So, this was it.
The application forms had all been filled out, the interviews conducted, offers of places made and WhatsApp group set up.
Now all that was left was for the twelve of us lucky enough to be awarded places on this year’s LGcomms Future Leaders programme to meet.
Of course, this obviously was to take place in a virtual environment, as the circumstances at the time demanded, but still. Pressing the ‘Join’ button felt just as nerve-wracking as the moment your hand touches the door handle before entering a crowded networking event.
One by one, we all joined for our introductory ‘get to know each other’ session, ahead of the opening class of the 2021 programme and said hello, shyly as if it were the first day of school. Welcoming each other into our workspaces and living rooms in all four corners of England, from Lancashire to West Sussex, from Yorkshire to Tower Hamlets, and from Lincolnshire to Portsmouth.
We were also joined by current LGcomms exec members and previous participants in the programme, who all shared some of their experiences of Future Leaders, what they had gotten out of it, how we could maximise our experience and any other advice they had for us.
We learnt all about the fabled trip to Whitehall, to meet with comms professionals working at the heart of central government, and which we all hoped was going to be able to go ahead this year. The top safety tip for that, we learned, was to watch out for any protestors trying to sneak in as part of the group. That might not get future groups invited back.
One or two of our predecessors also confessed to us that they had been a little awestruck when meeting with these giants of government communications, as one might be when meeting a sporting hero. We were heartened to hear that quickly evaporated when the wine began to flow, however, with such impertinent inquiries as ‘who was the best prime minister you ever worked for’ soon being diplomatically addressed.
It quickly became clear that the mentoring that had been arranged for us was another highlight we were looking forward to, with some of us not having had that kind of relationship to rely on before. Extra effort has gone into matching up mentors and ‘mentees’ this year I am told, and if my first session with mine where a mutual bond over Marvel comics was firmly established is indicative, that effort worked!
And of course, there was the networks that we could build. Sharing ideas, learning from each other, making connections we otherwise might not have been able to, all of it possibilities that we could develop together and use back at our current and in future councils. Our eyes were positively lit up by the prospects that had begun to imagine.
But before we knew it, our hour was up and we all had to say goodnight, turn off our screens and let our eyes rest from a day staring into that blue light portal. Nerves had quickly been overcome, however, replaced by the sense that we really were embarking on something that could lead to lifelong connections being made.
Now, we just could not wait to get started…
Peter Campbell | Public Affairs Manager | Surrey County Council