In episode 56 of the Graduate Job Podcast I am joined by former Royal Marine Craig Williams, as we discuss what you need to do get into the Royal Marines. Craig shares nuggets of wisdom gained on the ground from his 15 years with one of the UKs elite fighting units as we discuss how you too can earn a green beret and get into the Royal Marines. We cover top tips including the number 1 characteristic that will help you succeed as a Royal Marine, the different entry routes and why even if you have a degree you shouldn’t automatically join as an officer. We cover the mindset needed to see you through the legendary 32 weeks basic training, and the physical challenges and tests you will face along the way to getting there. Now don’t worry if the armed forces isn’t you thing, as Craig also reveals insights into the key secret that might be holding you back from the job of your dreams, no matter what area you are applying to. No matter where you are on your jobsearch, this is an episode you won’t want to miss. As always, all links to everything we discuss and a full transcript are available in the show notes at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/royalmarines. Right, let’s head straight over to my chat with Craig.
MORE SPECIFICALLY IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- The secrets behind the Potential Officers Course
- How ‘confidence’ is the one muscle you need to build to get you through the training
- Why women shouldn’t be put off from joining the Royal Marines
- The biggest hurdle that holds people back from applying to the Royal Marines
- What to expect at the Naval Service Recruiting Test
- What to expect in your formal interview
- How to increase your chances of being part of the 0.01% of people who actually get into the Royal Marines
SELECTED LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Craig’s website – http://royalmarinestraining.com/
- Craig’s podcast on Itunes
- Craig’s book recommendation – ‘Grit – The Power of Passion and Perserverance by Angela Duckworth’
Transcript Episode 56 – How to get into the Royal Marines, with Craig Williams
Announcer: Welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast, your home for weekly information and inspiration to help you get the graduate job of your dreams.
James: Welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast, with your host James Curran. The Graduate Job Podcast is your weekly home for all things related to helping you on your journey to finding that amazing job. Each week I bring together the best minds in the industry, speaking to leading authors, entrepreneurs, coaches and bloggers who bring decades of experience into a byte size weekly 30 minute show. Put simply, this is the show I wish I had a decade ago when I graduated.
And a very warm welcome to the 56th episode of the Graduate Job Podcast whether it’s the first time you’re joining me, or as a longstanding listener. We niche down today as I am joined by former Royal Marine Craig Williams, as we discuss what you need to do get into the Royal Marines. Craig shares nuggets of wisdom gained on the ground from his 15 years with one of the UKs elite fighting units as we discuss how you too can earn a green beret and get into the Royal Marines. We cover top tips including the number 1 characteristic that will help you succeed as a Royal Marine, the different entry routes and why even if you have a degree you shouldn’t automatically join as an officer. We cover the mindset needed to see you through the legendary 32 weeks basic training, and the physical challenges and tests you will face along the way to getting there. Now don’t worry if the armed forces isn’t you thing, as Craig also reveals insights into the key secret that might be holding you back from the job of your dreams. No matter where you are on your jobsearch, and if the Navy and army couldn’t be further from what you want to do, stay listening, as there are nuggets of careers gold in here that will serve you well. As always, all links to everything we discuss and a full transcript are available in the show notes at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/royalmarines. And they are there now, typed up already on the website. I know I’ve sometimes been slow in the past in getting them up there but I’m keeping with my 2017 new years resolutions and they’re up there now so head on over. Right, let’s head straight over to my chat with Craig.
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Now, on with the show.
James: I’m very pleased to welcome Craig Williams to the show, business and marketing coach. But, more importantly, for the purposes of today, former Royal Marine, and host of the excellent Royal Marines Training Podcast. Craig, welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast.
Craig Williams: Thanks a lot, and thanks for having me.
James: A pleasure. Today, we’re going to discuss how to get into the Royal Marines. But, before we do, would you like to give our listeners a flavour of your career and how you came to run the Royal Marines training site?
Craig: It’s quite an interesting story, really. I left school, so I left with a few A-levels. I always thought I was going to be a professional rugby league player, and it was just one of those wild dreams that you have as a boy. I actually signed a professional contract with Huddersfield Rugby League as a 16-year-old lad. But then, I very rapidly realized that I was way too slow, nowhere near big enough.
At the time, rugby league went through a bit of a transition. We went through what’s called “Super League”, and it still runs today, and all the clubs got a big injection of cash. Basically, they went out and bought loads of high-priced foreigners and kicked all the youngsters out. So, I was like, “What am I going to do now?”
