Career Supporter Spotlight Series: This is Opportunity

Sep 30, 2020 | Guest Experts

A title graphic featuring the founder of This is Opportunity, Michael Costantino.

We all need support this year, especially in the pursuit of our next fulfilling career move. That’s why we’ve started a Career Supporter Spotlight blog series, in which we’ll showcase organizations doing their best to help job seekers in these challenging times.

This post highlights This is Opportunity, an organization that empowers those facing barriers in their job search through video resumes, skill-building classes, and more.

By: Elyse Villanueva | Philanthropy Administrator for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Some of us are lucky enough to have earned a college degree or gained experience from an unpaid internship, both of which are praised or even seen as essential on a resume. However, not everyone has access to opportunities like these, which means other valuable assets they may have are often go unnoticed on a traditional paper resume.

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If you’ve faced societal obstacles like these, how can you stand out as a great candidate in the job market? That’s the problem that This is Opportunity (TiO) steps in to solve.

TiO offers four methods to help underprivileged job seekers stand out and advance their careers:

  • One-on-one job search consultations
  • Video resumes highlighting clients’ personalities and soft skills
  • Skill-building classes (software training, email etiquette, social media responsibility, etc.)
  • Networking opportunities

We spoke with TiO’s founder, Michael Costantini, to learn more about how they empower and provide access for job seekers(Interview edited for length and clarity.)

What is TiO’s mission?

At the core of what we are doing is humanizing people within the job market. Sometimes going into a job search with only one asset (your resume) can make it difficult for employers to understand a job seeker’s value.

If they haven’t had opportunities to gain higher education or create a professional network, their barriers to entry are only that much higher.

And even beyond that, a lot of individuals we work with unfortunately face labels, misjudgments, and stigmas, and a resume often doesn’t let them shed light on their circumstances. 

A headshot of Michael Costantino, Founder of This is Opportunity.

Michael Costantini, Founder of This is Opportunity.

We are doing everything we can to level the playing field in that regard and to get everyone to understand that hiring is not all about your technical skills and past work experience. It’s also very much about your soft skills and your values as a human being, and that should be championed in the job market.

Our work allows job seekers to give more context into who they really are and the value they can bring to the job market.

How did you start the organization?

It started when I was living in a heavily populated area of Chicago and I befriended a couple of guys who were living on the street. They had great senses of humor and unique personalities, so I couldn’t really understand why they were in that situation. It wasn’t until I started looking for a job myself that I understood not only why they might have found themselves there, but also why they might not have been able to better their situation.

Once I made that connection, I started volunteering at homeless shelters as a job coach and a huge problem presented itself to me. I saw that homeless job seekers’ obstacles weren’t just about not having access to the internet, but also very much about not having a digital presence or the ability to establish a professional network.

So, I realized that they needed much more support than was being offered to them and that the current job search platforms were not well suited for their needs.

What’s your process of working with job seekers like?

We [primarily] directly support nonprofits — organizations that are providing professional development services or helping individuals achieve economic stability. We’re meant to complement or enhance their programming.

Oftentimes [organizations like these] are committing a lot of manpower to try to get individuals to create their resume and acquire employable skills, but we are leveraging technology to allow them to do that remotely and at a cheaper cost.

So, once the organization onboards the individuals who want to utilize our platform or services, then we provide whatever is needed for each individual. If they do want the video resume, we schedule a time for a 30-minute mock interview.

After we’ve been connected, they take it upon themselves to manage our correspondence, which we’ve found is also a great growing experience. They’re in charge of handling the communication, learning Google Drive, being professional, doing the scheduling, etc. Even creating a profile on our platform on their own gets them to better understand their digital presence and that they should be creating a professional network.

Tell me more about how you instill confidence in job seekers.

The video resume provides an alternative representation for each individual. It allows them to complement or even supplement their resume for applications. But the process itself is also important.

We conduct a 30-minute mock interview and record it, then we distill that footage into a 2-3 minute video resume. Within that mock interview process, the individual becomes familiar with traditional interview questions. So not only do they get to prepare for an interview, but they also gain self-awareness. It can be hard to understand how you are actually performing during an interview, so getting that self-reflection of how you are presenting yourself can be extremely valuable.A smiling professionally dressed young man reclining with a look of success in front of a laptop.

The process is especially beneficial given that essentially all of recruiting and interviewing is done through video right now. We enable our clients to become more comfortable and confident in using video call technology and understanding how to best set up their space, how to know that they have reliable Wi-Fi, what attire they should be wearing, etc.

And then even beyond that, it becomes transformational when a client can see that they are actually much better at interviewing than they might have thought.

Unfortunately, these individuals who are disadvantaged or who have been discouraged in the job market sometimes have really low self-esteem. So, when we edit the video and they can see the final product, they have something to be proud of.

Oftentimes when you only have that resume, which you haven’t had any luck with, it can be discouraging and the results can seem like a reflection of yourself. When you have another asset with you that is a positive reflection, it can completely change your outlook.

The individuals begin to become more hopeful at that point. We are all more than a piece of paper and it’s unfortunate that a resume doesn’t always allow you to represent yourself beyond your technical skills, past work experiences, or education. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to gain those bullet points, but it doesn’t mean they can’t still provide value in the job market, or that they aren’t just valuable themselves.

If you work with a nonprofit organization or are just looking to empower yourself or another job seeker in an innovative way, TiO has your back. The best part? It is free to join the website and create a profile.

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