My Story From Wallflower to Loving Networking

Some people know me as that woman who leads networking workshops especially for introverts and anyone struggling with networking. It’s true, I’ve often led a workshop called Networking Secrets from an Ex-Wallflower™.

I’ve even led it at Harvard Business School (which was a gulp at first that turned out to be very fulfilling).

My behind-the-scenes story is that I really was a wallflower for a long time. In fact, I was that painfully shy, practically invisible kid all the way through school. For example, even though I was obsessed with making good grades, if I had to do an oral report, I would beg the teacher to give me an “F” instead of making me talk in front of the class. I can feel the queasiness just thinking about how it felt back then.

In college, I gradually came out of my shell thanks to tapping into my passions (you know, changing the world kinda stuff). And that was the beginning of a long transition. (Wish I had had a coach back then so it would have been a shorter and less painful journey.)

I got better at public speaking by throwing myself into being a health educator after college, so that was a big step forward. Passion for wellness got me through it. It eventually became easy and fun.

But you can see in this photo (right) from age 24 that I still carried the weight of shyness in my posture and my hesitant smile. I had more work to do.

Finally Cracked the Code for Networking

It still took years before I could find ease with things like networking and self-promotion. I avoided self-employment because of it, despite my entrepreneurial ideas dying to get out. And now, years later, I am self-employed, loving it, and I love the networking part.

I don’t just tolerate networking; I found out it can be fun! It’s supposed to be fun! As I like to say, networking is just a fancy word for making friends. Shouldn’t that be fun?! That perspective is one of the keys I bring to my workshop.

I actually studied how I made this transition and I love spreading the word about the steps, because, what a RELIEF! It doesn’t  have to be so hard. I promise.

Turns out I found a way to boil down the solution to networking into a workshop. People that attend are getting it and feeling the shift. Some go on to get coaching for more ways of finding their voice, and I love seeing them expand on that process. I can’t tell you how gratifying this journey is for me.

So you can see why I keep helping anyone who wants to find their voice. I feel so grateful. Thank you Universe!! Thank you to all my workshop attendees and clients who allow me to live my calling.

My Journey in a Nutshell

I learned to stretch over time, gradually building muscles and widening my comfort zone.

Pivotal points were learning about introversion, reading Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and studying heart-centered communication.

Introvert Revolution?

By the way, yes, I have read the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, and I highly recommend it. It has great research and stories about introverts, how we are misunderstood, and why our approach is valuable.

I’m grateful there’s an introvert revolution going on. (Have you seen all those introvert articles lately?)

Maybe schools and workplaces can learn how to embrace and be inclusive of all styles with the help of a book like Quiet. Get inspired by watching Cain’s powerful TED talk here. (Here’s proof that introverts make awesome public speakers.)

Update:

I was invited to write for Susan Cain’s website, Quiet Revolution, and my first article there is about the more in-depth version of my ex-wallflower story, from childhood shyness to confident self-employment.

 

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  • Julie

    favorite line: “networking is just a fancy word for making friends” I knew it!!  Rich stories here Val, thanks for sharing about your life.

  • Leah

    An inspiration to read your story and see you shine at what you do!

  • Val, love this.  I knew you were shy when we were growing up, but didn’t know the depths.  I was on the 7th grade Volleyball team.  I did GREAT in practice but the minute we went and played a game – I froze.  Ms. Dunn was beyond herself over allowing me on the team.

    Glad you are sharing your story.

  • Val, love this.  I knew you were shy when we were growing up, but didn’t know the depths.  I was on the 7th grade Volleyball team.  I did GREAT in practice but the minute we went and played a game – I froze.  Ms. Dunn was beyond herself over allowing me on the team.

    Glad you are sharing your story.

  • Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments, including an old high school friend, which is fun.
    Sometimes it feels funny to write something personal and yet I know it’s important to be real. And in the end, it feels great. Getting your comments makes it even better. 🙂