I did a basic sort of skills finder test. I don’t know what they call it, but it’s like, “This will be an ideal career for you,” type thing. At the top was Royal Marines Commando, and the word “commando” really gripped me because I thought, “What was that?” I was a bit of an outdoor type, I lived outdoors, and all that. So, it sparked a bit of curiosity into what the word commando meant. The more I looked into it, the more I realized that what this was an immense challenge, and I really started to get drawn into it and thought, “This is an incredible challenge. If I get through this, I’m going to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the fittest and most determined people in the country,” which I thought, “Yeah, I’m going to give it a go.”
So, I went off, started training. I was already pretty fit with the rugby and what have you. So, I worked hard on my training, went down. Royal Marines is the longest military training in the Western world, and also often regarded as the hardest. It was really tough, and we’ll probably talk about that later in the podcast.
I got through training, which didn’t go without a few bumps and what have you in the road. I got through training and then I had a career about 15 years where even in terms of like Royal Marines, I was very, very busy. So, I went through all of the world on operations: to Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Kosovo and more places. So, I really travelled the world.
To be honest, the toll of going to Iraq and Afghanistan, I kind of felt that a little bit towards the end and I decided it was time for me to move on and do something different, and I left the Marines without really knowing what I was going to do. At that time, I sort of dropped a little bit, spent a bit of time homeless, penniless, clueless, didn’t have a clue what I was going to do, and basically, I thought, “I’ve done a lot of fitness in the Marines, so I’m going to start a little fitness personal training business.”
So, I started that, and I very soon realized that it didn’t matter how good a trainer you were, if you couldn’t get your name out there, if you couldn’t get clients, if you couldn’t generate income, it’s just all for nothing. So then I started looking into marketing, because this is promised the answer, and I found the love of marketing. The psychology behind it, all those little aspects really sort of grabbed me.
So, what I did is I thought, “Right, I need a vehicle in which to practice the skills of marketing and generate an income. So, I basically thought, “Who can I resonate with most?” Obviously, young lads trying to join the Marines was my very obvious audience. So, I basically started a small podcast, wrote an e-book, and that was the beginnings of the Royal Marines Training Podcast.
James: Brilliant. Many of our listeners are from overseas, so just a brief noddy description, but who are the Royal Marines, and what do they do and where do they fit in sort of the UK Armed Forces?
Craig: They’re classed as elite soldiers. So, imagine you would have the Army, the Navy, the Royal Air Force, which is like your foundational group of Armed Forces within the country. You then have sort of elite forces which they’re just, in terms of Royal Marines, they’ve just got the ability to sustain themselves without sort of help of other people.
So, we would be trained for quite advanced raids into enemy territory, lots of amphibious tasks. The motto of the Royal Marines is “Per Mare, Per Terram”, which means, “By Sea, By Land.” So, you can basically train to operate in every environment in the world from the Arctic, the desert, the jungle all the way to mountainous terrain, on the sea, and all this kind of stuff. So, it’s pretty much like the cutting edge of the UK’s fighting force.
James: Excellent, and I know you mentioned it’s one of the longest, or the longest basic training of any sort of Armed Force in the Western world, and we’ll go into the different aspects of the different training that you’re going to go through. But, maybe before we do, and without wishing to scare people, what sort of characteristics do you need to be to be a Royal Marine?
Craig: There’s a whole load of characteristics that they look out for in training, one of which is courage. Another is determination. One that is quite interesting is cheerfulness in your adversity, which when you start to think about it, you’re like, what we’re kind of talking about there is just the ability, when the times are really tough and you’re cold, you’re wet, you’re hungry, you’ve had barely any sleep, just to be able to take a minute and just laugh at some of that stuff, and it just helps keeping you going.
Another one is knowledge. What people don’t realize when they first think about joining the Forces is they kind of think about a fitness side of stuff, and then miss the fact that when you’re in training and Royal Marines training for the basic Marine is 32 weeks for an officer. So, the graduates would much more likely go as an officer, perhaps, there training is 16 months. Now, you can’t do fitness eight hours a day every day for 16 months. What are you doing for the rest of the time? There’s actually a lot of academic work to get through, even if it’s just learning how to use quite high-spec digital radios to map reading, survival skills, how to patrol, how to look after yourself in the field. There’s so many things to learn. So, knowledge is a real big one as well.
Selflessness is another one. Just being able to look after the people around and to make decisions based on the good of the group, not just the good of you as a person. Actually, that’s one of the things that a lot of guys, especially millennials, people of this sort of era now coming through, just the way that life is with social media, television and all of this kind of stuff. Just, quite often, we found that it’s hard for them to think of the group. They’re quite concerned with themselves. So, that’s a skill that I spend a lot of time sort of talking about.
James: Excellent. You mentioned there about the different entry routes whether it’s an officer or just the standard entry. Would you recommend that, say, people with a degree who’s finished university, so most of the people listening here, that they would if they were thinking of the Marines to definitely go down the officer route? I mean, is that just a given that you’ve got a degree, you’d go down the officer route, or are there circumstances where you, maybe, just go through the normal entry?
