The most important asset

“Yes, I have one bad review on Upwork, but if you look at my profile on guru.com, you’ll see it’s perfect,” he said in the job interview, explaining that the client had given him an impossible task. I could tell, actually, by the language of the client, that the recommendation was real but the client was impossible.

Actually, that’s why I interviewed him. It was clear that the references were all real, and one of them was poor, but anyone with this much experience has had at least one dissatisfied customer.

But as he told me to go look at another site, I thought: yeah, no. I’ve got his website and his LinkedIn profile and his Upwork profile open, and now I have to go to another site to look at his reputation?

Oh, right

I said this blog post was about the most important asset.

The most important asset you have professionally is your reputation. Not your money, not your education, not your connections: your reputation.

And the problem with your reputation is that “you” don’t “have” it. It’s spread out among many people, some of whom are too busy to answer a call, others who have changed phone numbers, and still others who forgotten you altogether. I’ve been in business for 30 years and worked with thousands of people.

I literally have found myself in a meeting with someone who, after we’d spoken for about 10 minutes, said “Hey, we actually worked together 10 years ago.” Even worse, I was the client services representative responsible for assigning him a contractor. I wasn’t just “in the same company.” He literally was someone who could have been a positive reference for me.

Thousands of people. I have worked with literally thousands of people. It’s frightening to think about. And yet, if I had to apply for a job tomorrow, I would have no “work references,” because I’ve been freelancing, consulting, or running my own business for over a decade.

What’s a “job”?

The irony is that I decided to work as a contractor because it was more stable than a “job.” In technology, most jobs last a year or two. Most startups don’t last longer than that, in fact.

Trends suggest that “the gig economy” will account for close to half of the jobs by the end of the decade. This means that you won’t just need to take your reputation with you from job to job, but also from gig to gig.

If you have a reputation as a great Designer on Behance, shouldn’t you be able to bring that with you if you apply to any design-oriented job? If you are a top-rated contractor on Fiverr, shouldn’t you be able to bring that reputation with you to Upwork?

Apparently not. Those centralised platforms own and profit your reputation. It doesn’t even make sense. How can a corporate entity own the good words that someone has to say about you?

The worst thing about not being able to bring reputation with you from place to place is that not only will your job change, but your profession will likely change dozens of times over the course of your lifetime. I mean, if you are reading this blog, it will. Even if you stay in the same profession, let’s say programming, you’re going to need to learn new languages, new interfaces, new UI trends… whatever it is, it is going to change. You will be starting at zero knowledge over and over.

But you shouldn’t have to start at zero reputation.

It’s a miracle that people think I’m a blockchain expert

How will work look in the future? As I stated above the gig economy will be a large part of it. In the gig economy, there aren’t natural promotions and nobody decides that since you’ve been so great as an online telemarketing person, now you can be promoted to enterprise sales. You’re going to need your reputation to come with you.

Secondly, even if you work at a job all of your life and never do one gig, the average job last 3–4 years. That’s 10–20 jobs over your lifetime, if you’re average. If you work in technology, you can double that easily.

Thirdly, your industry is going to change, probably more rapidly than ever over the next decade. As the title implies, people think I (and the R_Block people) are blockchain experts. 10 years ago there were 100 blockchain experts, and 2 years ago there were 1000. Now, we need 100,000 based on the amount of capital we’ve raised for ICOs. Where will those people come from, and how are we going to figure out who can become an expert?

Reputation.

You may not have a reputation in blockchain. But you do have a reputation based on how much technology you understand, whether you know databases, whether you know finance, and how reliable and consistent you have been within your company or to your customers. Again, you might not have any of that reputation written down or digitized (yet), but you have it.

Since the world is changing so quickly, and so many professions and technologies are changing, your reputation in one thing is going to need to approximate your ability to function as the technology or job description changes.

In a world where change is the only predictable trend, being able to judge people’s reputation over time is increasingly more important than knowing they were successful at just one profession. Those of us who are respected in the blockchain world come in two flavors: those who are young and those who are flexible enough to take knowledge and reputation from other disciplines and apply them accurately to the new technology.

Which is more important? Knowledge or reputation?

Reputation. Even before we have knowledge, someone is willing to trust us to attain it. Someone is willing to take a risk on you if you have a good reputation.

Reputation aspects

As implied above, there are different aspects of your reputation. Some aspects are in respect to particular domains of expertise, like finance, SaaS, or HR. Other aspects are in respect to soft skills, such as leadership ability or ability to take criticism. Still other aspects of your reputation are quantifiable, such as percentage of projects delivered on time or reliability with money or profitability of projects.

Each of these different reputational aspects have different relevance to each employer and each job. In the future, because technology moves so fast, one of the key skills is going to be the ability to learn quickly. But somehow, you are going to need to earn that reputation and keep it with you.

Many different paradigms are being tried to measure this expertise. One of the least credible is the skills endorsement on LinkedIn. There are no controls on how this data is collected, you just need an email to create a Linkedin account so nobody values them. There’s no room to elaborate or add context why you couldn’t endorse someone. Wouldn’t a more telling stat be how many endorsement requests had been declined? How can we collect reputation data that we can trust?

We do seem to trust sites like Upwork and Fiverr a little more. There are star-ratings, written ratings, and success rates, which are decided by a variety of algorithms. Are you suspicious of people with 100% success rates or 100% five-star ratings? Of course. But you know that a transaction has taken place to get this data so it’s harder to game the system. The option only to “endorse” but not to “thumbs down” makes no sense when it comes to reputation management. At the same time, who hasn’t given a rating that was better than someone deserved on a shared reputation platform? After all, the rater has no accountability. (Keeping ratings honest is a blog post for another time, but meanwhile you can check out Doc Searls’ article on the dilemma of rating other people.)

Blockchain and reputation

No matter where it’s stored, or if it’s even stored at all, your reputation is yours. That should be obvious, but R_Block is one of the first to say so explicitly.

The idea of “owning” our “identity” is relatively. In a natural sense, it seems so implausible that someone else could own your identity. Here I am! This is me! Yet in today’s world, we suddenly find parts of ourselves scattered everywhere. The fact that we inhabit our bodies is barely a form of identification. The government owns our ability to cross borders, to drive, and to even have an official name and gender identity. Social networks own our preferences and probably know more about us than we know about ourselves. Companies own our ability to trade. Even our list of friends seems to be owned by some private company.

Weird.

Tackling the issue of identity as a whole is overwhelming, so it makes sense that R_block would take on a specific aspect of identity: our professional reputations. Having a portable wallet of our references to take with us from job to job, and maintaining control over who sees it is a tremendous leap forward, and one of the most logical building blocks when it comes to self-sovereign identity.

After all, it’s the most important asset.

This is a guest blog by a follower of the R_Block project Rebecca Rachmany who kindly put this piece together. Thank you Rebecca.

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