Why Having A Professional Network Is More Important Than Your Technical Skills

Eleven years into one of the most successful business podcasts on the air, Art of Charm, circumstances changed for Jordan Harbinger. Thanks to creative differences, Harbinger found himself ousted from the company he helped build and left to start over from scratch.

From the outside, it looked like Harbinger, once referred to as “the Larry King of podcasting,” was able to rebound in no time. He launched his new eponymous podcast, The Jordan Harbinger Show, and picked up right where he left off, bringing legions of fans along with him.

I spoke to Jordan about how he did it and his answer surprised me. It wasn’t business savvy or his famous interview skills. He credits his quick return to the spotlight to one thing: His network. “They’re the difference between me recovering my business and being totally screwed.”

Today, Jordan Harbinger shares his approach to networking and how he leveraged his relationships to (quickly) rebuild his empire.

Dig The Well Before You’re Thirsty

Harbinger says you need to create the relationships before you need them. We’ve all been on the receiving end of an email that “pretends” to check in on you, when the person is just buttering you up for an ask.

This is the wrong way to lean on your network. The right way is to build up social capital over time. Check in with people consistently, not just when you need something.

“Creating relationships before you ever need them,” is key, says Harbinger. In fact, he recommends assuming, “you’ll never need them.”

“It’s like putting a tire in the trunk of your car before you get a flat,” says Harbinger. You don’t plan to get a flat. And, in the best case scenario, you never use the spare tire.

“You’ll start treating people differently because you’ll see connections everywhere, NOT just looking for them when you need them, which is too late.”

When you develop a genuine relationship with someone you’re not “asking” a favor, you’re leaning on a friend. This mindset helped Harbinger develop genuine relationships that led to people bending over backward when they learned of his situation.

Famous friends invited him on their podcasts and offered to be guests on his new show. Advertisers followed him to his new show. All the social capital he’d been building up over the past decade was paying off. Precisely because he hadn’t intended for it to.

“Relationships get deeper over time, so planting seeds early makes all the difference.”

But it doesn’t work unless you do this next part.

Always Be Giving (ABG) And Don’t Expect Anything In Return

The secret sauce that makes this kind of networking so powerful is ABG: Always Be Giving. Harbinger says you should, “Hook people in your network up with help, support, etc, WHENEVER you can, even if you have zero idea if they’ll ever be able to help YOU back.”

The old-school approach to networking we grew up with was, “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” It was transactional and assumed that people didn’t do things out of the kindness of their hearts, but with the expectation that you now “owe” them and they will “cash out” in the future.

Harbinger says this doesn’t work in a connection economy. People can tell when you’re being disingenuous and they’re not going to actually be helpful if you need something.

You want to engender goodwill towards you, but that doesn’t work if you’re not sincere.

“Nobody owes you anything,” says Harbinger, “and if you act like they do, then you’ll end up poisoning your OWN relationships because you’ll get mad when they don’t uphold their end of whatever imaginary contract you’ve created in your head.”

Once you remove the “what can this person do for me” element out of the equation, you never have to think about whether someone is ‘worth helping’ but you just help everyone you can.”

This, he explains, is the key to building genuine relationships. You can’t fake it. If you want to engender goodwill towards you, you have to be sincere. Don’t keep score.

A Massive Advantage That Keeps Paying Dividends Over Time

When you’ve taken the time to invest in people you genuinely care about, you have an unfair advantage in business: You have friends.

Your network is your secret weapon. Especially if it’s made up of, “deep friendships and casual connections that are maintained in the right way,” says Harbinger. His story is a perfect example of how your network gives you “a massive advantage that keeps paying dividends over time.”

“When you help people without the attachment to anything in return, you’ll find all these opportunities you’d never have spotted before…It’s not about “what this person can do for me,” but rather, help people because you care and it’s the right thing to do.”

This article was originally published on Inc.