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Luzader Assists Boilermakers on Career Journeys

Tim Luzader Headshot

Tim Luzader, executive director of the Purdue Center for Career Opportunities, has been assisting Purdue students in preparing for their pursuit of careers since 2000.

“As my time has evolved, I’ve continued to be challenged, having new kinds of activities tossed my way and given some freedom to innovate,” Luzader says. “In many ways, 23 years has passed very quickly.”

Luzader’s interest in career services is the product of his desire to work in a profession that helps people. After beginning his undergraduate education, Luzader dropped out to pursue work in management in the private sector. Due in part to encouragement from his mother, Luzader later felt a draw to return to college to finish his degree. While attending West Virginia University, he obtained an undergraduate internship in the career services office. His experience as an intern inspired his love for the field and set in motion a journey that has spanned 42 years in the career services field.

“It’s a positive kind of track because you’re talking to students at such an important part of their life - when they’re transitioning from student to professional,” Luzader says. “Or you may be talking to them when they’re experimenting with what their career choice might be, possibly getting a part-time job or an internship to do just that. I found the role that career services played in college students’ lives to be very interesting and meaningful.”

In his role, Luzader is in a position where he constantly witnesses student growth.

“I love to watch students transition along their journey,” Luzader says. “The growth that happens between their first year and graduation is remarkable because you see them mature as people and become more critically thinking adults.”

One of the ways Luzader and CCO catalyze student growth is through collaboration with campus partners. The CCO has staff who serve as liaisons to academic departments and other organizations, such as the culture centers, the LGBTQ Center, and Disability Resource Center. Under Luzader’s leadership, the CCO participated with associate deans, the Leadership and Professional Development Initiative (now known as the Roger C. Stewart Leadership and Professional Development Department), students, faculty members, and employers to develop 20 competencies for cross-discipline leadership development for Purdue students. The competencies align with the University’s Embedded Learning Outcomes, which help drive the core requirements of a Purdue education and form a critical component of extracurricular experiences. 

As part of its ongoing outreach efforts to prepare Boilermakers for careers after graduation, the CCO holds more than 500 workshops a year in settings including classrooms, student organization meetings and residence halls. Topics include resume writing, how to interview, how to make connections at a career fair, job search ethics, negotiating job offers and more. 

The first time students typically begin to manifest this knowledge is in their pursuit of internships. CCO data shows that by the time they graduate, 85 percent of Boilermakers have had an experiential learning or internship opportunity.

“Internships are a great way to take a test drive as part of the career decision-making process,” Luzader says.

“A student might think they want to do something, then they get into the work setting and decide they don’t want to do that afterall. That’s a good thing to learn. On the other hand, if there is a connection and they have a great internship experience, they’re even better positioned to have success when they graduate. It’s not unusual for students to have two or three internships, sometimes with the same company that they’re going to accept a job with when they graduate.”

In addition to internships, Luzader recommends that students get involved in student organizations and residence halls, or consider volunteering. He relates that many companies that recruit at Purdue specifically look for extracurricular leadership experiences.

“For instance, one very prominent company goes through stacks of resumes and they will pull out everyone who is currently serving, or has been an RA [resident assistant] for review,” Luzader says. “For this company especially, it’s a data-driven decision. They have more success in not only hiring RAs, but they see them go faster and farther in their career path.”

Luzader notes that over the years, students have become concerned with the job search process and finding internships much earlier in their collegiate journeys – and even before they’ve started classes at Purdue. Luzader says he now often receives inquiries about internships from first-year students attending Boiler Gold Rush. Career-conscious students often pursue leadership experiences in student organizations or study abroad to get build their resumes prior to searching for an internship.

“Students are generally thinking more about their careers when they get here,” Luzader says. “There is definitely far more concern among students about getting internships and what they need to do here to prepare themselves for internships.” 

Tim and Sally Luzader

During his time at Purdue, Luzader notes that the technological savviness of the average student has increased significantly. As a result, the CCO has adopted advanced technology to assist today’s students in their career pursuits. Purdue has one of the largest employer recruitment systems on any campus in the nation and was an early adopter of the online recruiting system used to power MyCCO. Students and alumni can use MyCCO to search and apply for part-time and full-time jobs and internships, schedule interviews and see what companies are recruiting on campus. CCO has also adopted artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as VMock, a smart resume platform, and Big Interview, which allows students to practice interviews online. 

These tools are also similar to different programs used during by employers during the hiring process. Virtual interviews, video applications and similar uses of technology are all becoming more common as employers adapt to the technological expectations of a new generation.

“One of the silver linings of the pandemic and our experience with it was that we had to be virtual,” Luzader says. “We had to be online, not only using Zoom and Teams to connect with our students, but to deliver OnDemand products. Students have come to expect the flexibility that technology offers and employers are also adjusting accordingly.”

In addition to his impact in career services, Luzader has also served as a mentor for students as a student organization advisor and Faculty Fellow. Luzader advises the Purdue chapter of Rotaract, a service club affiliated with Rotary International. The club regularly works with a local elementary school to pack backpacks with food for students on the National School Lunch Program to take home.

Luzader and his wife, Sally, manager of corporate relations for the Department of Computer Science, served as Faculty Fellows in Windsor Hall for 18 years. One of the first calls Luzader received upon being hired at Purdue was from an RA in Windsor, asking him if he was interested in becoming a Faculty Fellow. Over the years, the Luzaders attended weekly dinners and were part of numerous special events, including movies, game nights, murder mysteries and holiday parties. They have built and maintained relationships with students long after they graduated. 

Tim and Sally Luzader attending a Woodstock themed Murder Mystery party.

“I got as much or more out of the experience than maybe some students did because it really helped me understand what’s important in their lives beyond studying – adapting to college life and figuring out where they want to be after college,” Luzader says. “Getting that kind of portrait of their college experience and a better understanding was very helpful to me and meant a lot.” 

Luzader will retire from Purdue in January 2024. He plans to stay active in the Rotary Club of Lafayette and is weighing possible options to participate in consulting and external reviews. Sally will follow him into retirement at the end of 2024.