It was the encouragement of a family friend that eventually propelled Linda Jay, manager of financial services at the Prudential Insurance Company of America, to take a job at the New York Stock Exchange. The friend discovered her talents when she was 17 and in charge of her parents’ Portuguese restaurant in Newark on a busy night, while her parents were at a wedding. Noting how well she was handling the pressure, he dropped by the next day and told her folks that she should work at the New York Stock Exchange.
After Jay studied education at Kean University — one of her biggest regrets is that she never finished — the same family friend introduced her to a few people at the exchange, and at age 23 she got a job working as a clerk for a small specialist firm. She slowly worked her way up, and in 1993, shortly after the birth of her first son, she was named a specialist broker and member of the New York Stock Exchange. “I was the eighth woman in its history,” she says. “It’s pathetic — so few women.”
Jay worked on the floor with a number of different firms as a market maker. In those days anyone who wanted to buy or sell a particular stock would come to a centralized location on the exchange floor and bargain with a specialist in that stock. Based on the highest bid to buy and the lowest bid to sell, she would make the market, setting the price for the transaction. “It was one business deal after another,” she says. “It was quick and competitive, and I loved every minute of it.”
But then in 2006 computerization of stock trading led to a massive downsizing. She took a buyout package and consulted for a couple of years while trying to figure out what to do next.
Jay will be part of “Career Path & Transitions: How Do You Sustain Ambition?” at the Women Take Charge: Building Leadership conference at the College of New Jersey on Wednesday, November 9, at 9 a.m.
Moderating the second panel, “Social Media: From Internal to International Integration — The New Norm,” is Linda Friedman of the Zicklin School of Business. Panelists are Phoebe Venkat, who works with intra-corporate social media with Tyco International at 9 Roszel Road; David Simons, the digital media manager of TerraCycle in Trenton; and Veronica Fielding of Digital Media Impressions.
The keynote speaker is Ellyn Spragins, leadership coach and author of “Letters to My Younger Self” (U.S. 1, October 12). Cost: $75. For information, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 609-771-3064.
Jay’s own experience deciding where to move next in her career suggests some advice for women who are making a transition:
#b#What matters#/b#. Figure out what aspects of a potential job really matter to you. When Jay went to a career counseling firm it quickly realized that some kind of sales position using her knowledge of finance would be the best placement for her. “I also really wanted something that wasn’t going to tie me to a desk,” she says. Having spent her career at the exchange, she says, “I thought I would blow my brains out if I had to sit at a desk after 23 years of life on the floor.”
#b#Don’t sell yourself short#/b#. Noting that she missed treating herself to Coach bags and trips to Nordstrom after losing her job at the stock market, Jay says, “I did well financially when I worked on the floor and wanted to do well again.
#b#Comfort levels#/b#. Decide whether you are comfortable with the people who interview you. Jay says she went to Prudential for two reasons: “I was very impressed with the management team and I felt there was a connection right away.”
#b#Growing space#/b#. Find a position that uses your skills but leaves room for growth. After interviewing with several companies, Jay joined Prudential in 2008 as a financial advisor. “I came on board because I thought it might be good segue,” she says. “I get markets, and I understand finance.”
Once in her new position she used what she had already learned from her work and life experience. “You apply the same principles and effort, but the second time the pitfalls are more obvious,” she says. She also finds herself more goal oriented the second time around.
Although Jay had in hand the basic people skills necessary for her new position, she had to get up to speed on the products she was selling and her company and also get the licenses she needed and pass the Series 6 exam. “Then I started going out and seeing clients,” she says, “and the amazing thing was that I liked it more than I thought I would.”
Working in the insurance company was like having her own business, putting her entirely in charge of her financial fate. Working on the floor, her take-home pay was tied to how everyone in the company did. “It was one of the big downsides of working on the floor,” she says. “You could be having a great year, and if two or three things blew up anywhere in the firm, there went your compensation.”
#b#Make work-life balance a priority#/b#. When Jay left the NYSE her son was three and she wanted to spend more time with him. “I really didn’t want to go back to that life — not seeing him in morning and not seeing him until six when I walked in the door and was dead tired,” she says. “I was looking for something that would give me flexibility so I could be a mom more of the time.”
Jay’s new job is close to home and has enabled her to have flexible hours, even if she ended up working 50 to 60-hour weeks. Now able to pick and choose her hours, she no longer misses sports and school events. She is also a class parent. “It’s not something I could have ever taken on in my old life,” she says. “My life is very, very different than it was, but I think it is far more rewarding.”
#b#Be ready for change#/b#. After being a financial advisor for Prudential for two-and-a-half years, Jay has transitioned again and is now the manager of financial services at Prudential, where she is building a team. Why the switch to management? “I like to teach and help people build their skill sets and help them with learning,” she says. She had often taken new employees out with her to show them the ropes and found that very satisfying. So when she was offered a management position, she was happy to take on this new challenge and finds she enjoys being more involved in the nuts and bolts that make the agency tick.
Jay cautions women not to be afraid when they start a new job. “Just get in there and learn it,” she says. “If you had any success in your last career, there’s no reason you can’t in a new one.”