Almost four years ago I joined the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey as their marketing director. And while I was ready to brand the pants off this Library System, I felt a bit of anxiety when my supervisor directed me to, “Get out into the community, make friends, and make a difference.”

All I could think was, “Hello, big shoes! How am I going to fill you?”

I have since battled through my anxiety and learned a lot. If you are looking to, as Dale Carnegie says, “win friends and influence people,” here are five Somerset County-based opportunities that can help.

Apply to Participate in Leadership Somerset: I am proud to be a 2016 graduate of Leadership Somerset – a unique opportunity offered to individuals who live or work in the County that is funded in part by the County’s Freeholders. This year-long training program not only enhances your personal leadership abilities, but also explores political, historical, judicial, financial, educational, and artistic highlights across the County as you work hand-in-hand to give back alongside your classmates and outstanding program leaders, Lisa Krueger and Denise Katula. Applications for the class of 2018 are open through Oct. 31.

Join a BNI Group: BNI (Business Networking International) is a business referral organization that allows business professionals to interact weekly and work cooperatively utilizing a “giver’s gain” mentality. There are over 200 members within 7 active Somerset County BNI chapters – with one new chapter currently being formed at the Bridgewater Library branch every Wednesday morning. To discover a BNI group that is right for you, visit bninjpa.com or email Somerset Area Director Paul Nelson at psnelson@bninjpa.com.

Attend a Program at your Local Library: I may be biased, but our Somerset County Libraries are amazing. Our ten County branches and five municipal branches offer an abundance of free programs every single day, covering every possible topic. If you are looking to meet new people with common interests, and have a blast while doing it, visit your local library.

Join the Somerset County Business Partnership (SCBP): SCBP was the first organization I mingled with upon hire. And, what a truly mighty organization they are. Boasting over 700 community businesses, events for all seasons, and a robust and user-friendly member directory, SCBP truly offers you (and your organization) the opportunity to get involved in the County. An added perk – the staff at SCBP are incredible. If you walk into one of their events and are feeling nervous about not seeing any familiar faces, ask someone to introduce you to Chris Edwards or Diana Sieberg. These two superstar networkers will take you under their wing, introduce you around, and make you feel right at home.

And last but not least, when all else fails … Take a Walk Around Duke Farms: Somerset County has one of the most beautiful free gardens on the planet. This mecca of horticultural beauty is awe-inspiring – and always bustling with activity. I have never visited Duke Farms and not learned something new or met someone fabulous. Try it; take a walk. Who knows where you will end up.

[This article was originally published on MyCentralJersey.com; October 11, 2017]