University Park, IL,
21:47 PM

Rising to the Top

Jerry Rodgers wants an edge. A senior at Governors State University, he wants to stay ahead of job market competition, and he's doing it through micro-employment via a company called Parker Dewey while he finishes his degree at GSU.

"The way that I actually connected was through my mentor at GSU, (Vice President of Development) Will Davis. He came and told me about the organization, about the opportunities they have for students," he said. 

Davis worked with Rodgers through the Male Success Initiative (MSI), an enrichment program that provides academic, professional, and personal development for men of color at GSU. Through engagement and empowerment, MSI students are ushered "from orientation to graduation," with mentorship as a key component of that process.

Rodgers came to GSU through the unique DDP pathway, a broad partnership program that helps students move seamlessly from community college to the university. He's set to graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science in December.

"This gives me practical work experience on my résumé and a better shot at obtaining potential jobs when I graduate," Rodgers said.

So what is Parker Dewey? It's a new platform that allows students and recent graduates to explore their options through project-based employment. It's a way for employers and employees to see if they have "a love connection"—in the words of Jeffrey Moss, founder and CEO of Parker Dewey—and it might be the next step in moving Millennials from the gig economy into full-time, right-fit careers.

"When I was in venture capital, we would hire five interns or so every year," Moss said, "and they had 3.9 grade point averages from Harvard or Stanford. Amazing pedigrees. And every year, two or three would stink, and we knew it the first week. It was the wrong fit, or they didnt have that grit, that something more that made them figure out how to get stuff done."

Enter Parker Dewey. Here's how it works.

Parker Dewey connects career launchers—graduates and those about to graduate—with companies seeking talent to see them through projects. It could be a five-hour job (compiling a set of data into a chart, for instance), or it could be twenty or forty, but there's never any commitment, no contracts or strings. On the surface, it's a quick chance for launchers to get some (paid) experience and employers to shorten the company to-do list. In practice, it's an opportunity for both to find out if they're a good match. Unlike working though temp agencies, if a company wants to hire a Parker Dewey career launcher full-time, there's no contract to be bought out of. They just do it.

Ned Laff, who heads up the Center for the Junior Year at GSU, is excited to see Governors State partnering with Parker Dewey.

"A student comes out of this experience with a genuine understanding that their skill sets are very real. They personally understand how what they're studying translates into marketable skills that can fit into any number of work settings. Because the projects are short term, students are able to test the waters in a variety of areas, then they can demonstrate their flexibility in their résumés and portfolios," Laff said.

Rodgers is the first student from GSU to go through Parker Dewey. He said the process of going from interested to working was fairly simple.

"You go on the site, read short descriptions of available projects, and apply for the ones you like," he said. "From there, you might have a phone interview or one on Skype. I feel like this is moving me down my path. I'm using transferrable skills, and employers are going to see that I have experience."

Laff said that the university is in the process of finalizing their relationship with Parker Dewey and to look for a full launch in the fall.