Sharlyn Lauby, SHRM-SCP, is an author, writer, speaker, and consultant.

She shares her wealth of human resources knowledge through her blog HR Bartender, a “friendly place to talk about workplace issues,” and recently published her first book, Essential Meeting Blueprints for Managers.

In January 2016, Lauby led a Capella University-sponsored webinar entitled “5 Ways to Master Learning Agility,” during which she focused on how to use goals to manage your career. In this post, she shares her formula for career fitness in HR.

There’s a point in our work life when we decide “our career.” It’s the moment when we say to ourselves, “I like this job well enough to spend the rest of my life doing it.” And we also decide that we want to be successful at it.

For human resources professionals, the elements of a successful career include:

  • HR Knowledge: We learn about human resources competencies. Then, through education, we learn the theories and models associated with each one.
  • Skills: We develop our HR skills through training and work experience. It’s possible to demonstrate our skills by achieving a credential.
  • Abilities: We improve our abilities with regular development activities, which allow us to further expand our knowledge and skills.

All of these elements (knowledge, skills, and abilities) involve a dedication to learning and consistent practice. For a moment, let’s switch the conversation and think about physical fitness. It involves similar elements:

  • Knowledge of healthy habits (e.g., exercise and nutrition).
  • Skills in terms of balance, coordination, speed, etc.
  • Abilities like stamina that develop over time.

We know that we don’t become fit in a day. It takes regular practice and dedication to get fit and maintain fitness. The same logic applies to our careers. We won’t become successful overnight. It takes time. We have to employ a career fitness approach!

3 Ways to Achieve Career Fitness

1. Expand our horizons beyond lifelong learning.

The term lifelong learner has been used for a very long time, but learning is only one piece of career fitness. We also need to seek out new work experiences and professional development opportunities.

2. Learn how to manage change.

Career fitness focuses on the long-term. This isn’t to say short-term successes aren’t important. Our careers will have plenty of breakthroughs. Career fitness reminds us, though, that the business world is changing and we need to change along with it.

3. Remain flexible with career goals.

Whether you’re an HR generalist or specialist; an external consultant or internal practitioner, career fitness applies to you. In fact, career fitness allows us to change roles and responsibilities while maintaining a solid plan for success.

Career success is contingent on finding a way to define what success means to us as individuals and then working toward achieving that success. Ideally, we don’t want the way to achieve success to keep changing. We do want to continue to change our definitions of success as we move up the ladder. That’s what career fitness does for us. It gives us a model for career success.

If you want to learn more about career fitness, check out “Career Fitness: Necessary for Long-Term #HR Success” on HR Bartender. It dives deeper into the definition of career fitness and how HR pros can encourage career fitness within their organizations. You can also download “HR Professionals: Are you practicing career fitness?,” a step-by-step guide for creating your own career fitness plan.


Capella offers the following human resources degrees: