HOW TO PREPARE FOR A DEFENCE CAREER? By Commander NK Natarajan (Retd)
The success rate at the Services Selection Board (SSB) is as low as 5 %. As an assessor, I always wondered why and tried to find an answer to this? Interaction with candidates appearing at the SSB gave me certain insights which I am sharing through this article. It is often noted that candidates upon receiving a call letter for interview rush to the nearest coaching centre to do a crash course or pickup any book on SSB coaching and try to mug up ideas and views given in them. Because the selection process at SSB is very unconventional and scientific, such cookbook formulas and ideas will only lead to failure. A word of caution therefore, is that there are no shortcuts to success. It calls for dedicated and systematic
preparation over a fairly long period of time.
Based on my experience as a selector at SSB, I recommend the following five point agenda which every defence aspirant must follow to be successful at SSBs:-
• Understand the Environment
Know the difference between a literate person and an educated person. A literate person can read/write, cram numbers and remember figures and facts from general knowledge books. On the other hand, an educated person will grasp the figures and facts and develop his own perspective about the issue. SSB is looking for educated persons. This calls for reading newspaper regularly and may be supplementing it with a good magazine. Alternatively, listen to any good English news channel to keep yourself abreast of the latest developments. In addition, watching popular TV shows like ‘We the People’, ‘Big Fight’ etc in which current topics are debated by eminent personalities of the society will also help.
• Develop English Language Skills
The medium of communication in the armed forces is English. Therefore, ability to communicate in English is a definite prerequisite. Many candidates who may be otherwise very good but hesitate to express themselves because of their inability to communicate in English will fail in the initial screening itself. Hence, it is important to develop English language skills and it is possible provided one practices regularly by speaking with friends and family members. Towards this reading newspaper and listening to news will also help build your vocabulary.
• Know the Services.
Build knowledge of the service / arm that you are aspiring to join. For example, if you have opted for the Executive Branch of the Indian Navy or Technical Branch of the Indian Army, find out details of the service, the various arms, their roles, your likely job profile etc. More often, it is seen that candidates do not even know what they have applied for. This is a clear sign of casualness and a sure cause for rejection.
• Develop Physical Fitness.
Physical fitness is an essential aspect of military life. What is expected is that the candidate should be able to sustain physically for about 5 to 7 minutes during the selection process. For this, one must start doing regular exercise like jogging, sit ups, pull ups and pushups to build arm strength and stamina. The SBB is keen to take candidates who are genuinely interested and motivated to join the services. And, a genuine candidate is one who prepares him/herself to achieve his/her dream. One such preparation that is expected is physical fitness.
• Managing the Impression
Remember the old adage, ‘First Impression is the Last Impression’. The way you present yourself will matter a lot. While it may be normal to have a pony tail and a tattoo in the civil world, understand the likes and dislikes of officers of the armed forces. Though you are not expected to take a zero cut, any abnormal dressing or accessories will draw everyone’s attention towards you which may not be very desirable. Hence, be part of the
normal and dress up in a decent way. Gentlemen must shave and ladies must keep their hair bundled and not let loose.
Service personnel are particular about rules, regulations and discipline. It is not sufficient that you follow the code of conduct during the course of your selection. The major assessment revolves around seeing if you are disciplined in the normal course of life and if you respect rules and regulations. Hence, it is advised to make it your habit rather than wearing a mask for the duration of the test. Remember, how much ever you try, your true self will emerge in the SSB like a MRI scan of the brain / body.
Unless one prepares systematically, it is not possible to crack SSB. Any coaching can only help you project the attributes in the correct manner provided you possess those attributes. Hence, knowing what to develop and developing over a sustained period of time will only help. This requires a mentor who can put you in that path and guide you through the process.