Ours is an accelerated work culture. The speed at which you hurtle through your career is worn as a badge of honour.
From taking your GCSEs at 14 to earning a six-figure salary by the time you're 30, the fast track is apparently the route to take. Remember the mid-90s dotcommers, just out of nappies with their penthouse apartments, flash cars and art collections?
In the private and public sectors, high-flyers are celebrated and pushed up through the ranks on the so-called fast track to success. The third sector has yet to embrace this model fully, but would do well to familiarise itself with this breed of bright young things that is, no doubt, heading this way.
You know the type: incredibly driven, slightly square-looking, unburdened with humility and with brains so large you can almost see them pulsing. They've passed their civil service exams with flying colours or landed golden handshakes as fast-track headteachers with failing schools, yet still need others to wipe their noses. Cynics might say that the lot of the fast-tracker - resented by slow-trackers, regarded as competitive threats by other high-flyers - is not a happy one, especially when you consider the pressure to achieve, the long hours and the brown-nosing to management that the job demands.
The first five years might be a whirlwind of promotions, backslapping and fatter and fatter pay cheques, but disillusionment typically sets in around year five. Gradually, the dirty machinations of office politics, the resentment of the continual long hours and the feeling of being on a promotion escalator take their toll. Early burn-out is almost inevitable.
Fast-trackers can be tricky to manage. They'll be demanding and intense. They'll expect to work long hours without holidays just to make their mark. This can be problematic if your approach is less ambitious. The best thing to do is to let them work as hard as they like and allow yourself to bask in the golden glow of their success. Some of their starriness might even brush off on you.
- Emma De Vita is a senior section editor on Management Today.