Engineer Who Spent 50 Years With One Company Says the Key to His Success Was Telling Bosses ‘Leave Me Alone; Let Me Learn the Job’

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jun 15, 2024

It’s becoming increasingly less common for workers to stay at one company for their entire careers. But one man who worked for AT&T for 50 years reports that sticking with one company, putting your head down, and taking advantage of in-house opportunities is the best way to have a successful and lucrative career.

After 50 years with AT&T, Paul “Kip” Turner has some advice for the next generation: Tell your boss, “Leave me alone. Let me learn the job.”

Kip Turner’s Journey at AT&T

In 1973, when Kip Turner was only 18 years old, he applied for a job at AT&T as an installer. He always planned to go to college eventually to become a veterinarian, but first, he wanted to make a little money and get some work experience under his belt.

Two businessmen shake hands in an office

Source: iStock

But life didn’t quite go as planned. Instead of leaving AT&T to go back to school, Turner stuck around. He continued to advance in his career, eventually becoming an engineer. Now, 50 years later, he works as the lead product development engineer in Arkansas.

Turner Says the Key to Advancing in One’s Career Is Contentment

Turner explained during a recent interview that he believes the first key to career success is simple: Contentment. He said it’s absolutely  crucial to “be content with what you’re doing.”

A young businesswoman shakes hands with her boss after getting a promotion while her coworkers applaud

Source: Adobe Stock

However, he also noted that being content doesn’t have to mean resting on one’s laurels. Turner said that employees should develop the skills they need to excel in their current position, enjoy it, and simultaneously be on the lookout for any possible advancements.

Take Advantage of Educational Programs

Additionally, Turner encouraged all employees, young and old, to take advantage of the educational programs and certificates their company provides.

Three adults sit at a table while in class

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Turner explained, “Take advantage of all of the training and education opportunities [offered], whether it’s internal, whether it’s a tuition reimbursement, whether it’s allowing you time to go back to school.”

Turner Always Told Supervisors to Leave Him Alone

In addition to finding contentment in the role and taking the opportunity to learn supplementary skills, Turner also said that he made sure to tell his managers to leave him alone, specifically when it came to the possibility of promotion.

A manager yelling at an employee while going over paperwork

Source: Freepik

Turner said candidly, “I have always told my supervisors leave me alone. Let me learn the job. If I want to change, I’ll let you know. Whether it’s a different job, a lateral time move, or a promotion.”

Turner Said He Was Never “Especially Aggressive” About Promotions

Turner continued to explain that throughout his half-century career with AT&T, he was never “especially aggressive” about applying for promotions. He explained that while sometimes, applying for the perfect new role is the right decision, employees should understand that it’s not always the right choice for their careers.

A businessman sits thinking at his desk

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Turner argues that it’s important to master one’s current role before trying to take on a new one. He remembers one time that he was passed up for a promotion “because, frankly, there was somebody else that was more qualified.” But shortly after he was denied, the person hired left the company, and Turner was awarded the position for his loyalty and dedication.


Turner Says the Next Generation Lacks the Patience Needed to Create a Successful Career

In an interview with CNBC, Turner said that he believes his tactics are “realistic if that’s what you want to do.” But he noted that most younger employees “don’t have the patience to stay at one company for this long.”

A black and white photograph of several students on graduation day

Source: Freepik

And Turner may be right; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median employee tenure in the USA is only 4.3 years for men and 3.9 years for women.


Why Do Americans Quit Their Jobs So Often?

Although Turner believes that the majority of people who quit their jobs simply don’t have the patience to work their way up, research shows that there are actually three factors that lead people to leave their companies behind.

A worker at his desk with a white flag and a sign that says “I Quit”

Source: Depositphotos

Some quit because they don’t believe there are any opportunities for advancement, while other Americans said they left because they felt disrespected. But the number one reason why people leave their positions is compensation.


The Number One Reason for Leaving a Company Is Compensation

Slow wage growth, disappointing salaries, or the opportunity to make more money elsewhere are the leading cause of resignations in the United States.

A photograph of hands pulling out a paycheck from an envelope

Source: Depositphotos

Turner noted that he has seen the same trend at AT&T over the years: “Most of the time that’s why people are moving — they want better pay and benefits.”


Turner Says He Could Always “Make It” on His Salary

Of course, everyone wants more money. However, for Kip Turner, his salary wasn’t the most important aspect of his career. Turner explained that he could “make it” on his salary, and that he wasn’t constantly searching for higher paying jobs.

A businessman sits at his desk with his laptop, clearly frustrated

Source: Freepik

He said, “I’ve been able, with a few exceptions, to make it on the salary that I’ve been paid all these years. There have been a few times early on where we had $10 left on Monday after payday, but that hasn’t happened very often.”


Is AT&T a Good Place to Work?

Now, some might argue that Kip Turner’s story is truly a one in a million experience. The majority of people who work at AT&T say it’s a fantastic employer that offers a wide variety of opportunities for education, growth, and promotions. Additionally, AT&T pays its employees a competitive wage and utilizes internal hiring.

The exterior of an AT&T office building

Source: iStock

So, while Turner’s advice could certainly help thousands of people find success in their career, it’s crucial that the company they work for provides ample opportunities, respect, and compensation.


Kip Turner’s Golden Career at AT&T

For 50 years, Kip Turner has dedicated himself to being a loyal, hard working employee for AT&T and it has paid off. He was honored by the company for his “Golden Career,” during which he won several awards, patented his own invention, and made countless unforgettable memories.

A photograph of Kip Turner in front of a AT&T tower in the 1980s/Kip Turner at 68 years old smiles for the camera

Source: AT&T/AT&T

And he may continue to do so for another ten or even twenty years. Now 68 years old, Turner recently said he has no plans to retire: “Not yet, as long as I’m healthy and productive, I have no plans to end my AT&T career anytime soon.”