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The Problem with Constant Refinement

What's the true cost of being prepared for anything in today's job market? How can companies better understand the capacity of their employees?

Arsh Shah
Arsh Shah
2 min read
The Problem with Constant Refinement

I have, for a lot of my life, been in a constant state of preparedness.

I was raised to always be ready-to-go. Prep-school, college counseling, interview prep, resume workshops, and career-fairs taught me that. Even after I started working, I kept this up — never knowing when I could be out of a job and ready for a new one.

Resume updated weekly? You bet. Cover letter templates tailored to a number of industries? Check. Interview responses memorized? It’s necessary.

In hindsight, it’s been great. I learned to keep myself polished, in part due to scare tactics:

‘Arsh, what happens if you lose your job tomorrow? The world is a competitive place, and you will get stepped on. Be ready, always.’

COVID-19 and a failing job market have exacerbated these thoughts for many of us. A loss of jobs, earnings potential and up-skilling opportunities have thrown a lot of smart people back into the wild.

It’s turned workplaces into proving grounds, where the best ideas are rewarded and everything else is thrown in the trash.

The Problem

How we succeed and drive change in the world is determined by the speed with which we react. Don’t have your resume ready when the right job comes? You're out of luck. We’re constantly being tested:

How quick can you create lasting & meaningful change? How fast can you invent a solution to this problem? How driven are you to succeed? How bad do you want it? Show me what you can do.

These probing questions feed into hustle culture and create an environment driven by the shiny, potential fruits of hard work. A carrot gets dangled in front of us, day after day. You want a promotion? Earn it pal. Create X% improvement in Y days, months or years and we’ll fill your pocket with cash.

Tech and business worlds thrive on this behavior, beating interns into submission with stacks of reports, non-essential meetings, and draining email chains. Combine this with a helping of unrealistic requirements like: at least 5 full years of experience in a business, marketing or SAAS role required, MBA-preferred, demonstrated experience building X number of key client relationships from the ground up.

Are your expectations realistic? Are you creating opportunities for entry level workers to learn deeply at your company or are you squeezing every last drop of work, Powerpoint, proofreading or document review out of them without an opportunity for reflection? If they can handle the work, by all means, let them.

The Solution

Slow down within your firm. Reward employee behaviors that might not line up with your expectations from time to time. There was a time when you didn’t have nearly as much experience as you do right now. You made those same mistakes that they might make. I’m not saying to always approve low-quality work: Instead, try to be more understanding of your employees’ needs.

It’s not that complicated. The key lies in being intentional with your expectations, requirements and goals. Plan it all out. If the work could overload a person’s capabilities, warn them.

Inspire the honesty in them that says: ‘Damn, I might not be up to this.’ That’s all right. Make sure they don’t bite off more than they can chew. Even if a company has great onboarding, feedback and employee training resources, understanding and communicating these limits is crucial.

Preparedness is most useful when targeted.

When a true understanding arises from our work, not only of our capabilities, but of who we really are as professionals, we shine our brightest.