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Becoming An Automotive Journalist

How To Get Where You Want While Going Nowhere

Becoming An Automotive Journalist

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Filed under: Opinion, European Car News
Becoming An Automotive Journalist

When people find out what I do, the first question is always something like; "So whats the fastest car you have driven?"  The second question varies between;"Can you get me free wheels" but almost as popular is; "So how do I get your job"

To answer the first question, I have to say the Murcielago. The next answer is; NO or well it takes a while and you have to be willing to suffer for it.

People get into the car magazine business in several different ways, but none of them are fast or easy. My journey probably started right around 10 years old, that's when I really realized I was a car guy. Before that I had the same healthy interest in cars that every kid has. But it was around 10 years old that I started getting into radio controlled cars. Before that it was just reading car magazines and the occasional car show with Dad. Once I got my hands on RC Cars however it opened up a whole new world. I was constantly wrenching on the things. Rebuilding the transmission, experimenting with different suspension set-ups, trying to fabricate my own parts, I was a real junior league car tuner.

In college I majored in Mechanical Engineering in hopes it would get me a gig with a car company. It did, while I was in college. I interned with a major American sports car builder. This is where the suffering began. When I started with said company, they looked at me like I was just your average college kid looking for resume padding. They decided to see how serious I was about sticking around so I began my automotive career working with steel tube. I would unload shipments off the truck, rack it, clean it and cut all the tubes to length. Yep, ten hour days of cutting steel tube to different lengths on a disgusting, loud, oily, cold saw. They found out I could run a mill and a lathe and soon I was machining parts. They then found out I had ideas for improving some of the parts I was building so I began some light design work. They also found out I had some organizational skills and attention to detail so I put together a bill of materials for an entire car. Do you have any idea exactly how many little tiny parts, components and miscellaneous fasteners go into building a car? I do!

About that time the company was putting a new car into production. I was able to prototype production components for the new car. I also designed many of the production procedures for building the new car. After a year of that the company was bought and my career at that company ended but I was a certified industry insider.

I headed back to school but this time in search of a marketing degree. I had spent so much time wrenching on someone else's cars that I was sick of it, and had all but lost interest in doing my own projects. I figured with a marketing degree I could still work in the auto industry, just not wrenching.

After graduating, I did what any self respecting new grad does, I packed up and headed to Southern California. Once settled in beautiful Orange County I found out just how hard it is to get a professional position working for an automotive giant. The old saying about who you know, well it's one-hundred percent true. I submitted resumes to everyone that would take one and some that wouldn't. I thought real experience would get me in the door faster than a teen starlet at a rehab center, but sadly no.

I ran into an old friend from college, the engineering days, and he was a sales manager at a successful BMW dealer in the LA area. He talked me into trying it out, the money was great, I got to work with cars, and it sounded like a good gig until I got my re-entry break back into the auto industry.

It turns out that selling cars takes a certain kind of person. Apparently the exact opposite kind of person that I am. I did it for a few months, made some money, but one day just walked out. I stood outside the dealership, looked around and realized I couldn't take it anymore. The general manager wasn't even a bit surprised, they can spot a good salesman from a mile away, and they only hired me because I had an inside line. So I walked out the door and made it home just in time to go to a preseason Ducks game.

The necessity to pay bills lead me to the economic life blood of Orange County, the mortgage industry. I didn't sell loans, I had already figured out I was no salesperson. I was working behind the scenes as an analyst. I sat in a cubicle, dealt with PD Load Letter Errors, and seriously, would sneak out on Fridays to avoid the; "Yeah we're going to need you to come in on Saturday". I went crazy, again.

That's were the current job begins. I took a job with my current company. I made nothing, literally a fraction of what I made in the mortgage industry, but I saw promise. Within three months I had been promoted. I was making just enough money to pay my bills but things were looking up. I finally met with the editors of European Car and we instantly figured out we were on the same page. Well more like we were all open to the same page on the same book we were all pretending to read, but would watch the movie later to be able to keep up with conversations at parties.

So you want to get in the industry, do what I did, just keep trying to survive and eventually you might just fall into something. If not you may find something else you like, and with all the bouncing around you will at least have some good stories to tell.


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