pressure to impress

Without beating around the bush. My first job out of uni has proven to be one of the most challengeable. It was hard work, an eye opener, strict deadlines and enormous pressure (especially for a 21 year old). Without having an office job previously, I was none the wiser.

I now see this as a period of my life that I learnt a lot about working environments, office politics, how to mange uncomfortable situations and work ethic.

I wouldn’t say I had a horrible boss – I had a difficult (at times) boss. Yep, I would be in tears at times. Yep, I worked to 1am to complete projects without question. Yep, I worked unbelievably hard to impress. Yep, I had to rework and rework and rework projects and concepts.

It wasn’t until I was talking to one of my uni friends who I highly value and look up to, about my situation – she said to me… I think if you get anything from your experience, it will be learning how to manage your boss. I left thinking – wow, that is genius. Why don’t I turn this into a challenge, I need to learn to how to manage up and stop feeling like I am underachieving, to stop wearing myself out trying to continuously impress my bosses expectations and instead, manage the expectations.

I felt like I had the upper hand straight away. I instantly felt in control and that I was not being a victim of manipulation being the vulnerable junior. It gave me a slick step in my stride. I gave myself the task to try to be one step ahead. I studied the expectations I was given and soon learnt that I had all this knowledge already – I just needed to relax and take a little pressure off myself. I found that I would build up so much anxious to impress and to be seen as a hard worker I was missing the details.

When you start a new role and especially when you are first starting out, you have this constant thought that maybe you are not go enough for the role. You are not ready to take on the responsibility of having a career (man, I was 21 but wanted nothing else but to have a career). It is pressure. I was living away from home, had rent to pay and a weekend full of social events to fund. It was a necessity to work as well as my dream to have a ‘successful’ career. The pressure was intense. And, strangely, I completely understand why we put this pressure on ourselves to impress, not to let out managers down, not to be seen a failure to our peers and family. But this pressure has proven to be the devil in succeeding. It turns you from being a productive, proactive person to cross checking, fussing and anxious.

Pressure is not the answer. Having a boss who will continue to challenge, question and put you on the spot, is not exactly the best situation but you need to remember, it is not you. It is your manager and they are not going to change (biggest reality check for me – that is a whole another post) so I found the best thing for me to do was to change my thinking to manage them.

You will, no doubt come across different managers, co-workers and peers in your working career. And it is easy to get caught up in the politics and the unethical, unprofessional and just plan ‘wrong’ way they behave. But my advice is to do your best to separate yourself from this, remain true to yourself and your ethics and shift your thinking, create a challenge to manage them.

Doing this truly gave me a turn in my career taking my to that next level. I was more confident and productive. It is a difficult shift to make, but as soon as you switch your thinking it will benefit you, your health and wellbeing and feelings towards getting up in the morning and heading to work.

Have you ever been in this situation? How have your managed the pressure?



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