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A look inside : Graduate Design vacancy at McLaren F1

As you may have seen this week via my Twitter feed @Work_in_f1, McLaren F1 Team have been advertising for a graduate designer in their Aerodynamics group.

We all know that teams do not often advertise for graduates but I think there is sometimes a belief that there are no graduate vacancies at all in F1. That isn’t true and although it can often be frustrating, you need to look carefully and often at the vacancies boards of not only the teams themselves but also the various agencies and motorsport websites that carry job adverts on their behalf. My recent post on where to get a job in F1 showed you some of the best places to make part of your weekly routine.

Going back to the McLaren job, ideally you would be in position to apply (and hopefully get!) this job but even if you are not, there is still quite a lot you can take from it. The link at the top of this article should take you to it but if your are reading this post some time in the future then I’ve copied the details in the attachment below :

Career Opportunities: Graduate Designer (11281)

Like the advert I featured from Mercedes back in June, the academic requirements are left very broad, meaning that they are open to applications from a wide range of courses and institutions. The essential aspects are simply that you have a university degree (that applies for this job, but not all of course) and be proficient in Microsoft Office. I hope through day to day living and experience of Word and Excel at school and university that the majority of you have the latter familiarity.

Knowledge, Skills and Experience:

Essential

    Degree in Mechanical / Automotive / Aeronautical engineering discipline.
    Proficient with MS Office.

Desirable

    Proficient in the use of CATIA V5
    Familiarity with the latest Formula One technical regulations.
    Understanding of Formula One race car mechanical systems and layout.
    Experience of managing multiple simultaneous projects.

Considering how high a level F1 is considered to be, that is a very open brief. Make no mistake, McLaren will want high achievers in their academic studies but it’s a clear indication that your exam grades are not the most important aspect of your application.

The desirable aspects listed are not really that relevant in my view. I doubt that many graduates are (truly) proficient in the use of a CAD system such as CATIA and it’s a little unreasonable to expect them to be. Proficiency comes from practice and most intelligent and capable people can grasp this with suitable opportunity. Most academic courses will cover CAD in passing but not give you the time to become proficient. It’s not critical and you should not be unduly concerned by this.

Similarly, understanding of the F1 technical regulations is a little bit unnecessary in my view. If you have never seen it, the FIA’s technical regulations are a hell of a document and phrased in a very particular fashion in order to close the countless loopholes that performance hungry engineers are constantly trying to expose and exploit. I need to be familiar with it in my line of my work but I constantly have to refer to the detail explicitly by having a copy in my drawers and a shortcut on my desktop. I don’t know them off by heart by any means and you should not think you need to be either. I think in this case, familiarity means only in passing rather than a very detailed or memorised knowledge of the regulations. If you follow F1 even vaguely you should be aware of the key regulations at least.

Similarly, the understanding of a Formula 1 car’s mechanical layout is something that you can pickup in a very short space of time rather than necessarily be 100% familiar with it at the time of application. I would hope that most of you know that the engine is in the middle, the gearbox is behind that and the driver sits at the front but is it really necessary to ask a graduate applicant where the SECU is housed in a typical F1 car ? What’s a SECU you might ask… Well it’s really not important, just an example in this case. Some of you might know a bit about it if you have read a technical magazine on that particular subject but that doesn’t make you a good candidate.

A good engineer is not someone who simply knows a lot about the present, the best engineers are the people who understand the fundamental physics and apply that knowledge to invent or evolve new designs which are better than the old ones. If I were interviewing you, I would not care whether you knew some random and irrelevant fact about this year’s Formula 1 car, I would be more interested in knowing how you reacted and responded to the original problem put in front of you and what solution you came up with from your own reasoning. Which brings us nicely to the next part…

Personal Attributes:

    Team player with strong interpersonal and communication skills.
    Well organized – able to manage their own time effectively and to balance multiple demands, often with limited information and ever-changing priorities.
    Desire to improve how things are done; pro-activity and initiative to make this happen.
    Highly self-motivated and able to work autonomously under pressure and to tight deadlines.
    Thorough worker with good attention to detail.
    Results focused and driven to achieve successful outcome.

It’s interesting that there are as many points in this job advert on personal attributes as there are on skills and knowledge. This is quite telling in my view and it’s key to understanding what is needed for a successful application.

Almost everyone who applies for this type of role will have a degree and be proficient in MS Office. Some might have CAD experience, others may not and several will have an appreciation of how a modern F1 car works and what technical regulations it is governed by. Even if you fulfil those criteria you will still be one of a large pile of applicants yet to be sorted through. You have not got the job yet, not by a long way.

What makes the difference in these situations will be how you well you fit the personal attributes. You won’t have a university certificate or an exam grade to show that you are a thorough worker or proactive in making things happen so you will have to prove it. You will need to talk about the things that you have done outside of your studies and what you have achieved along the way. If you are to be the successful applicant, you will have to make this different and better than the next guy or girl who also has a degree and proficiency in MS Office. The best applicants will have gone their own way and made the difference by themselves.

Graduate opportunities don’t come along very often but they offer a golden ticket to the career that we all want. Take a good look at this job advert because when your turn comes, you need to be ready to be the best candidate not just another candidate.

Job in F1 is really all about preparing you for that opportunity. I’ll try and show you how you can get out and experience motorsport and prove that you have the initiative, the organisation, pro-active attitude that teams like McLaren are looking for. Your school or university are best placed to teach you to pass exams so I will leave that to them but as we’ve seen that won’t be the part of your application that makes the difference. What Job in F1 can do for you is to set you apart from the majority, give you the insight into F1 recruitment from an insider’s point of view and give you the essential ingredients to produce a first class applicant who is ready for F1.

By subscribing to Job in F1 you can pick up tips, insight and essential guidance that is not available anywhere else. Some of you may be lucky enough to know somebody already working in Formula 1 but for the rest of you, Job in F1 aims to be that guide and that friend on the inside. I hope you decide to stick with me and make this your startline for a career in motorsport.

Good luck.

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