“Back in 1938, kids were expected to work to help support the family. As the oldest son of five, my mother took me to find a job at the age of 14.”
— Guinness World Records (@GWR) May 1, 2022
A little advice from the man who broke the world record (for the second time!) for the longest career at the same company: find a good employer, work in an area where you feel motivated, and stay focused on the present.
Walter Orthmann speaks from experience, because that's exactly what he's done. For 84 years (and counting), he has worked at the same firm, the textile company ReneauxView. In fact, the record he's breaking, as verified by Guinness World Records in January, is his own—Orthmann was recognized in 2019 for having worked at the company for 80 years.
Orthmann was born on April 19, 1922 in the small town of Brusque, Brazil, which is home to a large German population. He began working at an early age, out of necessity, helping to support his family as they faced financial problems. In fact, he was just 15 years old when he was hired as a shipping assistant in January 1938, back when the company was known as Industrias Renaux S.A. “Back in 1938, kids were expected to work to help support the family,” he says. “As the oldest son of five, my mother took me to find a job at the age of 14.” Because of his proficiency in German, he was hired. Orthmann worked diligently, showing outstanding skills and a willingness to learn from the beginning.
He was later promoted to a role in sales, a position he enjoyed and found highly motivating. “I traveled to São Paulo and in less than one week I filled the production with orders equivalent of three month[s] of work.” He began traveling across Brazil for his job in the 1950s, and fell in love with being on the move and establishing good relationships with clients, who would go on to become friends. He was eventually promoted to a sales manager position which he holds to this day. He remains in charge of coordinating a team of representatives. Over the course of his 84-year career, he has collected pay in nine different currency denominations, and has learned from necessity and experience how to adapt to all kinds of change, both within the company and out in the world.
Orthmann is also a firm believer in routine—each morning, he exercises and commutes to the office. In fact, he sees routine as one of the best, most important aspects of having a job. “It gives you a sense of purpose, commitment, and a routine,” he says. It's those elements, along with doing work he truly enjoys, that have made time fly. “When we do what we like, we don't see the time go by.” A consistent routine and fulfilling work are serving Orthmann well—on April 19, he celebrated his 100th birthday with family, friends and coworkers. His mental clarity and memory are as sharp as ever.
Looking back, he considers this record his “proudest achievement,” despite “never having contemplated breaking a record.” Instead, he remains focused on the present moment, as he always has. “I don't do much planning, nor care much about tomorrow,” he says. “All I care about is that tomorrow will be another day in which I will wake up, get up, exercise and go to work; you need to get busy with the present, not the past or the future. Here and now is what counts. So, let's go to work!”
100-year-old Walter Orthmann broke the Guinness World Record for longest career at the same company by working at a textile firm for 84 years and counting!