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My Story From Wallflower to Enjoying 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).

That was the beginning of a long transition. (Wish I’d 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 enjoy the networking part (when I do it my way).

I don’t just tolerate networking; I found out it can be fun. I’m still an introvert too, but I love people and learning more about them, so that’s the key.

As I like to say, networking is just a fancy word for making friends. That perspective is one of the keys I share with clients and workshop attendees.

I know, “getting out there” and “making new friends” is not always thought of as an easy thing for introverts, but when we do it OUR way, it can be easy and fun. We don’t dislike people. We just dislike certain kinds of social situations.

When you find your right path for networking, it can be enjoyable. Think one-on-one meaningful conversations and you’re in the right ballpark for what introverts enjoy.

I actually studied how I made this transition to more ease with networking, 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 brief workshop (and I still want to make it into an online course). 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. It’s very gratifying 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.

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 was fortunate to be invited to write for Susan Cain’s website, Quiet Revolution.

Here is a more in-depth version of my ex-wallflower story, from childhood shyness to confident self-employment, that was originally published on Quiet Revolution.

Got questions about networking?

I have a free group on Facebook for caring introverts, and other groups for introvert. I and others respond to questions there. You can check out my groups for introverts here.

You can also ask a question in the comments below.

 

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Val Nelson

Val Nelson

I’ve been a self-employed career/business/purpose coach since 2009. I help introverts and HSPs (like me) who want to make a difference — in a way that fits our practical needs too.
[More about Val, coaching, and courses.]

I appreciate feedback, good and bad. You can comment below or contact me privately.

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