Craig: What they call the Marines is like a thinking soldier. There’s more Marines with degrees than any sort of run-of-the-mill Force really. It’s incredible. There’s a story that I read once where one of the high-ranking officers came around during an operation. He was just chatting to the troops, doing the normal, “Hey guys, mail getting through. How are the boots? How was the food?” and all this kind of stuff. Chatting with the people, and he’s like, “You guys are quite new Marines. Where have you come from?” and there was a guy that was a banker in the city and he just decided he needs another job change, and he just joined up as a basic Marine, and then there was another guy and he says, “Well, I joined the Marines. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s phenomenal”. He says, “What were you doing before?” and he says, “Oh, I was just tossing it off on the Hadron Collider in Switzerland.”
So, you get some people from all walks of life, and basically what it boils down to, when you boil it down, lots of people join the Marines because what it’s going to do is it’s going to teach you a couple of things that you’re not always going to get in civilian street. It’s going to teach you grit. Grit is the ability to roll up your sleeves and get going and really take action when everything else around you is screaming stay where you are, stay safe, and all that. So, it teaches you grit.
It also teaches you leadership, high professional standards, high personal standards, all these things. So, people will often use it as like a stepping stone. More and more people joining the Marines now is like a little 4-year stepping stone before they then go on and deal with this all almost to see a bit of the world, get some experiences behind them, and then kind of move on.
So, some people do that, but on the flip side, the majority of graduates will go down the officer route. The issue with that is training is twice as long. It’s 16 months as opposed to 32 weeks, and there’s also the promotion system and everything is different as an officer, and you can get tied up with return of service. So, you might go on and become an officer and then specialize in a particular trade, and then because you’ve specialized in a particular trade, they might say that you need to stay for another three or four years or whatever. There’s a couple of different aspects and it really boils down to the person.
The other thing to bear in mind is that the officer, when you pass out a training with your green beret on your head that’s probably still wet while you try to shape it and make it look nice, you’ve got 36 people looking at you for answers and direction. Some people don’t necessarily want that level of responsibility straightaway. When you start to think about it, this isn’t a classroom setting where you’re the teacher at the front, you got to kind of teach someone some. This can be combat where people are not going to come back. Some people don’t like that responsibility. Other people thrive on it.
What I will say is that if you are considering a career as an officer in whatever Force, you’ve kind of got to way up some of the downside, and actually what I said, the Forces is a lot of — 99% of good, 1% of bad. Even bad times when you’re going through training. It’s 99% good, having a laugh, and 1% where you’re like, “God, this is just shocking and I don’t want to be part of it anymore. So, there’s a real good side to it as well.
James: Just sticking with the basic questions. Are women able to apply now for the Royal Marines?
Craig: Yeah, that’s a relatively new thing. Actually, the Marines are part of the Navy, but we say that the Marines are a department of the Navy, and what we say is, “Yeah, the men’s department.” So, basically yeah, they can join. They’ve run trials in the past were women attempt, and the second part of Royal Marines training is you go through the commando affairs, and it’s a real battering on the body. In the past, we sort of said, “Women really don’t have the upper body strength or the robustness to do some of the activities that you do.” So, we’re talking about hauling your body weight plus an extra three stone in kit, or per rope for 30 feet, which is quite a feat. There’s a lot of technique, but there’s a certain amount of strength as well.
They ran these tests to see if women could actually achieve it and they faired pretty well, but when guys go through and do it, you saw all the tests, all the commando tests are condensed into like five days. What these women were doing was they sort of stretched it out, so it gave them time to recover, rest, sort themselves out, sort any blisters out and all that, and then go for it. Not taking anything away from the girls that went through and did really well.
So, now what they’ve done is they’ve opened up training to females as well, but they surveyed all the females in the Navy and said, “Who wants to attempt this?” and I think they got three people, three volunteers. So, there’s a long way to go yet. In my group, in my Facebook group, I’m starting to get some teenage girls now that are really considering a career in the Marines. So, I think it’s going to change, you know. I think it’s going to come around and it’s going to be a real thing. At the minute, very, very, early stages.
James: Well, listen to this, you know. You could be that first cohort that goes through it, so if you fancy it, definitely give it a shot. So, Craig, let’s move on then to the different aspects of applying. Having made initial contact on the first stages of the Naval Service Recruiting Test, what would be involved at this stage?
Craig: I will say before that, the hurdle where I see most people fail is the first step of registering interest. Just go into the careers office and putting the hand up and saying, “You know what? I’m considering a career in the Royal Marines.” Now, there’s no obligation there. Just because you’ve walked in the careers office, it doesn’t mean you then got to go all and do loads of press-ups in the mud.
