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Rochester Institute of Technology
College of Liberal Arts
Department of Communication
Career Path Brings COLA Graduates Back to RIT
by John-Michael Stern

Though droves of graduating seniors are filling job vacancies around the country next month, some may find work right under their noses.

Take College of Liberal Arts alumni Erick Littleford, a 2004 Public Policy graduate, and Kristi Ziehl, a 1991 Professional & Technical Communication graduate, for instance. They found careers right at RIT—Littleford as an assistant director of Alumni Relations and Ziehl
as former ITS facilities coordinator and now the portal program manager. The two met up with Liberal Smarts to talk about their positions and how they landed them.

Liberal Smarts: How did you land your job?

Littleford: I mentioned to a few administrators with whom I had a relationship that I was looking to stay in Rochester. One person asked, “Have you ever looked at Alumni Relations?” I really started to think about it, and it seemed Alumni Relations would be the perfect fit for me—I love interacting with people, and I know a lot about the campus. A position had just opened up, and I e-mailed my résumé and cover letter to Kelly Redder, executive director of Alumni Relations.

There were three or four rounds of in-depth application interviews: I met with Kelly again and then with the entire staff. I was one of the top three candidates. I actually didn’t get the job that I was applying for, but a new position was created: Kelly’s superiors had given their permission to hire two people instead of one. It was tremendous—humbling—because in no way would I ever think something like that would happen.

Ziehl: When I was an undergraduate student at RIT, I worked for this same division, but it was then known as Information Systems & Computing (ISC). I held several jobs, one of them a co-op. So when I applied in 1996, I had connections with the department and many people
remembered me—they knew my work habits and skills. In turn, I was already very familiar with the responsibilities, the customers, and the culture of the position. And I think having worked outside the university helped make me a more diverse, appealing candidate.


Department of
Kristi Ziehl
settled in the
ITS department
as manager of the
RIT web portal.


Photo by Jon Gilbert


Since you had already made connections at RIT as a student, did you find it easier or harder to land a job here than at other places where you applied?

Littleford: I think easier. Since I knew Kelly and Kelly knew me, I had an informational interview right then and there. Because I had that relationship, it was nothing for her to say, “Let’s go out for lunch and talk about it.”

Ziehl: I absolutely feel that my connection to RIT as both a student and especially as a student employee helped me. They already knew what kind of employee I was, and I knew what this place was all about.

What are some of the positives and negatives of your position?
Littleford: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a negative, but a challenge, and you face it wherever you go: limited resources. So the challenge becomes: How creative are you? The positives are endless. Since I’ve been working, I’ve been to Chicago and New York City; I know I’ll be going to Atlanta, Orlando, Rhode Island, Baltimore (my home area) and, again, New York City. So you get to travel. And I’m getting paid to go out and interact with people and build relationships.

Ziehl: I love working with students, and I enjoy the atmosphere here. As would be true with just about any place, I dislike some of the politics.

What are your daily tasks and responsibilities?

Littleford: I track down alumni. See where they are in their lives, their careers, and how we can support them. I make them aware of the services we offer. A lot of it turns out to be behind-the-scenes logistics for different events. Outside of that, I work with volunteer coordinator Stefania LoMonaco to identify alumni speakers who maybe get to come to campus as part of her Career Speaker series.

Ziehl: I get to work on a lot of interesting IT projects. Much of my time is spent working on projects with others, the future direction of the portal, and keeping track of the details of both.

Being at RIT, do you feel like a student again?

Littleford: I am still a part-time student, but when you get that full-time job, you quickly realize you are no longer a student. As a student, even with a full load, you’re always going to have breaks in your day. When you’re working full-time, you’re on from the very beginning of the day,
constantly thinking and working. And then with this job, there are a lot of untraditional hours.

Ziehl: I only feel like a student when I’m taking classes.

Do you have a different set of friendships now?

Littleford: As a student, I used to love Buffalo Wild Wings—every Tuesday, 30-cent wings. But I’ve realized that it’s really just students who go there to have a good time. Now, I don’t have that much time to go, and as a staff member, I really need to separate that relationship.

Ziehl: Since I started here a long time ago, that connection is more distant. However, I now have many faculty and staff friends who were working here when I was a student. I also have colleagues that I’m friends with who used to work for me!

Public Policy graduate
Erick Littleford
found his niche as
assistant director of
Alumni Relations.


Photo by Jon Gilbert


If you were to give new, job-seeking graduates three tips that you feel would most help them succeed, what would they be?

1) Use Co-op and Career Services or a faculty member you really trust to take a good look at your résumé and cover letter.
2) Identify your network: faculty and staff, community members, maybe people in your church, maybe someone you volunteered with. E-mail and let them know you’re looking.
3) Stay motivated. I applied to so many jobs—it was a part of my daily routine. It really comes down to practice and confidence. You want to know you’re an expert on what you have to offer.

1) Learn to write well, especially proposals and presentations.
2) Use and keep every connection you make here at RIT. Every person you know here knows tons more people, and that can be to your advantage.
3) Take risks. As you get more settled, choices you make are weightier and influenced by your responsibilities.

How might graduating seniors go about applying for a job at RIT?

Littleford: RIT does a good job of posting their openings on Career Zone. If you’re looking to stay at RIT, most of the time you can send someone an e-mail and say, “Hey, I’m a student, about to graduate, and I’m thinking of sticking around. Can we go to Java Wally’s over a cup of coffee and talk about this position?” Invite them to coffee. A lot of it’s done over coffee.

Ziehl: RIT posts their positions online, but if you’re very interested in working in a particular department, make sure to talk to them. They may not have a position open, but they’re more likely to keep you in mind when something does open up.


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