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).

Back to school

Reaching the impossibleToday we are going back to school! My mom didn’t take a leave to accompany me to Leuven but I think I’ll be able to cope with that ;-) If I’m not tired after a day of meetings and classes I’ll write my impression here.

One more time, I was impressed with the Vlerick logistics: my issue regarding access to the students website was solved in 4 hours even at 9pm! And when you access this site, you see that we are 47 registered students in the Apollo 2012 class with a huge majority of men (81%). From discussions with alumni, it seems that this is a bit more students than the usual 30 cited (but it was more a recollection than an exact figure).

Thanks to the various API social networks developed, it’s very easy to look at the background of most students. Please be aware that the following analysis can’t 100% accurate since people are still putting what they want on social networks. In some cases, the names are also too common (like “Jean Dupont” or “John Smith”) to be able to get correct results without sorting them manually. These numbers are not at all official. If you are looking for official figures, please read the MBA student profiles for part-time or full-time programs on the Vlerick website. Also note you won’t get any confidential information here: I share here the result of my curiosity. Again, if you want official numbers or trends, go ask Vlerick.

Only 2 people don’t have a LinkedIn profile (5 students have too many names associated with their names). Most students who listed a location on LinkedIn either live or work in the Brussels area (62% ; LinkedIn doesn’t impose which type of location to enter). Other main areas are Antwerp (21%), Liège (8%) and just “Belgium” (8% too). It isn’t strange there is no one from Ghent, the 2nd most-populated city in Belgium, since Vlerick is also organizing the same part-time MBA in Ghent. However I was expecting some students from Namur or even Leuven itself. But people living or working there maybe considered other masters in management organized by other universities/schools. Note that there isn’t any student from outside Belgium because I assumed they (we) need to live or work in Belgium in order to attend evening classes in Leuven.

When you look at company sectors (see chart below), most students seem to come from IT (26%), followed by pharmaceutical or health-related companies (16%; this will be interesting for me). Then come transport/infrastructure (11%) and telecom (8%). This is very different than official numbers for full-time MBA and slightly different than numbers for part-time MBA. But I can’t tell if this is due to some evolution or if I just split company sectors differently (on top of the fact I’m relying on LinkedIn data and only on students of Apollo 2012).

Vlerick PT-MBA Apollo 2012 company sectors

In order to test the six degrees of separation idea, I checked to how many students I was connected and by how many degrees. Although I don’t know any of them, I was surprised to be a 2nd degree contact of 7 students and a 3rd degree contact of 14 of them. When you dig into these relationships, you see it’s mostly through recruiters / headhunters than actual or previous work relations.

If you go on Facebook, you’ll see that nearly 80% of the students of this class have a Facebook profile. And one can see that most people care about their privacy since only 2 profiles are public. All other profiles are either somehow limited or completely private (one can only see the profile picture and the name).

Google Plus still seems to be quite young since only 4 people have a profile on this platform (and usually there isn’t much information except a profile picture, a name and a gender). Only two people with a Google Plus profile actually work in IT.

This quick-and-dirty analysis confirms that it is more and more difficult to avoid “being known” on the web. When running my simple queries, I was astonished at the simplicity of collecting personal data but also by the amount of information people are voluntarily putting on the web! Without using specialized services, what other questions would be interesting to ask to social networks?

Photo credits: Reach the impossible by myself on Flickr (CC-by-sa)

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