You’re just basically showing an interest, and that is the point in which the majority of people fail. They just do not even take that first single step. There’d be lots of talking about it, and then of course, later in life, you meet people and then you sort of say, “Craig, what have you done?” “I was in the Marines and all this,” and you go, “Oh, I was going to join the Marines.” I’m not really interested in that. You either did or you didn’t. You either get your degree or you don’t. You know what I mean? It’s one of those things that really is binary.
So, the first step is register your interest. Get to the careers office. The biggest, biggest step, and it’s the one that most people fail on. The next step from that then, you would go through the Naval Service recruitment test, like you said, which there’s a few parts that you’ll do, like a numeracy part, you’ll do a literacy part of the test. It’s like a written format. You’ll do a mechanical comprehension, which is basically, “Here’s a diagram with a load of cogs. If you turn this cog, which direction is this cog going to turn.” Or, it might be you’re reversing a trailer and if you reverse in this direction, where does the trailer go?
So, it’s really just looking at how your mind works. Then, obviously, for some people, that in itself is quite a tough thing. You get lots of people that, academically, are really switched on, but the sort of more, I hate to say, common sense stuff, they kind of miss that. A Royal Marine Officer, what you’re going to need is a big sort of slice of emotional intelligence. You’re going to need to be able to read people and read the men that you lead in, so they kind of look at all those factors as well.
Again, it’s probably, I would say, if you’re a graduate, you’re going to be used to written tests, and it’s nothing at all to worry about. It’s something to embrace, go and give it a go. You get a couple of go’s. Depending on if you fail, it depends on how bad you fail as to whether you can try it again in 3, 6, 9, 12 months or whatever. Just go and give it a go.
James: As you mentioned there, I’m sure we all know people who are book smart, but when it comes to common sense, severely lacking. We all know people like that. So, moving onto the next aspect then, the medical and the eye tests. What they’re looking for here or alternatively, what will rule you out, is it glasses or asthma? Can you still get in with those?
Craig: Yeah, a lot more and more people are joining with glasses now. Asthma is a funny one. If you’ve been sort of asthma attack free for four years or you’ve not had to go to the hospital because of an asthma attack and you’ve sort of been free of an inhaler for four years, then you’re good to go. More people join with asthma now than before.
Things that would have stopped you in the past is colour-blindness. Obviously, you need to be able to differentiate between green, red, and all that kind of stuff. This is quite a real serious aspect, you know, because obviously, boats, planes, all that kind of stuff, the left-hand side is marked with green. The right-hand side is marked with red. So, there’s a real sort of the need for that. So, some aspect of colour-blindness will bar you from entry straightaway. Other aspects would be fine.
Wearing glasses is not necessarily going to mean that you can’t join, but there is a certain level. I’m not sure what the level is. I’ve never been able to track down what the actual level is. So, it’s one of those things where if you’ve got these things, better to use it as an excuse to be that, the reason why you didn’t go and try, say that everybody just go and try.
Get a lot of people that I chat that’s like, “Well, I was talking to such and such down the pub, who knows guy that said that his wife was married to a you know and he’s like”, just go and talk to the careers office, because they’re the people that know. So, eye tests and medicals. Medicals are just looking for anything that’s going to affect your — you’re going to get a real hammering in training physically, and you’ve got to have a certain amount of robustness, and if you start with injuries, or maybe you’ve got like an excessive curvature of the spine, which is quite a common thing, these are all things that could bar you from entry.
Other stuff are eczema. Eczema’s quite a serious thing, and people start to get a bit shirty about, “Well, eczema, it don’t really affect me in life,” or it doesn’t know, but if you’re lying in a bush for a week and you need to keep quiet, eczema could be a problem. So, the whole thing, same again, get yourself there, go through the tests. It’s better to have tried and sort of said, “Go away. Come back when you’re asthma -free for three years or whatever,” than to have never tried before and use it as a bit of an excuse.
James: So then, you move onto the first initial fitness test, which involves the 2.4K in under 12 and a half minutes, and then you’ve got to do it again in under 10 minutes?
Craig: Yeah, so what it replicates is one of the basic fitness tests that all Forces do. Now, the Marines being the Marines, the time limits you get for that is much less than an average infantry soldier, and as an officer, you’re expected to do much more than the guys underneath you. One of the interesting things about the officers in the Royal Marines is they’re the only Force in the UK that train in the same location as the basic Marines, what they call the other ranks, which is quite unique because you can’t hide. If it’s just officers and it’s just other ranks, you can kind of hide, but when you’re in the same location, you’re constantly being scrutinized. And the officers are expected to do more.
So, the fitness test, it sounds, on paper, like quite an easy test to do. The trouble is when you start running on the treadmill and you’re only used to moving outdoors, and you start putting the incline on there, it does take its toll. But, it is something that you can quite easily train for. I believe in sort of a six-week period, if you apply yourself and follow a program, this is an easy test to tick off, really.
