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Things I learned applying to the Canadian Armed Forces [long]


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First a little bit about my story.  I grew up with a dream of joining the army, I always wanted to do it but as often happens life took me down a different path.  My parents talked me out of RMC, I met a girl, and the army became a distant memory, a ‘maybe one day’ kind of goal.

Fast forward to graduation day.  I am now a university educated man, working out hard every day, I have a new girl in my life, and am making something of myself.  I get a nice cushy finance job and start down the same well-worn path toward a simple civilian life.  Problem was, I wasn’t happy with where my life was going, I wanted to make a difference in the world, I wanted to accomplish things that had a purpose, I wanted a job that challenged me and where I could come home after work and feel like I had done something with my day.

That’s when I remembered that dream I had pushed away, that’s when I realized the job I wanted, what I wanted to do with my life.  That’s when I signed up to join the army as a direct entry officer in the 3 combat arms trades.  It was on my 23rd birthday that I sent the electronic application and all the supporting documents off.  I was under the impression that I would be off to basic training in 6 months tops.  I knew there were a lot of steps but I was ready. 

Fast forward 4 months and I’m all done, my medial testing, my interview, my aptitude test.  I feel like I am a great candidate, that it’s a sure thing.  So I sit back and wait, every day I’m checking my phone for the call, my email for some notice, and every day nothing is changing.  I’m getting worried as what I thought was a sure thing no longer seems that way.

So I contact my recruiter, I check some online forums.  My recruiter tells me there are no positions open for me, besides I’m not even on the merit list.  Turns out things didn’t go as smooth as I thought, mistakes were made on my file, I’m left spinning in the wind.  How come no one told me? Why did I think it was a sure thing? Why did I pin my hopes on this one job?

I spiral into a defeated depression, no longer caring.  Then I realize that there is only one thing to do, moping about won’t help.  I double and triple check that my file is all in good order, and I wait.  I get everything on track and start the wait

That’s what I’ve been doing, waiting.  I will have to re-do my medical and interview soon, those parts of the application will expire a year after being done.  This whole process has taught me a lot.

1.) No one cares about your application except you. This one was tough, I mistakenly believed that the people at the recruiting office cared about getting me in.  They don’t.  They see hundreds (maybe thousands) of applicants a year and only a handful get in.  They aren’t hard up for people, if something goes wrong with your file they don’t have time to let you know, and they don’t have to when there are a hundred people in line behind you.  They just move onto the next one.  You have to stay on top of your file, call once a week, make sure it’s all in good order.  Don’t miss an opportunity because someone forget to check a box somewhere and you weren’t following up so it was never caught.
2.) The army is not a sure thing. Because of the last few years of war and because of our proximity to the largest army on earth Canadians seem to think that getting in the army is a matter of signing on the dotted line.  Fact is, with the war over and the lack of jobs in the civilian sector the army has more applicants than it could ever hope to have jobs for.  This is true for the combat arms trades more than others, but taking a wild guess I’d say for every opening there are at least 10 applicants, and the numbers get higher when you look at the officer positions, which have even fewer openings.
3.) Find what you want to do and stick with it. I made this mistake.  Part of the reason my file got messed up was because I changed trade choices twice.  This was because I was chasing openings.  My last ditch attempt was pilot, which led to more testing.  I thought it was no big deal, that I could go through the pilot process and if something opened in infantry I would get called for that.  I wasn’t told that my entire application would be removed from the merit list until I finished the air crew selection process.  This meant that while I waited to get loaded onto a course I was potentially missing openings.  I only recently cancelled my application for pilot, realizing that what I really want is combat arms and I should stick with that.  Changing choices will not speed up the process, if anything it can just lead to a longer road.
4.) Don’t throw all your eggs in one basket. Another mistake I made.  I let myself get so excited and amped up for the army that it became my sole reason for doing anything.  I didn’t bother trying to move up at work or find a more interesting job because “I’ll be in the Army soon”. I worked out even harder because I wanted to be the best in training.  I started living a self-imposed military life style to get ready for life in the army.  I didn’t plan vacations because I didn’t want to have to cancel them when I got “the call”.  My whole life began to revolve around the forces, and I wasn’t even in.  This just made the fall even worse when the inevitable happened and I learned there were no spots for me for at least another year.  This is the hardest part, it’s hard not to get excited, I catch myself even now, going back to that way of thinking.  Especially with positions starting to open up again.  Don’t put your life on hold for a job you don’t have.  This ties in with lesson number 2 (the army is not a sure thing).
5.) Ignore 99% of what you read on the internet. This goes for forums, the news, anything.  Part of being excited to join is trying to get as much info as you can while you’re stuck waiting.  You find posts about people who know for sure that there are openings in a week, or people who know that the army is never hiring again.  It’s an emotional roller coaster of other hopefuls and failed applicants. Ignore it, focus on your file and check in every now and then with your local CFRC.  The internet will only drive you insane.  This goes for the news as well.  I found every news story about Russia or North Korea or China’s military buildup to be a little beacon of hope.  As bad as it sounds, a war would mean that my chances of getting in would rise exponentially.  Thinking this makes you an odd person, hoping for tragedy.  It also will do nothing for your sanity.  In the end it is all just spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt)
6.) Don’t give up. Applying to the armed forces has been the most disheartening experience I have ever been through.  Passing all the test and steps in the process only to be told that there’s nothing for me but to keep waiting is almost torture.  At the end of the day all you can do is keep your file up to date, try not to injure yourself horribly and live your life.  Keep in touch with your local CFRC to make sure that your file is still in good order and that’s it.  It takes no effort to keep your application open, just 2 updates once a year (medical and interview).  Apply to other jobs, chase a different dream, maybe you’ll get called or maybe not.  Maybe when you so get called you’ll have found something that you love and you no longer want to join the forces.  Either way it doesn’t hurt to keep your options open.

