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How to succeed in a high-pressure job

Try these stress management techniques to temper your anxiety and make the most of your new responsibilities at work.

How to succeed in a high-pressure job

Use stress management techniques to conquer anxiety at work.

New experiences (such as a new job) can create some anxiety in even the most level-headed people.

“These experiences are much like moving to a new school where everything is unfamiliar and uncertain,” says Paul Cummings, founder of Woople, an online web-based learning platform. “It's perfectly natural to have butterflies in your stomach.”

But feeling nervous and being prepared are not contradictory concepts; both are possible at the same time.

We’ve asked career experts for advice on navigating two scenarios where you might be feeling the pressure: a promotion where your workload is now through the office roof, and a new job where you have multiple bosses You may feel stressed at times, but with the right strategies, you’ll master your new job. 

And while some guiding principles make for solid advice in both situations, intricacies abound. Let’s dig in, starting with priority number one.

Get clarity

New promotion: Know what resources are available to you

Setting clear expectations up front is crucial for success, no matter your situation. When you get promoted, the first thing you should do is find out what resources you are working with. This will help you and your boss assess what else you may need for success, as well as what “success” looks like.

You need to fully understand what is expected and what you have at your disposal (budget, human resources, and authority),” says Camille Jamerson, senior consultant at CDJ & Associates in Southfield, Michigan. “If applicable, get an idea of what went awry with the last person that managed these responsibilities. Learn from their errors, but don't own their incapabilities. Just because they didn't, doesn't mean you can't.”

Multiple bosses:  Understand the pecking order

Usually, even if you work for two or more people, you have one real boss (the person who conducts your performance review, and thus the person you ultimately want to impress). Gain clarity on this relationship by asking the right questions as soon as you start.

“Ask your bosses how they want you to relate to them,” advises Christian Muntean, principal at Vantage Consulting in Anchorage, Alaska. “Are they both equal in terms of authority, or does one report to the other? Do they have different areas of responsibility or authority? Do they trade-off responsibility (shift leaders)? Is there someone they report to whom you need to be aware of? In most cases, any perceived issues with multiple supervisors can be cleared up by asking for clarity.”

Set expectations

New promotion: Make clear benchmarks for success

Now that you’ve gained clarity on what’s at your disposal (manpower, budget, etc.), it’s time to set benchmarks for success or key performance indicators (KPIs) as they’re called in business.

“I would set up key performance indicators and mile markers for myself so I can gauge my progress over time,” says Jamerson. “Setting up KPIs will allow you to have viable data to take back to your boss to be the foundation for a favorable review or the catalyst to getting extra support if needed.”

Multiple bosses: Understand everyone’s priorities

After gaining an understanding of whom you’re (mostly) working for, set up a kick-off meeting to define overall requirements.

“It is important not only for you to be aware of this information but also for each supervisor to understand what percentage of your role reports to each of them,” says April Klimkiewicz, career coach at Bliss Evolution in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “If it is not an option to meet with both supervisors at the same time, set up separate meetings with each of them to define your role.”

Communicate regularly

New promotion: Set up regular meetings

A promotion sometimes means a new set of faces at work, but can also mean new relationships with your current co-workers. When you get new responsibilities in your new role, you’ll want to start building on those relationships.

“I recommend individual meetings where the focus is getting to know them, their career history, and even what they do outside of work,” says Jennifer Braganza, a career coach at Exponential Success in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Your goal is to establish a foundation of trust. Then you can also ask them for feedback on your new responsibilities. Continue to keep that communication channel open with a biweekly or monthly meeting, depending on how influential they are on your work.”

Multiple bosses: Send status emails to both bosses

It should be your priority to make sure both of your bosses know exactly what you’re working on. The simple way to make that happen is to include both of them on one email that you send each week.

“Send out a weekly status that includes accomplishments, next steps (what you will accomplish in the upcoming week), and any concerns, decisions, etc. that you need,” suggests Braganza. hen if you identify a conflict between priorities, you can set up a time to work it out with both of them, or they may choose to do that without you. Sometimes, you can make a recommendation on how you can handle it.”

As is true with both scenarios, a combination of setting attainable goals and regularly communicating will serve you well.

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