James: Is it just the running at this stage, or are there press-ups involved or pull-ups involved at this stage, or do that come later on?
Craig: What we used to do is we used to do — when I joined, the very first thing you did when you walked into the careers office, they used to say, “Right, follow me,” and they used to take you into the backroom where there’d be a pull up bar, and if you could not do 10 full overhand pull-ups, you didn’t even get to talk to a recruitment officer. They’ve kind of scrapped that now.
They do the run because, to be honest, upper body is not the facet of fitness that the majority of people struggle on today. We do lots of weights and that kind of stuff. Where the problem has been is sort of your cardiovascular fitness and your running stride because we’ve worn trainers for far too long and they’ve affected the muscles in our legs and all this kind of stuff. So, it’s just the run at this initial phase.
James: To move on the next stage then to the interview, what’s involved in the formal interview?
Craig: The interview, really, is a bit of a you getting to see the interviewer and, obviously, the interviewer having a look at you, and it’s very much like a regular job interview. They’re going to ask you about some military knowledge. They’re going to want to know that you’ve sort of studied and you’ve actually really considered what you’re about to do. Like I said, there is a very real possibility that when you join, you’re going to die one day serving the country, and you need to really think about that.
The chances of that happening is very, very slim – very slim. The percentage, or the risk or whatever, is very, very slim, but it is a possibility, and some people don’t think about that. They see the challenge of earning a Green Beret and being able to call themselves a commando, and they never really think that, “Well, actually, what’s going to happen after that?” I’m potentially going to war and all these kind of things.
So, they’re going to really dig down into your, what I call, deep-rooted desire, why you want to join up. You need a really big, strong, deep-rooted desire to get yourself through the training. It is tough. I believe that everybody that applies themselves can do it, but you’ve got to have something inside that pulls you through there. Just the fact that you won’t mind having a Green Beret, that’s not enough. You’ve got to have something really deep.
So, the interview is centered around how much you’ve sort of prepared yourself, how much you’ve thought about it, and how you come across. Because, already, they’re starting to look at you if you go the officer route to look at your leadership and communication potential. If it’s lacking, you could be found unsuitable just because you didn’t communicate in the right way. So, very similar to a job interview, but structured towards the Forces. They’re going to look at not just the grassroots of how many different commando units they are, a little bit of history about the Marines. Do you know the motto? Do you know what the cap badge is made up of?
But also, some probably UK strategic type stuff. So, where are the major Forces deployed in the world right now? Where are the big crisis areas in the world where what Royal Marines could expect to deploy? All this information is available on the MOD website, so it’s not something that you’ve really got to work out to get.
James: Do many people fail at this stage, or would they maybe tell you to come back and come back later when you’ve done a bit more thinking if you weren’t up to standard.
Craig: Not so much as officer training. In fact, all the steps I’m talking about here, these are all sort of pretty low bar to entry type stuff, you know what I mean? The real big hitter is coming up next. All these things is like getting a tick in the box, just make sure that what we’ve got here is somebody with potential, and that’s kind of what we’re looking at. What I should have mentioned before was there’s an accepted ratio of people that attempt to join the Marines and that actually get through. I don’t know if people have heard this before, but the accepted ratio is 99.99% fail. What they’re looking for is the top .1% of young lads, females now as well, in the UK.
Now, what I say to that is people look at that and it’s like, “But, what is that?” If we were to sort of define it, and people often think of fitness. That’s the most tangible thing that I can think of, and they sort of think, “Well, I’m not the .1% fittest guy that I know in my town, or in my school, or university, or whatever,” and they kind of get freaked out by that. In fact, the Marines called it — it was a big recruitment campaign, and in fact, the Army said it was the best recruitment campaign they’ve never had. Because, so many people went, “Well, I’m not going to bother with the Marines then. I’m going to go join the Army.”
What I’ll say is you don’t really know what the Marines are looking for, and you might not know that you’ve got the qualities and all this kind of stuff. So, what I’ll say is I’ve seen people go to Marine training, and everybody around them has got not a chance, but there’s something that the Marines liked, and they went and they got through. I’ve seen people go down there, and they’re like Olympians. They’re incredibly fit. When you look at them, they’ve always been in the outdoors, they’ve always been sporting. They’ve talked about joining the Marines for years, and years, and years. I’ve seen them people go and they’ve not been suitable, or they’ve withdrawn themselves voluntarily.
So, you just don’t know, and it’s something that you just got to go one step at a time. Every challenge is a journey, and every journey is a series of small steps, you know. So, one step at a time and keep working through.
James: And as you said earlier, if you never apply, you’re never going to get in, no matter how fit you are.
Craig: Yeah, that’s it. That’s the one thing that is certain. If you don’t even raise your hand, you’re definitely not going to get in.
