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Stonewall and PAMco chair: How her worst ever job also ‘rescued’ her

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK

Jan Gooding has one of the most enviable careers in advertising as well as being a change agent in society by becoming the chair of LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall.

But it hasn’t always been plain sailing. In fact, Gooding had a rocky start as she took on a role that she still, decades later, emphasises how much she hated and had to navigate misogyny, ageism, and sexism in the workplace that has had an impact on her years down the line.

When Gooding sat down with Yahoo Finance UK for its premium show Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded to discuss her incredible career she laid out how she overcame adversity and also found bright spots in difficult situations that allowed her to flourish.

“I always feel rather sorry for Selfridges because I always emphatically say how much I hated it,” she said to Yahoo Finance UK, candidly.

“But they rescued me in a way. I read economics at Cambridge and there weren’t many women that did that. A lot of my cohort went into banking or the city and I absolutely didn’t want to do that. My mother had died when I was 20, my home in the Bahamas disappeared, my father had married and gone to live in Uruguay, very faraway, and I was in London very uncertain about what I wanted to do.

Jan Gooding, chair of Stonewall and PAMco. Photo: Jan Gooding

“I went to a careers fair and Selfridges was recruiting a management trainee course. I literally needed a job so, I took it. I had this vague notion that I wanted to work in business and I knew I didn’t want to work in the city, and retail is a big important sector.”

She pointed out that the wrong job for you doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a disaster for your long-term career.

“I’m grateful because I discovered what I love doing even though I hated most of it. I’m fortunate that the training allowed me to do different things... and I was lucky enough to be placed in their advertising department. They did their advertising in house and they were disbanding it at the time, so people had the time to spend with me.”

Don’t forget to check out the full interview where Gooding also discussed:

  • Her time working for ad agency Ted Bates, inspiration for ‘Mad Men’

  • How her worst job led to opportunities for a fulfilling career

  • Why there is no such thing as ‘meritocracy’

  • How she overcame sexism, ageism, and relentless challenges during her career

  • What makes a great leader

  • What challenges the LGBT+ community faces into 2020 and beyond

  • Why corporates are needed in PRIDE events

Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded explores the stories of some of the most inspirational women across business, tech, and academia. Catch up on all the latest episodes here.