If you're a young professional, have you ever felt uncomfortable at joining a networking group where everyone else is older and more experienced?
That's a familiar feeling for many, which is why the Elgin Young Professionals Network is a great place for young adults to reap the benefits of networking -- minus the pressure, board member Elissa Kojzarek said.
"Most of us are in the same boat, where we've been in the professional for five years or so and we're just getting our footing," said Kojzarek, 31, of Gilberts, who works as resource development and special initiatives manager for United Way of Elgin.
"There aren't a lot of opportunities for young professionals because people think we haven't earned our dues yet. We're just starting out. Also, a lot of people don't know how to make connections with more established professionals."
The group, which has been around for about two years, is open to young professionals who either live or work in Elgin.
New this year will be quarterly seminars on topics, such as LinkedIn, useful to young professionals, said board vice president Krisilee Murphy, 27, of Yorkville, who works as director of marketing for the Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The goal is to connect young people to one another so they can become more actively engaged in the social and professional fabric of Elgin, Murphy said.
"We're trying to get the young people connected so we're not just workers, but we're building ourselves up to become something," she said.
"The big thing is getting involved more in the community as young people, but we also want to give back to the community. We are looking for people who want to be active," she said.
Last summer, EYPN gave three $500 scholarships to Elgin High School students to attend the culinary arts and hospitality program at Elgin Community College. The goal is to raise even more money at a fundraising banquet in April, Murphy said.
Also, the group took the lead for the "Elgin: Home for the Holidays" initiative in November and December, which featured holiday activities organized by local nonprofits. Its first yearlong mentorship program will wrap up later this month.
Aaron Cosentino, 28, who lives in Elgin and works as a management analyst for the city, said the group helped him branch out and meet people he wouldn't have connected with otherwise.
"It increases the number of connections I have within the community, so when things pop up like a job or a project and we're looking for partners, I have a conduit o all these organizations," he said.
"Before I would have to ask around who to reach out to, and maybe they would be someone of a different generation. Now I know my peers in these organizations, so it makes it a lot easier to work with them."
EYPN's next mixer is 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 20 at Chooch's Pizza, 64 S. Grove Ave., Elgin. The group's Facebook page is at facebook.com/elginyoungprofessionalsnetwork.