The hidden variables of career success

Aug 13, 2019 |Posted by Jared Simmons | Coaching

Everyone wants to be successful at work.  And every day, employees entrust their success to colleagues down the hall, in the next building, across the country, and across the world.  The trouble is that while an organization may have collective goals and objectives (e.g., profit, revenue growth, impact metrics, etc.), each individual defines personal success differently. Your manager’s definition of success is a critical–yet often overlooked–part of your career equation.

When a manager gives you an assignment, the implicit request is “help me to be successful.”  Understanding the difference between meeting objectives, solving a business problem, and helping an individual to be successful is important. Your manager’s definition of success includes unspoken elements:

  • Looking good in front of the head of a division he’d like to work in at some point
  • Exceeding the targets for a specific metric tied to her bonus
  • Proving that her approach is more effective than a colleague or predecessor’s
  • Spending less time on the project so that he can spend more time with family
  • Grooming you for a bigger role she has in mind for you down the road


In an organization, it’s the manager–not the metrics–that decides whether your effort leads to career success. Managerial discretion in pay, project assignments, work locations, and many other aspects of work depend on these hidden variables in the success equation.

Meeting project objectives will help you keep your job and lead to a measure of career progression. To cultivate a set of options that allow you to build the career you want, you must go beyond meeting the business need and see your manager’s success as your own. This doesn’t require political savvy, plotting, or scheming to get to the top. Seeing your manager as a person and genuinely wanting to be helpful to them is all that’s required.

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Jared Simmons

Jared is the founder of Outlast Consulting LLC, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations with strategy, process improvement, and professional development. He is an engineer by training with experience in market research, product development, innovation, management consulting, and strategic planning at P&G, McKinsey, and Coca-Cola.


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