theta of Texas chapter on campus. 

When considering job applicants, it is not unusual for companies to call the national headquarters of the Society to confirm Phi Beta Kappa membership. 

“For employers who know what Phi Beta Kappa is, it is that mark of distinction that a person is bright and probably worked quite hard,” explains Anderson. “I do think it does carry significance.”

So if being a part of Phi Beta Kappa is important to some employers, how should you highlight membership in a job application? Anderson recommends lifting it up on your resume by putting it near the top of the Honors/Achievements section. She also advises her students to put their membership in context for those who are not as familiar with Phi Beta Kappa. For example, adding a qualifier to “Phi Beta Kappa” like “Most Prestigious National Liberal Arts and Sciences Honor Society” may help highlight the significance of such a distinction. For those pursuing higher education before entering into a career, Phi Beta Kappa membership becomes even more relevant to include in your CV, as it directly reflects excellence in scholarship in your undergraduate studies.

Another advantage of Phi Beta Kappa membership is access to networking opportunities.

“We always talk about with job-seekers that your most powerful job search strategy is through your network of referral possibilities,” says Anderson. “Being a part of this large Phi Beta Kappa network, not only on our campus but at the national level, is just a huge boon to a job-seeker, and one we would definitely recommend.”

Some ways Anderson recommends tapping into this network are being active in campus chapters for graduate students, or through local alumni associations and websites like LinkedIn for job-seekers. While it doesn’t have to be Phi Beta Kappa, a point of connection with a potential employer, mentor, recommender, etc., is key to building a network of support within your field.

“You have to have someone who is willing to give you a break, someone who is willing to trust in your potential instead of your proven track record when you’re new to a profession,” advises Anderson. “And that’s where that shared affinity, which can be around Phi Beta Kappa, is so powerful.”

Kaylee White is a recent graduate of Southwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa there in May 2022. Southwestern is home to the Theta of Texas chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Kaylee is currently working on a Master of Science in psychology at the University of Texas San Antonio.