Summer reading: Let’s connect!

You may not have notice but summer is here! Well in Belgium, summer was here, between June 27th and June 28th. After the closing seminar I had a look at the list of interesting books mentionned during the different classes and told myself that I will read them all during this summer! So let’s start with the first one: Let’s Connect!: A Practical Guide for Highly Effective Professional Networking from Jan Vermeiren.

Jan Vermeiren is a networking coach. He wrote several books on networking. He was also invited by Vlerick to talk at the closing seminar mentioned above. I am not sure we (MBA students) were the right audience for him, mainly because we already all have a LinkedIn account (and approximately know how to use it) and we already know how to party and network (that was also how Vlerick was selling this Part-Time MBA). However if you listened carefully to his talk, you aleady know more or less the content of this book.

The book is divided in 7 chapters, going from the basics of networking (say hello, thank you and bye – I exagerate a little bit, sorry) to how to network during events and online. I found the beginning of the book very slow, with long explanations about SMART objectives, the 6 degrees of separation (cleverly renamed “proximity”), the taker/giver mentality, the Golden Triangle of Networking, etc. Then the book brings you through your networking profile, the networking mindset to have at events, the point-and-click details of Plaxo/LinkedIn toolbars in Outlook and ends with how to stay in touch with you network.

Stated like that it seems I didn’t like the book. In fact I realized that I had wrong expectations. I though I would learn how to leverage the network and connections I already have. I read some interesting tips and tricks about this. But the book mainly goes about actually how to make these connections and how to build your network – making the assumption networking is completely new to you.

Don’t get me wrong: this book has some value and give some valuable advices (even if they seem obvious to some/many of us). If you are an introvert you’ll find potentially interesting advices on how to “break the ice” at meetings for instance. If you are an extrovert you’ll learn how not to “hard sell” everything and anything.

Just don’t read this book from beginning to the end: read random parts of it when you have 5-10 minutes to kill and you’ll remember (and maybe learn) some advices on networking.

Jan Vermeiren’s website also offers a free e-book in PDF on “How to REALLY use LinkedIn” (there is a registration form but you are allowed to fill in anything as long as the last string looks like an e-mail address). Many elements from the book are also in this e-book (or vice-versa). This e-book is a bit like a user manual for LinkedIn for power users mixed with some Q&A. Again I think LinkedIn users will benefit from the book by reading random parts from time to time and not necessarily from page 1 to 233.

In conclusion, this is a good book if you start networking (and still a interesting reminder if you are already networking).


Opening Seminar (I&O Psychology)

Each beginning of the year, all Apollo students gather together for a 2-days opening seminar. Since the group contains students from both years, the same seminar is given every 2 years to Apollo. On odd years (2011), it’s I&O Psychology and we are going to hotel Stiemerheide in Genk. On even years (2012), … well, we’ll see if we are still alive by that time.

Hotel StiemerheideThe hotel is quite luxurious. Rooms have enough space to be shared with a roommate (2 single beds, don’t worry) ; the only problem could be the semi-transparent door for the bathroom ;). I think the rooms are well soundproofed but I can’t really tell you since we were probably making much more noise at the Thursday party than other visitors in the hotel. Although surprising, the food was nice. I’m not a connoisseur but it seems the wine was not as good as expected. Some people tried the swimming pool, sometimes at unexpected times. Some of us also tried the sauna and the snooker. Pictures are here (access may be restricted to protect some students’privacy).

Oh yes, we were there to work, not only to enjoy the spot …

I&O has in fact nothing to do with the Input/Output from computers (as I initially thought) nor the tenth studio album by Peter Gabriel. I&O stands for Industrial and organizational psychology (given by Prof. Dr. Koen Dewettinck, previously mentioned in this blog). According to Wikipedia, it’s “the scientific study of employees, workplaces, and organizations”.

You don’t know your employees, your workplace and your organization if you don’t know yourself first. That’s why we spent a lot of time to dissect our MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) scores. Maybe a bit too much time. We also explored our personality in 4-quadrants and explored group dynamics through games. Of course, I won’t tell you which ones otherwise your pleasure will be spoiled (especially if it rains heavily during the outdoor game). In the end, it was very funny to watch ourselves on video.

In my opinion, the seminar lacked a little bit of stuff about “workplaces, and organizations”. But past experiences, future readings and probably other courses will be there to help. I was also wondering what is the estimated frequencies of the different MBTI types in a general population. Just to compare to the frequencies of our group.

And there, I was very astonished: there is hardly any statistics about that in the literature (well, I agree I only looked on the web). Then this made my suspicious: if the first version was published nearly 50 years ago (1962), why aren’t there many results available? Because the MBTI instrument is the property of a private publisher and studies on results are guarded secrets? Because some studies showed low validity and low reliability (see Wikipedia article, I didn’t have time to check the references)? Well, anyway, I only found one table about the estimated frequencies of the types in the United States population, at CAPT.

First you put the 16 different types of personalities in this test in a 4 by 4 square like the one below.

General MBTI grid Then you take the mean of each square mentioned in the CAPT results and you get this: more people on the left (on the S-sensing side) than on the right side and, there, more people on top and bottom (i.e. on ISxJ and ESxJ).

Estimated frequencies of the MBTI types in the United States population Now if we look at the results of our group, it’s a bit different … There is practically no xSFx people, except one ESFP. Most of the Apollo MBA students are on the right side (i.e. the N-intuition side). And there are two big group: one at the extreme bottom left (ESTJ) and one at the extreme bottom right (ENTJ).

Estimated frequencies of the MBTI types in an MBA group (Vlerick Apollo, Belgium) Is it “normal” or representative of MBA students? I don’t know: I don’t have any comparison point. One could say MBA students are more N-intuitive than the US population. And, instead of being split between I-introverts (top) and E-extroverts (bottom) like the US population, our class is split between S-sensing (left) and N-intuition (right). It would be nice to see if this show something (or not).

One last thing the opening seminar is usually devoted to is an introduction to the International Study Trip. Again this year, students can choose between Beijing (China), Mumbai (India), Cape Town (South Africa) and New York (USA). There were demands from students for a trip in Brazil and it’s apparently something under investigation at Vlerick (but it won’t be for this year for sure). The way students can choose is a first-come-first-served method: between two dates/times, students have to send their preferences and places will be filled up as e-mails are received by the programme manager. Then … Alea jacta est! We’ll see who is going where!

Where are all these students going?

Where are all these students going to?

P.S. At each opening seminar, Apollo students also elect the student rep for the 1st year students and the Chief Party Animal. Read the previous post for more on this.

New student rep and CPA!

One of the nice thing of the Opening Seminar is that you get a chance to pause and reflect on yourself (this year at least, more on this later).

The other good thing is that you have a chance to elect your new student rep and The CPA (Chief Party Animal). And this year it’s respectively Junko and Fabian :) Congratulations and good luck, you made/make a great team!

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