In 1981, I left the safe confines of graduate school at the University of Hawaii, where I was an East-West Center fellow and jumped into the working world in San Francisco. Those of you old enough to recall the early 80s might know that the economy then was quite sluggish. Jobs were very hard to come by. Remembering the networking pamphlet I read at the Harvard Career Center, I decided I better put networking to the test. After all, I was a liberal arts graduate with no obvious marketable skills.
I networked my way to a job which was low-paying but took advantage of my linguistic skills in Chinese. I became a purchasing agent with Clement Chen and Associates, a development firm in San Francisco and worked on the first joint venture Sino-American hotel in China: the Jianguo Hotel in Beijing. While I was in Honolulu, I looked up Senator Hiram Fong whom I had met in DC (maybe when I was an intern on the hill or maybe even when I was a Presidential Scholar?) Anyway, he invited me (all of us actually) to look him up in Honolulu. And so I did!
Senator Fong knew my father so I was not as bold as I sound. I grew up in Washington, DC; we were also Chinese American and politically active. When I looked him up, he was very welcoming and invited me to at least a few parties at his home. At one of these parties, a birthday party for his son, I met a Honolulu attorney who did business in Taiwan. After chatting with him, he mentioned his friend Clement Chen who was building a hotel in Beijing. I remembered this tidbit and when I left Hawaii to move to San Francisco, I called him and asked his permission to contact Mr. Chen.
It ended up that this led to my first job after college and a fascinating year working in San Francisco and traveling to Beijing. I was soon hooked on networking, so much so, that I wrote a book published in 1991 called It's Who You Know. It's out of print now but you might be able to find it in the library or on Amazon.com
If you have a networking story, please share it with me. I love hearing them. I will start sharing some of my online networking stories. Even though I have been online networking for a short time, I have a few good ones. Stay tuned.