In this episode of our series, World’s Most Interesting People, I sat down with my friend Jordan Harbinger to discuss his tips on how to become a networking master.
Jordan is the host of The Jordan Harbinger Show podcast.
Is networking a skill we’re born with?
According to Jordan, most people believe networking is one of those things that some people are naturally good at and others, well, aren’t. Further, it’s often thought that certain people are born into this “secret networking club.”
“It’s a skill that’s teachable and learnable.” – Jordan Harbinger
There’s some serious stank on networking and Jordan tells us that networking is much more than who you know.
Jordan’s journey of networking started when he was in school. He was the type of person to start studying the night before the test and prided himself on being able to “fake it, ‘til he made it.” But when he went to college at the University of Michigan, things changed. Everyone around him was smart and capable, so faking anything wasn’t going to cut it. He approached these formative years with the mindset of over-working and under-drinking compared to the other students. And this worked.
Next, came Wall Street.
His competitive advantage of simply being smarter or out-working those around him evaporated. All of his colleagues were working twenty hour days, seven days a week, and impostor syndrome hit him like a ton of bricks.
“I thought I was going to get fired. They’re going to realize I don’t belong here.” –Jordan Harbinger
Enter Dave. Dave was a partner in Jordan’s firm who was never in the office and instead, working from home. Jordan thought if he could figure out Dave’s secret, he could figure out how to hack the Wall Street circuit. He met with Dave for coffee, hoping for the magic code—the answer to being able to work from home. Instead, he was told Dave’s real secret: That he brings in a lot of the business for the firm through his personal relationships. Say what?!
As Jordan understood it, people were finding their firm through The Yellow Pages. He never really considered the relationship-building or ‘people’ part of it. Armed with some new information regarding how his industry was functioning, he decided to reverse-engineer his approach.
Jordan turned to networking classes first to discover the ins and outs of the process, but he found the information to be basic and missing the entire point of what genuine connection is all about:
“If people don’t like you, it’s not because you don’t have a firm handshake, or you have mediocre eye contact.” – Jordan Harbinger
Dave was doing something else. Something bigger and more magical than a handshake alone. When the market crashed in 2008 and partners from most big law firms were being forced into retirement, Dave rose like a phoenix from the ashes and remained successful despite the state of his surroundings.
Jordan knew this was because Dave’s relationships were able to withstand a market crash — that his investments went beyond the call of duty. After seeing Dave’s mysterious progress, Jordan decided to dedicate his own life to generating relationships and making lasting connections — to figure out the whole “networking” thing once and for all, in an authentic, non-stanky way.
In a way, networking is both the ultimate job skill and the ultimate job insurance. If you’re seeking employment elsewhere, or worse, if you’re ever laid off, being able to tap into your network for support is crucial.
Jordan tells us there’s a big problem when it comes to networking and it’s that people don’t want to do it or would prefer to focus on building technical skills. And this is fine, for a short while. But at some point, you’ll be the most skilled coder or designer or writer in your company, but you’re not quite management material. It’s no longer enough to have technical skills alone. Competent people skills are required for most management and leadership positions.
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Dig the Well Before You’re Thirsty
There are common objections to avoid networking. You don’t know enough people or your family isn’t well-known or it’s too late in life for you or you’re an introvert or you don’t have the time.
Jordan advises that you cultivate relationships before you need them. If you get a flat tire on the highway, at that point, it’s too late to put a spare in the back. It’s important to build those relationships as you go. It doesn’t feel good when someone reaches out to you asking for a favor or asking for help or wanting to sell you something when you haven’t talked to that person in five years.
It can feel overwhelming at first to build and cultivate those leads, but Jordan has a fun and easy way to think about this process.
“Instead of ABC (Always Be Closing), do the ABG (Always Be Generous or Always Be Giving). This is giving without the attachment or expectation of anything in return.” –Jordan Harbinger
This is not a give and take exercise. This is giving in the form of genuinely doing something nice for someone or helping out someone without any kind of sneaky plan to try getting something beneficial for yourself in return.
Jordan tells us that if you help 100 people and ninety of those people don’t do anything for you in return, that’s okay! You still are building social capital and goodwill along the way. Giving to others often will lead to opportunities and possibilities that you didn’t even know existed. Watch the video above to hear Jordan’s story on how a toothache landed a giver a full-time job.
Action Step: Use the raise your hand technique. Start raising your hand or volunteering for things that can help someone. It’s good karma!
The Scalability of Giving
Hoes does giving scale? How do we get past the objections of only giving in our industry or finding the time?
Instead of giving away your work that you are paid for (a graphic designer making free graphics for everyone you know, for example), find a way to connect your contacts together. Can you introduce two people who should meet each other? Jordan does this with something he calls the double opt-in introduction. Here’s how it works:
If he meets someone who needs tax advice, he’ll ask a CPA within his network if he can introduce the new acquaintance to him or her. He also will ask the person seeking tax advice if they are comfortable being introduced to the CPA. This way, both parties have given their permission to be introduced to each other. In these cases, both parties value the introduction more and it avoids any awkwardness, such as if they knew each other already or they’re actively trying to avoid this person.
One of my favorite ways to give has nothing to do with the Science of People business. I consider myself an amateur Doomsday prepper and the more people who found out about this ‘hobby’ of mine, the more people would ask for my favorite tips and items to have at the ready in case of disaster. I realized it would be much easier if I had something tangible I could share when asked. So, I spent three days putting together the ultimate prepping guide that I give away free to anyone who asks.
The most surprising part? I’ve received business leads from this guide. People will read my guide or pass it along to a friend or a friend of a friend and this person finds our website, buys my book or buys a course. Major win!
Don’t Keep Score
Jordan shares a classic example of keeping score. You drive your friend to the airport and pick them up from the airport because that’s what friends do. You do this again next week. And the following week because your friend travels frequently for work and you don’t.
Keeping score would be tallying each of those airport trips into a bank of doing something nice for someone with the intent that you’ll eventually cash in on your generosity. This could be in the form of requesting your friend to send something out to their entire email list or asking for something else that isn’t relevant. Just because you did something nice for a friend doesn’t give you the right to ask them for a favor. It nullifies the niceness of the original gesture and turns authentic giving into a covert friendship contract where no one wins.
“You don’t get to decide how someone will return the favor or if they’re going to return the favor. If you have an agenda when you’re helping people, you’re breaking ABG.” –Jordan Harbinger
Action Step: Give something you actually enjoy giving. It’s really easy to not keep score when you enjoy the act of generosity.
You can follow more of Jordan’s work at:
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
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