This weekend was Father’s Day. One of the gifts I got from my dad is a love of motorsports. I’ll pretty much watch anything motorized get from one point to another faster than something else. Cars, motorcycles, lawnmowers…it doesn’t matter. So when I went up to Atlanta to my brother’s place for a visit with my dad it seemed appropriate that we load up the crew and head over to Dixie Speedway in Woodstock for a bit of dirt racin’!
See, short track racing in Atlanta is to motorsports what the Allman Brothers, an 8-piece box, and Coke-Cola are to music, cuisine, and refreshment. It’s natural to the locals, but you might not get it if ya ain’t from around here! Anyway, as I was watching the Super Bomber feature, it occurred to me that regardless of where you’re from, there are some lessons one can learn about career development from a night at the track. They go kinda like this:
You perform the way you practice
Before the main race (or “feature”), the drivers get a few laps of practice. Then they tune up their cars for what’s called “hot laps.” In a hot lap two cars will shoot around the 3/8ths mile circuit as fast as possible for one lap to establish a qualifying time. The faster your time, the closer to the front row you are. In a short race, that’s pretty important so qualifying well is critical. Watching the cars, you can tell in practice and during hot laps who will win the feature. They are fast, but they are also precise and controlled.
The best way to learn to interview is to do a mock interview. You’ll only be prepared if you take it seriously. Same with networking or scoping out a job fair. Just because you aren’t graduating that semester doesn’t mean you don’t take these interactions lightly. Take yourself seriously and approach every interaction as if your job depends on it!
How can you help?
One of the cool things about short track racing is the camaraderie. The drivers race each other every weekend so everyone gets to know each other. Most have related businesses or live close to each other. If someone hits the wall in practice or beaks a part, it’s not uncommon to see the crew next to them pitching in to make repairs. It’s just the neighborly thing to do. Kinda like sharing your hamburgers or offering them a cold drink. Doesn’t mean you go easy on them when the flag drops, but between races it’s all good.
When was the last time you passed on a job lead or connection to someone in a class? Do you know people that can help someone else? This semester one of my students reached out and said her husband, who is an Accountant, would be happy to do informational interviews with Accounting students. How cool is that!
What goes around comes around
And here’s why it’s good to help others. One driver was running a close third behind the second place driver. He couldn’t pass clean so he found a way to nudge the guy in front out of his way. The second place driver dropped back to fifth. But in the ensuing beating around, another driver moved into second. The nudger decided to repeat his tactic. The second time he did it, it caused a wreck! At the end of the race as the cars were filing into the pits, the crews and some friends of the other drivers met Mr. Nudgy at the gate. And in true Saturday Night fashion, proceeded to open a can of whup ass on the dude. Took a few Sheriff’s deputies and a couple of the big wrecker drivers to restore order! Thanks to no one taking their helmets off, the only things injured were some hands.
Karma is alive and well in your job search. If you and the people around you focus on helping others that means eventually YOU will get some help as well. Instead of asking people, “can you do this for me?” get into the habit of asking, “what can I do for you?” Helpers are networkers, networkers are engaged, and the engaged are the ones who succeed. Not sure what networking is or how to start, just start asking people if they need help. Keep being positive and remember that what goes around comes around!
While you ponder these thoughtful observations, enjoy some dirt track music from Southern Culture on the Skids. And Happy Father’s Day to all the awesome dads out there who pass along a passion to their kids.