That’s all I have to say about that.  I’m still waiting, I will probably still be waiting this time next year.  That doesn’t mean I’m not moving on.  I am now also in the application process to join the RCMP, something that will be equally long and frustrating, I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.  I’m also considering starting my own business, I’m writing a novel, I’m training for races.  The military is secondary in my life, they owe me nothing.  I would love to get the call one day, but I stopped holding my breath a long time ago.  This has just been on my mind more than usual because I am re-doing my medical/ interview, and catching myself hoping that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be called to join.

Best of luck to everyone.
Good post.  Helps sober me up, even though I have even pretty good about not putting all my eggs in the army basket.  I hope I get in because right now I really want it.  Either way I'll be happy whatever happens, but the next few months should be interesting.
BorisK said:
Good post.  Helps sober me up, even though I have even pretty good about not putting all my eggs in the army basket.  I hope I get in because right now I really want it.  Either way I'll be happy whatever happens, but the next few months should be interesting.

It sucks, the waiting.  Being finished everything and sitting on the merit list is the worst because there is nothing you can do except wait.  We all really want it, and we all have to wait.  Keep pushing and don't give up, I'm ready to be waiting another long year, but I'll keep waiting.
This is a good post! Certainly put things in perspective for me. I have applied and don't a couple tests myself and the wait is driving me insane. I have put everything on hold and am making no big decision because "maybe the army will call". But after reading this....my eyes opened up and I now know that I have to move on and accept that maybe the army wont happen. I love your sentence "Don't put your life on hold for a job you don't have". That really hit me. Again thanks for the good post!

Best of luck to you!
Im glad i read this forum. Like you, i thought ..never believe the internet.. but might as well. Need some motivation.

This will also be my second career. I was not happy with civilian life, my goal was to be an AirForce Pilot as a kid. But my parents never really signed my forms when I was 16. So, I ran away and did computer science. While it is a cool job, joining the forces has always been in my blood.

What kind of job requires you to be physically fit all the time...only the forces. Civilian jobs dont care if you are 50 lbs oveweight and falling off you chair.

But also, I am waiting. Waiting is a killer. I passed the FORCE physical test, so now awaiting for CFAT and Medical.
And I was told that my after this stage, my MARS training will be in Esquimalt BC next year, April 2015.

So hopefully it all works out. I cant see myself working anywhere else but to serve and protect my country. The only way I know best.

Good luck to you too.

To everyone who has posted on this line, and everyone after who reads it, please do not give up hope.  Some trades and jobs within the CAF take a while to provide any openings, and some can't even give their openings away.  I also agree that you have to ride the CFRC to ensure that your file is up-to-date and all the ducks are in a row.  That said, the waiting is the worst part.  And after you pass the selection process and move on to BMQ, the waiting becomes a way of life within the forces.  A lot of times I had heard other posters on this forum, and people within the military refer to "hurry up and wait".  It rings true, no matter what level of the forces you are in, so try not to get too discouraged and try to keep a positive mind about it.

I will let you know, though, that although my trade was hard up for people when I applied, it still took me a while to get selected for BMQ.  That said, I was fortunate to not have to wait as long as some others.  My advice for those waiting for a while would be to echo a previous poster and tell those waiting to keep one ear out for the call, but not to put your life on hold.  Live your life, get messy, do exciting things, get promoted in your existing career, love your significant other lots, and cherish the time you have with them.  Because once you get that call, and you're off to St. Jean... well, it becomes a whole different ball game.  All those good memories of the times you had fun in your life, and all the love you have spread around with your family and friends will help you get through the rough times, like sitting in the mud and rain during training, or being deployed for 6-8 months with nothing but Skype, email, and satellite phone calls for 5-10 minutes at a time to connect you to home.

Good luck with all of your applications, enjoy life, and I hope to see each and every one of you within the forces as soon as they can get you in.