The Job Title Trap
Have you ever wondered what to put in the LinkedIn Job Title? I guess so, this is because what we write to you is our business card, the first thing our contacts read here on Linkedin and it defines our identity in the eyes of others.
Sometimes giving yourself a label is not enough because the evolution of the job market and the digital world leads people to have multiple working identities depending on the activities and projects, then there are also passions, hobbies and “side hustle” or the parallel projects that many are curating or launching.
The more professional workforce, especially the age group Millennials (aged between 25 and 40) and of the Gen Z (up to age 24), increasingly rejects the concept of full-time, single-employer work in favor of something dubbed “polywork” – being engaged in multiple projects and multiple jobs simultaneously.
This concept was born during the pandemic when many people strongly rethought their job role, launching new side projects or quitting and trying to reinvent themselves. Many have become freelancers, others have launched startups, still others have dedicated themselves to cultural or non-profit projects. Some thanks to the smart working they started having more jobs, either as an employee or as a freelancer for more companies.
During the pandemic it exploded, also thanks to the potential of digital, the need to free one's personality and passions in the working sphere. Indeed, research found that 55% of 1,000 workers surveyed, aged between 21 and 40, said that an exciting working life is more important than money. Only the 35% said it could imagine sticking with one job for life, while nearly the 64% stated that it was already doing more than one job or hoped to in the future. Over 70% of respondents believe the pandemic has accelerated the trend.
The other side of Great Designation, i.e. the great abandonment of monotonous fixed places is therefore the polywork, the freedom to be yourself in your professional and private life and to undertake multiple jobs and projects at the same time.
Polywork: an idea of professional freedom of expression
Peter Johnston is an ex-googler and founder of a startup (Kalo/Lystable), a platform created to organize the work of freelancers for companies.
Knowing the world of startups and freelancers well, Peter realizes how much Professional Social Networks are limiting in the expression of personalities and how little they represent the personality and projects of a large part of the young professionals he meets.
In 2021 Peter discovers the Polywork phenomenon and understands that he wants to create a professional social network where one is not representative job title wasn't at the center of everything.
It takes its cue from the newly discovered neologism and founds polywork, a professional social network that allows users to create a free personal web page (a cross between a Linkthree and a Linkedin Profile) and create valuable connections and partnerships. In your personal page you can add badges, share your own highlights (milestones or new activities and projects, such as newsletters or podcasts) and send collaboration requests to other people.
Polywork was founded on the idea that people are more than the labels society has assigned them, such as job titles and the schools they went to.
Scott Belsky (founder of Behance and Chief Product Officer of Adobe) wrote an eloquent tweet about it, stating how the list of job titles and companies with which he has worked are an inadequate and antiquated definition to understand the potential of a person. He added that people want to connect based on the projects they've worked on, who they've collaborated with, and the steps they've taken to achieve their goals.
All this philosophy is summed up by Peter Johnston in a item written by himself on Medium, and the summary of this article is then developed in this section of the Polywork site where the value proposition of the Startup is expressed.
According to Johnston, the existing professional networks, such as the most used, LinkedIn, fail to present who we really are, as they excessively separate personal identity from professional identity, but above all they insist on reducing everything to a single job title when instead we are several things at the same time.
“LinkedIn has created a culture where I literally feel like I can't represent what I consider to be the best part of me for fear it will be considered 'inappropriate' or 'unprofessional.' ( Kobi Ansong , music manager, writer, consultant, mentor and marathon runner).
Exactly the opposite is what Polywork has been trying to do since the beginning. After logging in you are asked to select several badges, potentially infinite, to fully describe who we are, and mind you, there aren't just limited company roles. Indeed, it is not difficult to find unusual badges such as “start wars lover”, “vegan” or “activist”. The most interesting part is probably the possibility that users have to add, inventing them, badges according to need or pure taste. But what are they for? It is soon said.
How does Polywork work?
For the moment it is accessible via webapp and to enter there are two options: log in waiting list or own a vip code. There is therefore the mechanism of invitations as in the Clubhouse.
Landed on the platform, the first screen that appears in front of you is very colorful in a bright purple and with a design that winks at the metaverse, in which the founder believes a lot, Polywork in his perspective should in fact become the new Linkedin of the metaverse.
Access is simple, once the credentials have been entered, it asks which of the four available virtual assistants we want, choosing the one that is closest to us (each one has a brief description of the personality).
After that it is possible to add a story about our person and, the main feature, to start choosing the tags that will appear under our profile picture and name, to describe us. As indicated before, it is really possible to insert everything: do you like to read? Select a badge, are you a parent? Select another, have you been a guest on a podcast? Select that as well. In short, really all types, so many that there is one "too many badges".
Their purpose, in addition to describing us better, can be understood when you click on them: all the people who own them are shown, so if you wanted to find a consultant, a freelancer, a person who has a specific skill useful for a project, it would be very easy to find them.
But that's not all, even the creation of contents, the so-called highlights, is facilitated precisely by their categorization according to the use of the badges. For example, if you want to share having made a live stream on Twitch, insert the "delivered a livestream" badge with the description below as in a normal post. The various posts as a whole are organized temporally as in a timeline in which past events, prior to the creation of the platform, can also be added.
Finally, the profile is completed by the number of followers and followings, job positions and links to other channels or to the website as well as the possibility, at the top right, to view and reply to messages received. However, the likes are missing and the comments section is very minimal.
At the top left there is the possibility of reaching two different pages outside one's own profile: the Feed and the Find Collaborators.
In the Feed you can find some people to follow and in the "opportunities" section you can view "announcements" of people looking for help to carry out various activities, again, through a series of selected badges.
On the second page, you can easily collaborate with people for the most diverse activities: hiring, finding a co-founder, finding a collaborator for a project. In fact, this section contains all the people, divided into categories depending on availability, who can be contacted for any reason: from creating content to founding a startup, from finding a mentor to volunteering.
What can Polywork become?
The social network was launched in April of this year and already in May it received a seed round of 3.5 million dollars, as he says Tech Crunch, from Ray Tonsing's Caffeinated Capital (known as the first investor in Clubhouse, Airtable and Brex), together with the founder of YouTube (Steve Chen), Twitch (Kevin Lin), PayPal (Max Levchin), VSCO (Joel Flory), Behance (Scott Belsky), and Worklife VC (Brianne Kimmel); just a few of the long list of angels.
Polywork is certainly an interesting, dynamic and even a bit rebellious platform in which many people could find their "digital home" given the ease with which a portfolio is created and new opportunities are welcomed. It is currently a reality suitable for early adopters, in Italy it is poorly known but in Silicon Valley it is going strong, so much so that a large part of the elite of the Valley workers has a Polywork profile.
However, the premises are good and there is potential for growth. Being a sort of link between Twitter, Personal Blog, Link in Bio, and LinkedIn, will Polywork be able to make its way into this ultra-competitive market? Only time and the development of the platforms will give us an answer but in the meantime the community that has been created and the value proposition bode well.
What do you think? Would you register on Polywork?