The purpose of this study was to explore HRD professionals’ competencies leading to career success through an examination of their lived experiences of working in the service industry and to provide implications for HRD research and practice. Two research questions guiding this inquiry included: How do HRD professionals in the service industry experience career success? And how do HRD professionals in the service industry define and experience competencies leading to career success? To answer the two research questions, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 HRD professionals in the service industry. I then transcribed and coded the interview data and identified six themes including: (1) defining and experiencing career success through affect; (2) defining and experiencing career success as contribution to others; (3) defining and experiencing competency as KSAs and other attributes (e.g., capabilities, attitudes, values); (4) using the competency of relationship-building through trust and effective communication to define and experience career success; (5) implementing the competency of agility to define and experience career success; and (6) creating a unique competency mix by developing expert knowledge to define and experience career success. The study findings emphasize the need for HRD practitioners to become exemplars in their field, build credibility, be full organizational members who are credible, and develop unique competencies distinctive to their role. Future research should be conducted on HRD professionals’ perceptions of career success in the service industry. Further, given how emotional the topic of career success was to participants, scholars should explore the emotional well-being of HRD professionals. This study is limited to online interviews that were conducted because of interview participants’ busy schedule. Future research is called on to conduct in-person interviews, with the benefit of bodily presence, to collect richer data. For the sake of triangulation, I suggest adding multiple data collection methods such as observation, document review, and survey.

Date of publication

Summer 6-30-2023

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Yonjoo Cho, Judy Sun, Rochelle McWhorter


Doctor of Philosophy