James: So, moving on then, to the Potential Officers Course. What would this be comprised of?
Craig: Well, when you read the terms out – again, I don’t want to freak anyone out, I just want to set some expectations – the hairs on the back of my neck stood up when you said the Potential Officers Course. What, in effect, it is, you will go down for a four-day fitness and sort of mental assessment. I think in the last count, there was something in the region of 70 different assessments that you go through in those four days, and it can be anything from the assault class to gym tests to rapid-fire quizzes when you’re tired and all this kind of stuff. Just lots and lots of tests you’ve got to go through.
Fundamentally, this course is set up to do one thing, and that is make you opt out. They don’t publish that as their aim, but through friends that have put this program together, I know that’s what the aim of the course is. So, it’s four-day, get down there, let’s break them, basically. The key thing is, and this is where, kind of, people fail. When we talked about grit before, just hang in there. They will do all sorts to make that little seed of doubt where you go, “You know what? I’m not making the grade. I’m the slowest here. I’m holding everyone back. I must look pathetic in the gym,” or whatever, and they start this little seed of doubt, and then eventually, “You know what? That’s it. I’m done, I can’t do this.”
You just got to hang in there. Hang in there all the way to the end and let them, let the Marines make the decision. Don’t make the decision for them. It’s the case of just digging in deep even if you are the slowest. I mean, I went down there and I was at the back of every run. I was nowhere near where I needed to be in the gym, but I just hung in there all the way to the end, and basically, at the end, you do that little bit of an interview, and the guy was like, “Look, to be honest, your fitness has been nowhere near. Give me one reason why we should keep you in,” and I said I was just never going to give up, and that was enough. Away I went, I had an amazing career.
So, that’s what this course is about. Like I said, you’re going to do a lot of fitness tests in the gym, and this is the thing. When you look at the criteria for the fitness test, do not be arrogant and think, “You know what? They’re relatively easy. I can do that,” because what you’ve got to remember is they’re going to warm you up, in inverted commas, they’re going to warm you up for a good hour before you even start the fitness test. You’re going to what would be a horrendous fitness session as a warm-up. Before you even start, they’re going to get you in the mud, going to get you cold, wet, and then ask you to be incredibly disciplined. The gym down at the commando training centre, if you scratch a nose, that’s extra press-ups. Even to the point where if you’re going to be sick, you’ve got to be sick inside your t-shirt so you don’t get the gym messy, and all these things start to really take its toll.
The amount of people going down there and they can max out with like 15 really good strong pull-ups, but by the time they’ve done the warm-up, they’ve done all the tests before, they’re like seven or eight. Again, that little bit of doubt settles in. It is physically tough, but you’ve got to constantly remember that the aim is to make you opt out and do not give them the satisfaction.
James: I was looking at the website, and then the list of all the things, if you take them individually, and as you said, if you take them fresh, and you think, “I can do that,” it was the running one, it was like, “I can run quicker than that, and the obstacle course sounds good fun,” but you think about doing them individually as opposed to doing them at the end of four days with no sleep and all this other stuff, that’s when, as you said, the grit needs to come to the fore.
But, it’s interesting, as you said, it’s this stage to try to make you quit. So, if you keep that in mind, then it’s going to help as you keep going through. Then, the next stage sounds very grand: the Admiralty Interview Board. It sounds quite daunting. What does this involve, and again, how can you prepare for it, and what are they looking for?
Craig: I’m only sort of speaking from what other people have said. The Admiralty Interview Board is something that I haven’t been through. This is something that the officers go through in their own right. It’s a traditional thing that goes back through naval history for many, many years.
Imagine being at university and you’ve just handed in your science assignment or whatever and then you’ve got Stephen Hawking, Professor Brian Cox, someone else I can’t even think of on a board and then you’ve got to present your findings and all that to those people, and they pick it apart bit by bit and just really dig deep into your thinking and how you presented everything. It’s a real, real tough thing, and I think the POC, the Potential Officers Course, is going to test you physically and test your robustness and your determination. This really is going to test your communication, both written and oral, plus the way that you think, your mechanical comprehension and everything. It’s really going to bring all that together.
But, like I said, there’s lots of literature about it on the MOD website, so you can learn these things. Some of these things seem alien to me because I don’t have a degree. So, writing an essay, I don’t really know where I’d start with that, a proper essay. As a graduate, obviously, these are all skills that you would have been working on now. In effect, you’ve been preparing for this your whole time through education.
Then, a big part of it is, “Can we see this guy, or girl, leading a troop of 30-odd steely-eyed commandos into battle?” What I will say though is I think a lot of people go down there and they try and play the game, they try to put on a facade of what they think that the Admiralty Board wants to see. Ultimately, you get found out. So, all you can do is go down in there and just be yourself. Just present you as you are because they’re going to dig up the raw you anyway. So, be yourself. If you’re suitable, fantastic. If you’re not suitable, then good, we’ve worked it out now, and that’s kind of the way to address it.
