Joining the military is one of the smartest decisions many people make. It gives you the opportunity to learn discipline, teamwork and leadership skills while getting paid. It keeps you fit for free, trains you for free and often takes you around the world for free. You can get qualifications from driving licences to master’s degrees without spending a penny. You’ll make friends for life and become a solid, well-rounded individual with skills and experience that are appreciated and rewarded when returning to civilian life.

One of the things that put people off the idea of joining up is that it requires effort. There are plenty of people who prefer to grow their hair, sleep until the afternoons and walk out of university with a degree which isn’t needed by any employers and a mountain of debt. Many of these people can’t look after themselves physically or financially and continue being a burden on society and their families into their 30s and 40s. Learning to make the effort from a young age leads to a happy, fulfilling and rich life.

Depending on which branch, which job and at which level you wish to join the military, you will have to take aptitude tests to see if you qualify for the role. Don’t panic too much about this – either you’re a good fit for the job or you’re not. Do your best on the test and revise and practise beforehand, but if you don’t pass, it’s probable you weren’t suitable for that job anyway. There are hundreds and hundreds of different military roles and you’ll eventually find the one that’s right for you. In addition to this, there is career flexibility, so sailors can become submariners, infantry soldiers can become special forces, enlisted ranks can become NCOs and fully-commissioned officers.

Three things that all jobs in all branches will require are: A knowledge and interest in your branch and job; a military bearing and a good level of fitness. The first of these you will be able to find out more about by reading, visiting your local recruitment office and talking with friends or family who have served. You don’t need to know everything but you should already have an answer to questions like ‘why do you want to join the navy and not the army?’ or ‘why should we take you?’ Bear in mind that almost all military jobs place an emphasis on teamwork. If you are a loner by choice, you will have to explain why they should take a chance on you.

The second can be taught – standing, talking and acting like a member of the armed forces. But if you’re painfully shy or ridiculously obnoxious, you might not be given the chance.

The last of these, fitness, should be maintained and built up constantly. If you are already sure you can meet the minimum standards for entry, don’t stop there. Selection will be tougher. Then Phase One will be even tougher. And it just keeps going that way. You don’t want to regret not having put in the extra effort when you are covered in dirt and sand, coming under enemy fire and are too exhausted to fight back.

Do your running outdoors on varied surfaces, unless you are new to fitness. You can do your cardio at home on an electric or manual treadmill – take a look at Treadmill Trends to find something right for you. Once you have built up a decent level of fitness, take it outside because that’s where it will be for the rest of your military career. If you struggle, don’t worry, just don’t give up. When you absolutely can do any more, force yourself to do more. You will be amazed at the effects of this attitude, physically and mentally becoming able to achieve things that you had no chance of doing before.

Be honest with yourself and others – your fellow soldiers need to know they can trust you and you need to be able to trust them. These are the people who will have your back for life.

Stay focused and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by childish things – street fights, drugs etc. You are above that now. Finally, keep a good sense of humour and you’ll be fine!