SEAN Linkson may be a head-hunter responsible for finding top talent to fill high-level executive roles across Australia, but he had to overcome years of bullying and discrimination to be where he is today.
After starting his career as a construction engineer in the 1980s, Linkson moved into investment banking in the 1990s and for the past 10 years has worked at Alegis Partners — one of the world’s largest human capital organisations — where he is currently the Managing Director.
[showads ad=MREC] He is best known in the LGBTI community for being the co-founder and chairman of the Pinnacle Foundation, an organisation that provides educational scholarships to LGBTI youth who are marginalised or disadvantaged.
To do his job well as head-hunter, he has to be confident and comfortable within himself to mix with the upper echelons of Australian corporate society, which as an openly gay man took him a while to get used to.
“Right through school and even through university, I was never out,” he says.
“Certainly not at work in the banking sector, certainly not in the building sector. Absolutely not.
“(I’ve been) most completely out and comfortable only in the past 20 years.”
The 58-year-old believes the best LGBTI workers are those who can be comfortable being “out” at work.
“It’s a hackneyed phrase, but when you don’t bring your authentic self to work, people don’t see the real you,” he says.
“So the real you isn’t performing to their optimal capacity, the real you isn’t engaging with your colleagues with any authenticity and it means you don’t socialise the same way, you miss out on networking opportunities. You can’t climb the corporate ladder without socialising the same way everybody else socialises.
“I absolutely, unequivocally knew that my career was impeded because of my inability or reluctance to come out.”
Linkson concedes things have changed “hugely, but still not enough” for LGBTI workers in the corporate world, and believes achieving marriage equality in Australia will make things easier.
“It has changed enormously, to contemplate there would be a LGBTIQ network in a company you worked for even 10 years ago is unimaginable,” he says.
“Believe it or not, marriage equality is going to be the key to unlock so much of all of that stuff.
“Just to be able to do that stuff that everybody else does, legally and being recognised by the law as an equal, will make a huge difference.”
Until then, Linkson suggests the best way for LGBTI people to get ahead in their career is to find friends and allies within their workplace.
“You’ve got to almost say, hang the consequences… the risk of non-exposure is much higher,” he says.
“You’re better off knowing the truth of what your organisation feels about you, than you are about hiding something from them, because you can react to the truth and they can react the truth. It puts you on more level playing field.”
Along with his partner of 18 years, Linkson established the Pinnacle Foundation because he knows from first-hand experience how hard it can be to focus on studying while being bullied about your sexuality.
“Even though I was surrounded by a loving family, I was still the recipient of lots and lots of discrimination and homophobia and bullying,” he says.
“I still know what a poisonous tongue sounds like, I still know what hatred feels like when hatred hits you in the heart.
“That was enough to spark the genesis of the Pinnacle Foundation, because I know there were a lot of kids out there who didn’t have the mechanisms or infrastructure of support to get through the crushing bigotry, that crushing hatred that so many of them experience.”
The foundation has grown from awarding two scholarships in 2009 to awarding 26 this year.
Having worked his way up the corporate ladder has also allowed Linkson the flexibility to also run the Pinnacle Foundation, as his workplace gives him time to run his passion project.
When he’s not working two full-time jobs, Linkson enjoys spending time with his partner Philip and their two “fur babies”, Sooty and Sandy.
When asked about marriage plans, Linkson says he and Philip will probably pursue it once it’s legislated.
“It would be great to acknowledge the right to be able to do so, almost as an expression of gratitude,” he says.
“It’s a good way of saying thank you for all those who fought for it.”
**This article was first published in the January edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.
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