James: Yeah, definitely. It holds true in all applications for any graduate job is you don’t want to be pretending to try and be someone else, because, 1, it might not be the job for you if you have to pretend to get through the recruitment process. And B, they just want to see the real you. Can they see themselves working with you, whether it’s an office or whether it’s in a foxhole somewhere. You just want to be yourself.
Craig: It’s like a car dealer, really. You can do lots of stuff to a car to get it to run well for a day. At some point, the things that you’ve done, the wheel’s going to come off, the engine’s going to break or whatever, you know what I mean? It will happen.
James: So, listeners might be thinking now, “Woo, that was difficult, I’m in the Royal Marines.” You’re then through to the 32-week selection course?
Craig: 16 months for officers, 32 weeks for other ranks in the Marines, which is, like I said before, regarded as the toughest military training in the Western world. It is a massive experience. As well as physically being challenged and just creating incredible determination or courage, knowledge. Just deep-rooted confidence in yourself. Not arrogance. That’s different, you know what I mean? It’s a confidence of your abilities to the point now where we’re in a bit of a cold snap at the minute and people are petrified because of the cold. Well, I know I can operate in temperatures of like -30 and below. I’ve done it. I’ve experienced that.
You do all these things, and what pops out is this really well-rounded person of quite high professionalism, determination, and really good qualities. The downside is you’ve got a bit of physical activity and a few other tests to get through.
James: Of the people that start the, taking for example, the officer 16 months, what percentage of people who started will actually complete it?
Craig: I don’t know what the current stats are at the minute. Let me tell you from past experience. When I did my 32 weeks of training, 52 people started, 6 people finished.
Craig: With the original troop, yeah. So, the thing is what happens if you pick up an injury or if you fail a test because you weren’t quite ready or all this kind of stuff, what they’ll do then is you’ll get what’s called back trooped in officer training. It’s not called the troop; it’s called the batch of officers. So, you might go back to a new batch that’s behind you. So, although 6 passed out with the original troop, as originals to that troop, you get many more pass out. I think it was 22 of the whole lot actually passed out.
The interesting thing is the first day – I remember this day so clearly – I remember looking at that room. My nickname in training, the training team used to call me “Pie shop”, because I was a bit of a chubby. But anyway, I looked around the room and I was thinking, “God, only a percentage of these people are going to get through,” and I don’t look like I deserve to get through compared to other people. And I think this is a massive lesson in life, because quite often, you can’t judge people by how they look. You can only judge people about what they do and all that kind of stuff.
Very soon, we had people, on the first day, deciding that it wasn’t for them, and you’re looking at them thinking, “An amazing top physical specimen and all that,” and I was there, this little chubby guy. The guy in the bed next to me who was one of my best mates now, he’s a little scrawny fellow. We managed to get through, and these other guys didn’t make it. So, you can’t really judge other people by how they look, and you certainly shouldn’t compare yourself to other people because you’re you and you can’t do it like that. It doesn’t really work.
James: Well, unfortunately Craig, time is running away with us, but one final question then before we move to our quick-fire questions at the end. We talked offline before about the importance of mindset and just how you’re going to face physical challenges, but above all, it’s a mental challenge. What advice would you give people who are thinking about applying who aren’t really sure to give them the confidence that they can go on and do it?
Craig: I think that the first thing is confidence is a muscle, and the more you train it, the more you can get. So, if you look at yourself thinking, “I’m not sure,” Well, good. But, you need to have something that — I’m a massive believer that human beings need challenge. If we don’t have challenge, we start getting depressed and we start getting low and all this kind of stuff. So, that’s good. That’s exactly where you want to be. That’s right.
It’s just that the next step we need to work on is like, “But, maybe I can. Maybe I can do this,” and then you’ve got to remember that the first day, when you turn up at the careers office, you are not a Royal Marines Commando then. What you’re doing is you’re in the process of becoming, and I think it’s really easy to get into this idea that everything is a switch, everything is just an event that happens. It’s not. There’s a whole process to go through, and Royal Marines training is designed to take you through that process and to spit out a well-rounded Marine at the end.
So, allow the process to take its whatever the word is, you know what I mean? Effect, allow the process to take its effect and just take one step at a time. Like I said before about the challenge, every challenge is a journey, every journey is a series of small steps.
James: Brilliant, and that’s a really nice place for us to finish on. Craig, so moving onto the weekly staple questions. It doesn’t have to be specifically Royal Marine-related, but it can be. What one book would you recommend our listeners to read?
