Is Fast Tracking A Good Idea?

A University education offers a whole host of benefits including a solid qualification, a chance to spread your wings, a great social experience and, at times, an opportunity to get a quick boost up the career ladder.


Graduate fast track

These days, a great number of companies and organisations offer exclusive fast-track career opportunities for University graduates, allowing them to bypass or quickly navigate lower ranking (and paying) positions.

A quick Google search brings up pages of companies offering new students and graduates the opportunity to sign up for quick advancement through the ranks on graduation including specialist agencies. Organisations in the UK such as the Metropolitan Police Service, IFC Media, Bank of America and, alarmingly, UK Teaching Services regularly fast track graduates into roles which will take non-graduates years to achieve – but is it a good idea?


From the bottom up

Traditionally, a new employee, whatever their education level, would be required to ‘start at the bottom and work their way up’.  This system ensured that employees learned about the workings of the company from the ground up by starting out in the mailroom or typing pool and, achieving promotion to loftier ranks only through hard work and merit.  

This system generally assured that hard workers were able to advance if they desired to do so and, most importantly, that they were able to do so within their own time frame.

In the UK, the Civil Service Fast Stream option promises graduates the opportunity to bypass those ‘boring’ low level roles in order to move straight into jobs that they can sink their teeth into.  Hailed as ‘leadership with supported development’, the scheme issues a ‘fast pass’ which allows employees to be fast tracked through to assessment and employment, bypassing earlier – and some feel – crucial stages.

In essence, fast tracking means that many employees bypass the rites of passage which give them a rounded and comprehensive knowledge of the company and the roles within it, sometimes being elevated immediately to roles ranked higher than employees who have been working for the company for some time.  Classed as unfair and unprofessional by many non-graduates, some say that fast tracking is also counter-productive for the graduate involved.


Going off the rails

Moving from the life of a student to full time employment is a time of transition which often breeds feelings of insecurity and uncertainty.  These feelings can be overpowering enough for a new employee starting at the bottom but, for a graduate who has been thrust straight into a role with a high level of responsibility, it can quickly lead to a sense of being overwhelmed and the stress that goes with that.

A significant number of graduates accepting fast track positions find themselves so overwhelmed that they request to be moved to a lower level (effectively demoting themselves) in order to reduce stress. This can, unfortunately, be detrimental when they later apply for promotion when they feel that the time is right as, they may then be seen as ‘unable to deal with the responsibility of an elevated position’.  

Get Into Teaching offers a six month fast track training course to graduates which means that, within just six months, a former student will find themselves in charge of a classroom of students, something which many in the profession feel is bad for the children and for the graduate.  

In some instances, people are being elevated to Head Teacher status having barely set foot in a classroom first. Nanci Ellis of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers is opposed to the scheme, saying, “Six months might be enough to give you a basic grounding in the techniques to use. But this new group of teachers will need a huge amount of support to learn how to use those skills in different settings.”


Benefits and burnout

For the graduate, there are, of course, benefits to fast tracking, not least the salary and status opportunities but, like many, Nanci feels that fast tracking puts a huge amount of pressure on graduates.  Fast tracking often leads to career burnout as many feel unable to cope with the sudden new level of responsibility as well as the pressure to keep on progressing.

Beginning a career at a more lowly level allows new employees to adapt to a new lifestyle slowly with a more manageable workload and level of responsibility.  From here, a successful employee can navigate promotion within their own comfort zone and time-frame.

In a world where we, increasingly, want it all – and we want it now – it should come as no surprise that the idea of fast-tracking into a higher paid, more interesting position is appealing to many.  However, this salary and role may come at the price of stress and health issues and may, ultimately, lead to falling down the ladder rather than climbing it.


Nichola Rae writes for  Inspiring Interns, which specialises in finding candidates their perfect internship. To browse our graduate jobs, visit our website.