Beyond the Office: What I Learned in Leadership Seacoast

Back in June, alongside forty new friends,  I graduated from Leadership Seacoast and joined the hundreds of alumni who have been through the program since its inception in 1989. 

The program’s mission is to develop a base of effective, knowledgeable, and engaged community members through the exploration of community issues and opportunities for personal involvement. During the six month program, I  spent nine days with my classmates exploring community issues and themes around health and human services, economic development, education, the environment, justice, arts and culture, and government. Leadership Seacoast isn’t alone in its efforts to engage and educate community leaders, similar leadership programs exist all over the country and the state. Check out all of the leadership programs in the Granite State here

When the class of 2019 met back in January, I entered the program thinking about how participating in Leadership Seacoast could benefit me professionally. While this program would certainly be beneficial to my career, I tend to forget about Sarah, the human behind the job. 

It was the first day of school again!

It is no secret how much I love my work. I mean, I truly love my job. When you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life, right? Or that’s what they say, anyway. For me, the truth is that I always struggled to find my identity outside of my job. No matter how much joy my work brings me, I could still benefit from maintaining some balance. To my surprise, participating in Leadership Seacoast helped me with exactly that. 

The first day of the program is like the first day of school. Forty new faces, a dash of awkwardness, some mild confusion, but also like you’re about to go through something cool together. 

Before long, you’re buried in an avalanche of expert insight, facts, and statistics — the bulk of which, by the way, is depressing. The avalanche is followed shortly by an impending sense of what am I supposed to do with all this information? I can’t say how, but I promise the knowledge fog clears and you’re left with your thing (or a handful of things) and the last day of the program makes every moment worth it. 

Graduation day at the Seacoast Science Center!

Throughout the program I made connections to housing with ease. There wasn’t a single day that I didn’t consider how the topic connected back to my professional work. I also met at least a dozen people whom I will surely connect with again through my professional endeavors.

But, I still had this nagging feeling that I needed to find something for me.

I found that something on arts and culture day. On the final day, it was time to share what we were going to do now that we know. To the surprise of my classmates, I didn’t sit with the group discussing economic development or government. I sat with the arts and culture group. 

I was surprised, too. 

Don’t get me wrong, I also joined my town’s planning board and economic development committee and I took a lot of what we learned back to work with me. But I was more excited to talk about Creative Guts, a podcast I started alongside my incredibly talented friend (and fellow Stay Work Play blogger) Laura. The podcast has nothing to do with workforce housing, but it brings me just as much joy and inspiration. 

Now that I know… I am going to…

So, thank you Leadership Seacoast (and Laura) for helping me create some space in my life for myself and finally giving me something to talk about besides workforce housing. 

P.S. Learn more about Leadership Seacoast, how you can apply to join a future class, and how you can help LS celebrate their 30 year anniversary on the web and on Facebook! If you’re not on the seacoast, go find a program near you here.

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