We regularly get contacted through all forms of media by current students, recent graduates and professionals looking for a career change, looking to get started in the world of motorsport – and not always as a driver. Being a small organisation BPS is limited in how many internships and work experience placements we can offer each year. So in this month’s blog we are going to offer some advice on how to get onto the starting grid of professional racing for those who don’t get the pleasure of our company for a week or two.
Don’t be too proud to get stuck in. Whether that is cleaning out a simulator and filing data, or washing wheels for a race team, one of the best ways to enter motorsport is to show willing and get involved in whatever is on offer. It’s quite unlikely that you are going to be invited to engineer a grand prix car straight out of college or university, but there are plenty of places around that do want help with the less glamorous jobs. Racecars aren’t quite clever enough to clean themselves yet, and trucks don’t pack themselves up either. If you show you are keen enough to do these types of tasks, you’ll get up close to great technology and spend time with people with bags of experience and knowledge. If you prove yourself reliable and a good team player, you put yourself in pole position for a promotion. Every single staff member at BPS started their motorsport journey this way, and we think that contributes to the great relationships we build with our customers. We understand what it feels like to pack up an awning in the rain on a Sunday night, and we also get how amazing a race win feels.
Ask questions (and listen)
Once you’ve got an opportunity, make the most of it. Remember that just about everyone loves talking about themselves. There are people that have forgotten more than you know about motorsport at this point. These guys and girls could write great annuals of stories about their experience. Most of them are just too busy racing to write those books, so once you’ve finished washing those wheels or filing that data, make sure you ask them why they do what they do, and why they do it that way. They’ll be a time-old reason that you can’t learn from a book or an online tutorial. The vast majority of people will be willing to share it with you if you ask nicely.
Respect people’s time and opinions
We know we just told you to ask questions, but be respectful of when you ask them. When the car is about to pull out of the pit lane for an install lap it might not be the best time to ask the data engineer what the logging rate for a sensor is. When we’re coding a car model, please don’t ask what we think the future of simulation lies. Trust us, it won’t end well. Make yourself helpful at that moment (maybe bring them a coffee) and when we’ve got a quieter time later, ask that burning question about suspension geometry. Racing requires a lot of concentration at times. Respect busy people. Ask for feedback and advice about jobs you’ve applied for or work you are doing, but bear in mind that most people in motorsport already have a to-do list as long as the Nordschleife, and they can’t always answer the phone or pick up an email straight away. And always remember to say THANK YOU when they eventually do.
Send in a great CV
One to two pages maximum. The BPS record is 32 pages – needless to say we didn’t read until the end and that person didn’t get the job. Clear and concise communication is key in fast-paced motorsport. This also should apply to your CV. We don’t need to know if you captained the under-8s cricket team. We want to see what skills you have that might be useful to us and what experience you have to prove this. By all means show us you are a well-rounded individual who we would want to talk to over lunch with, but keep it short and sweet in that first approach.
Think outside the F1 (pit)box
The UK motorsport industry – coined “Motorsport Valley” by the Motorsport Industry Association – is full of varied opportunity, from cutting edge suppliers to World Endurance Championship teams. There is life outside of Formula 1. The media might not show you that very often, but the industry boasts an annual turnover of £9 billion. Approximately 4,500 companies are involved in the UK motorsport and high performance engineering industry and 41,000 people work for these companies. By all means, aim high and apply to those big name organisations, but don’t be disheartened if they aren’t recruiting. There are opportunities to travel the world, work with outstanding drivers and teams, design clever stuff and cover fantastic races in plenty of other series. Working in the supply chain is also a great way for young professionals to quickly make a valuable network of peers and mentors from a variety of backgrounds and witness different methodologies, rather than a single team-focused perspective.
Be a team player
Whether you go into a team or a supplier, you need to be a team player. Motorsport is full of highs and lows. Remember for each race winner there is probably somewhere between 21 and 65 losers dependent on your championship. So statistically you’ll lose a lot more times than you win in your career. Its when you are losing you need the team. It’s when we are trying to manhandle a simulator chassis up a flight of stairs, and we find it’s a spiral staircase, that we need the team. Yes, that has really happened. Thankfully we have an awesome team and we always work to each other’s strengths and weaknesses to get the job done. We also each know how everyone takes their tea. That’s an important part of team building in the UK!
If you don’t understand, say so. If you can’t do what you’ve been asked, say so. If you haven’t done what you’ve said you’d do, say so. We think we speak on behalf of everyone in this industry in saying, honesty is the always the best policy. Because unfortunately you’ll get found out if you don’t in this world of data, part numbers and scrutineering. It is very unlikely you’ll get fired for saying “I’ve never used that before. Do you mind if you show me how to do the first one?” or “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer. But I’ll go away and find out for you ASAP.” Don’t compromise the rest of the team by keeping your head down. They’ll appreciate it and support you to make sure the job does get done safely and in on time. We’ve all been the new guy or girl. We’ve all had to learn it at sometime. But if you don’t communicate they can’t help you and in turn you can’t help them.
So there you have it. We’d love to hear from you if you think you’ve got something to bring to the BPS team, but in the meantime, remember the above. We look forward to welcoming you all to our facility during your long and illustrious careers!