Orgad: 'Think about LinkedIn as a way to establish your brand, to find opportunities and for opportunities to find you.'

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Fresh out of college in 2002, Itamar Orgad felt uncertain about what career path to follow.

So he took advice from a friend and accepted a job as a product manager at Galor Systems & Software Development, an Israeli company that creates software for travel agencies.

The more Orgad learned about creating new products, the greater his passion grew. Like an orchestra conductor, he made sure a team of designers, developers, marketers and others stayed on track.

Orgad joined LinkedIn in 2012, thanks to a recommendation from a co-founder at Redbeacon, a home-service startup where he worked for a few months before it was purchased by The Home Depot.

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Orgad, now a group product manager for LinkedIn’s higher education efforts, sat down with the San Jose Mercury News to chat about what the business-oriented social network is doing to help students find the right careers. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What efforts are underway to help students on LinkedIn find their dream jobs after college?

A: When we think about students, we really look at a long journey. It really starts when a high school student makes a decision around their school and major all the way through to their first internship and full-time job.

There are foundational building blocks that we’ve already built. These are things like university pages. We allow universities to build their presence and tie in their alumni, and that allows students and recent graduates to figure out what people similar to them have gone on to do. When you think about the job-seeking experience, assets like our alumni finder or field of study explorer already help these graduating students figure out their options.

Q: If you’re a student who’s new to LinkedIn, what advice would you give them?

A: Think about LinkedIn as a way to establish your brand, to find opportunities and for opportunities to find you. It all starts by building a great profile. Students can start by putting basic things like your picture, school, major, relevant courses, GPA, as well as all kinds of projects, interests and volunteering opportunities that you had a chance to participate in.

When I talk to students, sometimes I hear they feel a little intimidated. They feel like LinkedIn is just for later-stage professionals that already have experience. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Q: Are there any new tools or products for students coming up at LinkedIn?

A: I can’t say specifically what we’re working on, but the one thing that I would say is that the team is super hard at work in actively building those tools. Generally speaking, there’s a lot of focus around how we can do an even better job at preparing these students for their first steps into the professional world. We’re going to double down on the things that we can help with through our unique assets, such as leveraging career outcome data to get rid of the guess work and to help these students make the best informed decisions.

Q: Should you start using LinkedIn before you enter college?

A: Two years ago, we lowered the age restriction, and high school students can now sign up. We actually build very specific tools for high school students to make the best and most informed decisions about which schools they should consider and which majors.

An example would be LinkedIn’s university rankings and LinkedIn’s university finder. This is a tool that allows a high school student to almost prototype the career that they’re considering. Another related tool was decision boards. As you’re going through that process of, I’m not sure what I want to do, you’re collecting these different schools and different majors as options and then you can leverage the entire professional network. If you’re considering these two schools or debating between these two majors, now you can ask your network for help.

Q: What work still needs to be done to help students find the right job after they graduate?

A: On the employer side, there needs to be more clarity around what are the specific requirements for a given job. When you think about the reason for unemployment or underemployment, it’s twofold. One, it’s a simple problem to describe, but a very difficult problem to solve, which is matching supply and demand. Let’s assume that the jobs are actually out there and the students that can do these jobs are out there, but they’re just unable to match. The job-seeking experience is still very fragmented. There’s on campus tours, lots of online tools so some consolidation would definitely help.

Q: What’s some of the best career advice you’ve received?

A: My daughter is a big fan of “Frozen” and one of the quotes in the song is “the past is in the past.” My interpretation is learn from your mistakes and move on. From my experience and not necessarily at LinkedIn, I have seen people who try things and they don’t necessarily work and they are stuck in this loop. Action is more important than inaction, so if you’re thinking between the two, take the action.

ITAMAR ORGAD
Age: 38
Hometown: Haifa, Israel
Residence: Sunnyvale, Calif.
Job: LinkedIn’s group product manager for higher education
Previous jobs: LinkedIn’s senior product manager for its publishing platform; Alicanto product manager and adviser; Redbeacon product manager; Galor’s product marketing manager and group manager; Gold Medal Travel product manager.
Education: MBA from the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business; B.A. in Information Technology from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Family: Wife (Ifat) and three children (Amit, 9; Yael, 7; Roni, 1)
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5 THINGS ABOUT ITAMAR ORGAD
—He has lived in six countries: Israel, Turkey, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, and now the United States.
—He served three years in a Special Forces unit of the Israeli Defense Forces.
—He has three kids and has no intention of stopping there.
—He has been with LinkedIn for almost three years.
—His favorite quote is, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference,” from Winston Churchill.