First of all, we cannot stay young and ambitious forever. Eventually, there comes a time when we want to slow down and have a family like everybody else. I know it seems ages away from where you are right now, believe me, I certainly had no concept of being a true grown-up in college. It is only recently, as my 20's have begun to draw to a close, that it has crossed my mind. It made me realize something…my time to sprint is dwindling by the day.
I have always been a go-getter. I have continued my habit started in high school, of getting involved in every type of club that will prove to educate me and get me ahead in my career. I have written previously too, about the importance of mentors and beyond that , your network. When you are young, you have the time to run around and be ultra involved because No. 1 in your life is you. This will change and it's important to sprint while you can. To make it simple, I would say there are really three things you can do in order to climb faster and get well-positioned by the time you are ready to take a step back for a while.
1. Spend time growing your network.
This is in the first position for a reason. It's the most vitally important thing you can do in order to get yourself moving faster in the first place and sustain that speed over time. Now is the time to be hitting up each and every networking and mentorship program or event possible. The more people you meet, the more chances you have of finding those professionals you connect with. Remember here too, that it's about quality over quantity. Be strategic about who you invest your time in and make sure that is makes sense for the career path you seek. Keep a follow-up regimen that has you touching base or checking in with them on a regular basis (depending on the particular contact, it might be monthly, but most often it will be less frequently, like bi-monthly or quarterly just to stay top of mind for them).
2. Be a hand-raiser.
In work and even in your personal life, sign up for everything you can. Your brain is a sponge and the more projects and interesting things you take on, the more you will begin to build out your cabinet of experiences to draw from when you become a leader in the future. Not to mention, bosses always need a hand raiser. You might get some resistance from team members who are less inclined to get ahead as you are, but don't let them deter you. I am not saying you should shun or stomp on your colleagues, but just tread lightly and keep your goals in mind. There are always going to be people who want to hold you back, but you have to push forward anyway.
3. Above all, take risks.
Think of your life as the stock market. When you are young and investing money for the future, you can afford to take risks because you will not actually need that money for a long time. You can end up making more, but along those lines, losing more can happen too. But it's ok even if you lose, because you have the time to make that money back. When you are older and have a family to worry about, naturally you are going to be more conservative because you have others than yourself to think about. In your career, from now until your late 20's at the least, it is about you. You can take those risky jobs at start-ups versus settling in at a big corporation. You can move around from city to city or country to country because you are not yet uprooting an entire family. Use this time to your advantage and if you are seeking global experience, why not get it now when it's easy for you to pack your bags and leave tomorrow.
I hope you take this advice to heart and get out there and climb that ladder quickly to secure a high position before it's time to manually slow down. It's much easier to take a step back and get comfortable for a while after you have established your brand and your network.