THE BLOG

Connecting Talent to Opportunity: LinkedIn's Meg Garlinghouse on Changing the World

10/13/2011 10:53 am ET | Updated Dec 12, 2011

Meg Garlinghouse is the Head of Employment Brand and Community at LinkedIn, where she works to leverage their incredible network of 120+ million professionals for the greater good. With more than 20 years of experience working at the intersection of the public and private sectors, including as Senior Director at Yahoo! for Good, she knows what she's doing. The latest achievement from Silicon Valley's expert on the service sector? Adding 'Volunteer Experience & Causes' as an option for all our LinkedIn profiles.

How did you wind up in this field?
I never thought of myself as a do-gooder. The motivation was more from interest in the sector rather than believing or thinking I could save the world. I guess I was very aware that I was born lucky, and other people aren't born lucky, and therefore I have an obligation to do something about that. My belief was -- and is -- that there are changes we can make as a sector or new approaches to old ways that can truly move mountains.

What brought you to LinkedIn?
My dad in college told me to take the professor, not the class. And that's definitely the way I've approached my professional life. I've looked for companies whose values were aligned with my values, and less the specific job. And I've been fortunate enough to find jobs where I really believe in the executive leadership and the vision the company has. If you read about Jeff Weiner or Reid Hoffman, both of them are personally and professionally so oriented to creating real value in the world and value in terms of increasing economic opportunity. And they think in terms of how to use our network for social impact. Here at LinkedIn it's amazing the level of interest in leveraging our network for positive social impact -- from executives all the way down to our most junior salespeople.

There's been some criticism of Silicon Valley, about its lack of investment...
I would say, and this is 100% anecdotal, that people in Silicon Valley are more invested in social impact than in any of the other places that I've ever lived.

But what about the relative lack of philanthropy?
I think in general, this is just me speaking, it is easier to have a well formed philanthropic program once you've been established as a company and executives feel really comfortable about cash flow.

What would you say is the core asset LinkedIn brings to the social sector's table?
I think it's definitely our network of 120 million professionals. We sit on the world's largest database of people's knowledge, skills and now, passions. Being able to connect that information to nonprofits needs around the world will, I'm hoping, be game changing in the skilled volunteer sector. We have all this information that enables us to match people's skills and experience to the right job for them. Being able to pivot that model toward nonprofit needs is the vision we're marching toward.

How'd your new volunteer field come about?
The number one most requested feature to add to our profile page was the volunteer field. Which is no surprise given people's resumes -- most have a volunteer section on them. Our members wanted a way to express their volunteer experience.

What was a serendipitous surprise that you weren't expecting before it launched?
Honestly, the case of the stay at home mom who spent a lot of her hours working unpaid -- that is not something we had identified beforehand. Instead of seeing a large gap in their LinkedIn profiles you now can see what they have been doing -- and I think that will make it a lot easier for them to step back into the formal workforce. I guarantee that there are very few moms out there who aren't doing important work that translates into real skills they've demonstrated through volunteer opportunities.

What's your big picture goal?
The bigger vision is that we're hoping to create even more of a movement and make it the social norm that your social impact becomes part of your professional profile. That it becomes something that's just expected rather than a differentiator.