Craig: There’s loads of books that I could recommend and there’s lots of books that are specific to Royal Marines training, but one book that I think would help anybody and even if they’re listening to this and they don’t have a desire to join the Forces or the Royal Marines is a book by a lady called Angela Duckworth called “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance“, and it really is that thing. If I could box up a bottle of one trait, one characteristic to hand to anybody that wants to go through life and do well in life, it would be grit. So, that’s the book I’d recommend.
James: Super. I’ve not come across that one. That sounds like a good one to read. Listeners, as usual, all links and a full transcript, everything we’ve said today can be found on the show notes at graduatejobpodcast.com/royalmarine. Craig, moving onto the next question then, what website would you recommend that our listeners visit?
Craig: I’ve mentioned the MOD website quite a bit. I mean, they do a fantastic job of informing potential candidates and what have you. But, what I want to do is just something slightly different. I would talk about using Google Alerts. When you’re preparing for anything, quite often, it’s about just having that topic in your awareness, and one thing that I encourage all the people that come to my podcast to do is to create a Google Alerts.
If you go to Google, find the Google Alerts, you can basically type out a phrase, and then what Google will do, it will go out every day or every week or whatever, enter the internet, and bring back all the new information with that phrase in there. So, you could type in “Royal Marines” and then see what information comes up, and that gets dropped directly into your email, and it’s just a really quick, easy way of just sort of keeping on top of current affairs and other bits of information.
The mega egotistical people can put their own name in there and Google themselves, all that stuff. I think that’s the one thing I do. It’s about a really basic quick and easy step to put what you’re trying to achieve into your awareness.
James: That’s a really good tip, and yeah, Google Alerts is a really good tool you definitely want to use. And finally, Craig, what one tip would you give our listeners that they can implement today to help on their job hunt?
Craig: I think quite often when we think about what we want to do, we look at the tasks as a whole, and we have a very sort of broad brush thing of what we’re going to do, you know, and that can be quite smothering sometimes. It can be quite overwhelming. Now, when you think about joining the forces, I imagine someone’s going to do this, join Royal Marines, that’s too big a chunk for us to really work on.
So, what I would encourage people to do, the biggest tip is just what is the first logical step? What is the first thing that you can do to get yourself going and really just focus on that. When that’s done, you can then think about the next logical step. Obviously, the big thing that I’ve mentioned time and time again is you’ve got to take that step. Whatever that one step is, you’ve got to take it, and then quite often, what you realize is that whatever’s been holding you back, whatever worry you’ve had or anxiety, or whatever, it’s never quite as bad as you think it is.
James: Craig, that’s a lovely point for us to finish on. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on this show. What’s the best way for listeners to get in touch with you and the work that you do?
Craig: You can head over to the website, which is royalmarinestraining.com. There, obviously, you can pick up episodes of the latest podcast, and there’s a few other links to some of the social media stuff there. I’ve got to say, it’s been an absolute pleasure sort of chatting to you as well, James, and hopefully, I’m pretty sure people will find a couple of nuggets of interest in this. So, thanks for having me on the show.
James: I’m sure they will. It’s been a pleasure. Cheers, Craig. Thanks a lot.
Craig: Thanks a lot. Take care.
James: Many thanks to Craig Williams for his time today. I really enjoyed our chat and exploring a career which is very different to any that we have examined on the podcast so far. A few things stood out for me which are relevant to know matter what industry you are applying for. One is on taking that first step, whether it is walking into the Navy recruiting office and saying you want to join the Royal Marines, or registering your interest with a graduate scheme that you have always wanted. If you don’t take that first step, your never going to get there, no matter how much talking you do about it. Craig used the phrase a few times in the interview ‘Every challenge is a journey, and every journey is a series of small steps’, and apologies Craig but I’m going to have to nick that, as it is such a brilliant mantra to keep in mind. Whether you are embarking on a 20 mile yomp across Dartmoor, or trying to summon up the motivation to complete another online application, keep that phrase at the back of your mind and just keep breaking it down into small steps. As you go through the recruitment process for whatever job it is, there will likely be an equivalent of the Potential Officers Course, a stage put in their to make you quit, to sort out the people who can be bothered and really want it, from those that just think they do. Keep going and put the effort in, it will be worth it on the other side.
So that brings us to the end of episode 56, don’t forget that there is a full word for word transcript of the whole interview up on the show notes at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/Royalmarines so get yourself over there and have a look. If you’ve enjoyed the show or any of the previous 55 episodes, the way you can show your thanks is to go to graduatejobpodcast.com/survey and answer 3 questions letting me know what you like about the show and episodes you would like to see. So head over there and check it out. All that is left is to say thank you for listening, I know you have an unlimited choice of where to spend your time, and I really appreciate you choosing to spend it with me. I hope you enjoyed the show today, but more importantly, I hope you use it, and apply it. See you next week.