It’s been a while, as you might’ve noticed. In January I was conscripted to serve my country, which is part of the reason why I haven’t been updating the website recently.

In Finland it’s every man’s duty to undergo military service for a period of 6–12 months. For gun freaks and lovers of physical labor it is a garden of pleasure, but for an average guy (such as myself) it can easily feel like a waste of time.

Now, I won’t criticize our draft system as I honestly do believe that it has its own merits regarding discipline, precision, cleanliness, fitness, etc. But there’s something else that I want to talk about.

The first two months in the military are the same for every recruit—regardless of whether you’re serving in the army, navy, or the air force. The Finnish Defence Forces expect everyone to acquire a set of basic combat and survival skills before learning the secrets of aircraft maintenance, sniping, underwater combat, or calculating rations.

While six to twelve months is not a long time in our lifetime, it can feel like an eternity if you’re assigned to a position where you only feel uncomfortable. Instead, if you do a bit of research on what options you are entitled to, you can even take some profit. Rather than spend your time digging bunkers and running in the woods with 60 pounds of combat gear hanging from your shoulders, wouldn’t it be more worth your time if you could choose to learn something relevant to your profession or personal interests?

15,000 recruits, 4 web admin spots

When the time came for us to submit our specialization applications, we had to write down three posts that we wanted to apply for. But apart from the ordinary positions with large quotas, such as artilleryman, infantryman, military police, etc., there was also a handful of snug office positions on offer—the turn-off, of course, being the modest number of spots available.

This spring the general staff were recruiting 4 web administrators in Helsinki. This meant that if all 15,000 recruits were to apply, the chances of being selected would be quite depressing. What we needed to take into account, however, was that most of the people were not going to apply for these positions anyway. For example, in our little island fortress of 140 recruits, there was only one applicant for the web administrator gig—i.e. myself. One-hundred-forty isn’t much if we look at all the fifteen-thousand dudes (and a few gals) undergoing military service in the country, but zero competitors out of 140 is still zero competition for me in my company alone.

Although I don’t know the total number of people that applied for the position, it turned out that only about 8 people were invited to be interviewed. The staff told us that they had been surprised how few had actually applied. This, of course, meant that every interviewee now had a 50-percent chance of being selected. That’s every other dude, and a huge leap from the initial 15,000 recruits.

The key is not to be intimidated by numbers

The great thing about low success rates is that most people tend to get intimidated and never manage to get any farther than look at the numbers. So those of us that think differently should take advantage of the common mentality and do the exact opposite: apply, and try our best to qualify.

After all, it’s natural to think negatively when the odds are against you, but you need to get over the fact that you’re battling against such and such number of competitors. In fact, you shouldn’t waste your time mulling over it—just concentrate on convincing the examiners that you are the right person for the job.

Update (3/20/2011): It appears that there had been a total of 46 applicants for the 32 positions available (cameramen, journalists, etc.)—out of which 4 had been web admin spots. This means that 70% of all applicants had gotten in.