Kip Turner, 68, joined AT&T shortly after graduating from high school and has worked for the company throughout his 50-year career.
Courtesy of AT&T
Kip Turner wasn’t necessarily planning to join AT&T for his entire 50-year career when he applied there in 1973 — but that’s what happened, and he learned a lot about engineering and career longevity along the way.
Turner, now 68, first joined the company as a terminal installer when he was 18, without a college degree, and had the idea of going back to college to become a veterinarian.
Instead, over the next five decades, he took on about eight different engineering roles, and now works as a lead product development engineer near Faulkner County, Arkansas.
He has also taken on a lot of younger apprentices along the way and believes that despite today’s job-hopping culture, even today’s young graduates can build a 50-year career.
“I think it’s possible,” Turner told CNBC. “I think it’s realistic, if that’s what you want to do.”
“Most of the younger employees I’ve advised don’t have the patience to stay at one company for a long time,” he adds.
From his perspective, Turner says the key to his 50-year career has been to focus on becoming an expert in his current role, and then learn to “be content with what you do.”
Turner says he was never “particularly aggressive” about trying to get a promotion.
“I always told my supervisors to leave me alone,” he says. “Let me learn the job. If I want a change, I’ll let you know. Whether it’s a different job, a lateral move, or a promotion.”
Over the years, he learned about new opportunities by asking questions among his colleagues, and even telling his boss about it. “I don’t usually think you should tell your supervisor you’re applying for a job, but I always did,” Turner says. “And I’ll tell them why — it’s not because I’m unhappy, but I’m looking for a better opportunity, a different opportunity, or a higher salary.”
Kip Turner was never “aggressive” about pursuing promotions. Instead, he says he focused on doing his job well and being satisfied.
Courtesy of AT&T
However, Turner applied for a lot of promotions and was disappointed not to get them. “In most cases, I decided to be happy in… [current] role,” he says.
Turner says it’s important to realize that you may not get a job or promotion because you’re not ready for it, and if you really want it, take the time to learn the skills you’ll need to excel.
He recalls one role for which he applied several times and was rejected, “because, frankly, there was someone else more qualified than him.” But in one case, the person performing the role ended up leaving the company later, “and I went to his boss and said, ‘This is what I’ve been doing and I think I’m right for this role.'” I applied and got the role.
Most people quit because of low wages and limited room for advancement, according to Pew Research Center. Several factors have made job hopping more widespread in recent decades, including slow wage growth, companies’ overseas hiring strategies, and the rise of online job search engines.
Regarding salary, Turner admits: “I haven’t had a conversation about salary with anyone in many years. So I don’t know if [young people are] They are satisfied with their salaries. Most of the time, that’s why people move — they want better pay and benefits.” (Turner declined to share his salary with CNBC Make It.)
He adds: “With some exceptions, I was able to achieve this thanks to the salary I received all these years.” “There were a few times early on where we had $10 left over on the Monday after payday, but that didn’t happen very often.”
In addition to the salary, Turner says he stayed engaged at AT&T because of all the on-the-job training he was able to pursue and advance in his career.
Although Turner never returned for his college degree, he was able to take about “150 different courses across the country” to learn different engineering skills for his job, including skills that allowed him to move on to new opportunities.
He strongly encourages young people to “take advantage of all the training and education opportunities” the company offers, “whether it’s internal, whether it’s tuition reimbursement, or whether it gives you time to go back to school,” Turner says. “Makes me wish I had the benefit of it all those years ago.”
Ultimately, building a 50-year career comes down to “satisfaction with your role and satisfaction with your organization,” Turner says.
Do you want to be smarter and more successful in your money, work, and life? Subscribe to our new newsletter!
Do you want to earn more and get your dream job? Join CNBC Make It: Your Money’s free virtual event on October 17 at 1 PM ET to learn how to level up your interview and negotiation skills, build your ideal career, boost your income, and grow your wealth. Register Free today.
paying off: Montana’s college town ranks top as most fun city for teens – what it’s like to live there