Life is really an adventure. My career, teaching as a finance professor at the University of Southern Maine, has been very fulfilling. It all happened by chance, a little luck and some thought.

I remember seeking a job in the late 1960s on Wall Street, saying to myself, “How difficult getting a job is.” To work at the New York Stock Exchange was a very desirable job and one that was difficult to come by.

One would think that today’s college grads would have it much easier than the baby boomers. Let’s face it, they’re more educated, more liberal-minded, aided by all the knowledge and efficiencies that technology brings, and of course, without any doubt, parents who bend over backward to support their children. So, what’s the problem?

The level of competition in the job markets has never been fiercer, coupled with a very poor economic environment. Companies and organizations are hiring overqualified candidates that they would not be able to afford during full employment. Why not hire these folks? They are more knowledgeable, mature and wiser than the new breed coming out of college.

Of course, today, the New York Stock Exchange (and the Wall Street community) is vastly different than when I worked there in the 1960s. Being a college grad is only one requirement for most jobs that have upward mobility. Getting a job on Wall Street is competitive, though there are many junior positions available to gather experience toward a career.

My first exposure to the Wall Street community was actually unintentional. I had just graduated from Pace College, with a marketing major. As I met with a few personnel agencies, seeking employment in the marketing area, I was unfocused as to what marketing really was.

My stop at the last agency I visited resulted in meeting a very understanding older counselor. He figured out very quickly that I was not married to getting a marketing job and asked if I knew anything about the stock market.

I said yes, though the only thing I knew was how to find a quote for my dad in the newspaper once in a while. He then referred me to a friend of his who turned out to be known as the “wizard of Wall Street.”

His name was Seth Glickenhaus; he owned his own NYSE seat and at the time was known as a professional trader who traded stock for his own account. I was in awe, to say the least.

For the next two years, I spent time in several firms doing various jobs. I worked as a clerk on the floor of the NYSE and in the offices of several broker dealers. I worked in the institutional research department and in an over-the-counter trading department.

After a very satisfying year, but a lot of work and low pay, I returned to Wall Street. I became a stockbroker until 1973, when I decided to change careers and accepted a position as a business instructor at the University of Southern Maine.

Massive changes have taken place on the NYSE. When I worked on the floor of the exchange in the 1960s, the average daily volume was less than 10 million shares. The technology could not keep up with trading, and the ticker tape could not keep up with the trades. Many times, trading would have to be halted so the reporters on the floor could type in the trades.

Today, volume exceeds 3 billion shares daily.

Women were not allowed to work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange until 1967. Today, there are many women working on the floor; in fact, in October 2008, more than 3,000 women attended the Deutsche Bank’s 14th annual Women on Wall Street Conference.

I remember the public could peer over the third-floor visitors gallery and look down directly on the floor. One day, I looked up and women were screaming and throwing bras and panties down on the floor, demonstrating against the money behind the Vietnam War.

A few years later, a glass partition was constructed.

In 1972, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 1,000 for the first time. Three years later, Wall Street went onto negotiated commissions, rather than the previous fixed-rate commission schedule that all broker-dealers used.

The emergence of discount brokers and the era of broker-dealer competition had begun.

In 1991, the Dow hit 3,000 for the first time, with average trading volume exceeding 200 million shares daily. 1993, the technology was able to handle more than 1 billion shares a day.

In 1999, the Dow topped 10,000 and volume skyrocketed to 2.1 billion shares, in part because of the listing of close to 300 non-U.S. companies on the exchange five years earlier.

In 2005, a membership seat on the NYSE went for $4 million, compared with $50,000 during the 1973-74 recession and low-stock-volume era.

Forty years ago, many thought the NYSE would become obsolete because of electronic trading (i.e., Nasdaq) away from the floor. The NYSE answered the call with its own electronic trading on the floor and its wise leadership. The NYSE is a symbol of free capitalism and tradition.

Today, its operations are more grand and stronger than ever. Careers in finance are abundant, and working in the investment community is one of the many career paths available. One does not have to physically work on Wall Street to be part of that community.


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