Networking

Cracking the Concrete Open: Creating Networks from Scratch

Early June 2012, I arrived at JFK airport after having taking a one-way ticket there from Seattle. I had just graduated with my MA in International Policy, not your most practical degree. I had with me only two duffle bags and a suitcase, and my computer.

I knew no one in NYC.

I had neither a job lined up nor a place to live.

Insane? Maybe. Naïve? A little. Crazy? Definitely. Still, I was confident I would pull off an amazing life and career in NYC – I knew I had it in me.

In 10 months, I would land a job as the United Nations reporter for Japan’s largest and most influential newspaper The Yomirui Shimbun while making ends meet taking on temporary jobs wherever I could.

To make this happen, I didn’t hit the pavement – I cracked it open while networking with some of the most influential in the US-Japan Relations world, and beyond.

Why was I confident? I had done it before. In Japan, in Seattle, in Monterey: building powerful, fun, and supporting social networks from scratch in an environment I knew nothing about with no contacts.

I am the Ambassador Between Worlds: networking is my bread and butter. I know how to navigate and build connections from scratch with diverse people and communities, as I’ve been doing it since early childhood. The results of my career up to now speak for themselves.

So how did I do it?

The first thing I did in NYC was to find a place to live that had as many housemates as I could find. I ended up in Bushwick, Brooklyn in a complex with 8-10 housemates, all near my age.

Me: “Yeah I have no job now, but I have savings…”

Manager: “We’ll sign a two month contract then. And you’re from where? Japan?”

The place was phenomenal. Surrounded by students and professionals all in their late 20s to early 30s with a large backyard where we threw awesome parties. I’d like to say I quickly made friends with all of them, but only after I overheard them gossiping:

“What’s this Japan guy?”

“Yeah I bet he made it up!”

I joined them (I was napping in my room) and showed the skeptics my passport with Japanese documents. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but I made friends with many of them.

I joined professional support organizations.

I joined Meetup.com groups for social support.

And I put myself out there. I began meeting professionals in the US-Japan Relations world, along with UN Ambassadors, top bankers, government employees, and my personal/professional circles quickly increased in number and width. I sent emails. And follow up emails. I leveraged LinkedIn. I attended networking events.

I eventually landed a meeting with Sheila Smith, senior fellow of Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in DC. The meeting went well. She introduced me to David Boling, who at the time was the Vice President of The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, a US-Asia Relations foundation founded by former Senator and Ambassador to Japan Mike Mansfield.

A tall man with presence, I met him at the foundation’s office.

“Thank you for meeting me…”

He bluntly blurted “I do what Sheila asks me to do.”

It was just he and I in the office conference room.

After going over my resume, we began talking about the state of law, lawyers, and law schools between the US and Japan. David at one point in his career was a lawyer working at the Capital Hill, which I had picked up on from reading his bio before the meeting.

David: “There is an excess number of lawyers in the US and not enough in Japan.”

Me: “So, the obvious solution here is to ship the excess lawyers in the States to Japan…”

David burst out laughing. He then looked at me and said, “You’re the real deal. I will make some introductions for you today. We don’t have an opening at the moment, but keep in touch. Visit me again next time in DC.”

I began visiting DC at least twice a month, along with my networking I continued with in NYC. I visited David Boling sometime later. I outlined to him my accomplishments since last meeting him.

He was impressed, and offered to write me a recommendation to The Yomiuri Shimbun for their opening of UN reporter. The rest is history.