How to Stay Motivated When Your Friends and Colleagues Have Just been Laid off

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For those left on a trading desk, it’s hard to stay motivated. With cutbacks in staff, deals on the decline and the market slowdown driving down profits, it’s no wonder that many are fretting about their upcoming bonus, and more importantly, the future of their own job. In an interview with eFinancialCareers, Peter Bregman, author of the bestselling business book titled 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, admits that it can be difficult to stay focused considering the current environment. Bregman is also CEO of Bregman Partners, a global management consulting firm and he notes there are a number of specific tactics to take in order to stay focused on succeeding at the job no matter the circumstance.

Take the Wheel

Bregman argues that it’s essential to remember that you often do have a say in what way your career will go, even when you might not think so. Hiding in the shadows after a less than stellar performance isn’t the right way to go about it though. Despite weak numbers, the spin or analysis of the situation is sometimes the most important thing to your superior. “Make sure to have a conversation with your boss about it, before they have a conversation with you,” he says. Taking the bull by the horns makes it clear to your superior that you’re well aware of his concerns and that you’re also unhappy with the situation. Offer up a strategy that will improve your numbers, if you can, or at least insulate the firm from further losses.

Be Clear

According to Bregman, it’s also necessary to make your case and explain why there’s been a bump in the road. While you can offer a quick analysis of the obvious market factors, you also need to make it clear that you’re not merely making excuses. “There needs to be some sort of rationale behind what you’re saying,” he says. While the outcome and performance in a quarter may not be what anyone’s looking for, you can still argue that you believe your strategy is good for the long-term, for instance. “What you’re asking for is that they stick with you,” says Bregman.

Think Strategy

Bregman says that motivation is really about developing a good strategy to handle a given situation. “You have to be motivated to sell your strategy to the boss,” he notes. You also need the “courage, fortitude and confidence” to back a strategy, that in the short term, doesn’t seem to be working. “You have to have a strategy that’s defensible.” But, adds Bregman, your strategy also has to sync up with the mindset of those in charge. “If you’re a trader with a long-term strategy and your company’s about the short-term, then you’re with the wrong company. Your trading style has to be a good fit for the organization.”

Don’t Be a Big Baby

One of the big things to avoid is complaining about the current state of affairs, says Bregman. Nobody likes a whiner, especially when everyone’s in the same boat. And, the constant complaining can also get you into a negative mindset that won’t help to get you motivated. Instead, says Bregman, keep the focus on your established trading or business strategy. “Dispassionate intellectual honesty is what you need to have if you’re going to be a good investment banker or trader in the long-term,” he says. And while motivation is a great thing, Bregman also cautions against being overly motivated. “It’s dangerous to develop false emotional positivity,” he notes. “You need a strategy to be effective in a variety of situations and scenarios.” Bregman argues that it can be career suicide when there’s a large gap between expectations and reality.

Know Thyself

Staying motivated also requires a quick assessment of what got you into trading in the first place. Bregman breaks traders down into two categories—those only in it for the money and those who truly enjoy the ups and downs of trading. If you’re only in it for the money, it might be time to reconsider your current career path. “No matter who you are, it’s definitely frustrating to not be making as much money as you’ve made in the past,” he says. But it certainly helps if you like what you do.

Expand Your Horizons

It also pays to look at the various responsibilities you might have outside of your trading role. Break the job out into its various components and try to focus as much of your time as you can on what you do really well. If you’re trading for only a part of the time, and the rest of the time you’re involved in IT and management functions, then you might be more motivated when you pick up additional responsibility leading a tech implementation or supervising junior traders. And while it’s certainly important to not lose sight of your primary job responsibilities as a trader, it can certainly help insulate you from a future layoff if you’re seen as having a broad and important role within the organization.

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