If you had told me six years ago that I would be joining the board of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce as its Young Professionals Network representative, I would have asked, “What the heck is a chamber of commerce?” Well, a lot has changed since I moved back to Maryland after college in 2009.

I still remember the first YPN event I ever attended. I walked in to Azul 17, nervous and not knowing what to expect. As a 23-year-old, I hadn’t had much experience networking unless you count keg parties on the University of Florida campus.

My first YPN event was much different, and in many ways, was much better. People were welcoming. They immediately asked about me and what it was that I did. They made me feel comfortable, and my nervousness quickly dissipated.

By the end of that night, I had made some great contacts. I realized I was looking forward to the next YPN networking mixer, and during the next few months began to get more and more involved.

The reason that I tell this story today is to illustrate the fact that if I can overcome the nerves and anxiety of networking at a young age, anyone can. Without YPN and the Howard County Chamber, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and more importantly, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Some of the contacts I made at that very first event are not only trusted business partners now, but friends. They’re people that I hang out with on weekends, catch a movie with or even text a funny picture to.

Maybe you’re a young professional just starting out in Howard County and are worried about putting yourself out there. Maybe you’re the CEO or owner of your own business and are looking for ways you and your employees can get involved. YPN is a great way to get to know the business landscape in Howard County, and our friendly board members (easily identifiable by light blue “YPN Board Member” ribbons) will be happy to introduce you to the attendees at our events.

A great, no-pressure way to get started with our organization is our yearly YPN Orioles Outing on June 26. Plan to arrive early for pregame food and drinks, watch the O’s take on the Tribe and enjoy the postgame fireworks display at the end.

Also, be sure to mark your calendars for our next Mixer on July 1 as a great way to kick off your Independence Day weekend.

One thing is for certain: There’s no better time to get involved than now. 2015 is your year to dive in and start making connections, and the best place to start is the Howard County Chamber’s Young Professionals Network.

—Ryan Rom