A year ago, Maria Miller, the owner of Linking Michiana, moved her mission for job seekers and employers from a spare room in her home to downtown LaGrange, Indiana at 203 S. Detroit Street. Their mission: help people gain employment in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan, with a slogan that essentially says the same thing, “Linking job seekers to opportunities in Michiana.” After a year’s experience at their new location, Linking Michiana has developed into a referral service for job seekers and employers.
Five years ago, Linking Michiana began as a selfless act of kindness, helping both employers and job seekers for absolutely free. Even with their job fairs, money was donated to the schools that hosted their annual hiring events. While building her project, Miller never anticipated the need to charge money to grow her company, because she didn’t imagine that doing a few favors for people would turn into anything. Additionally, she was unable to bring herself to capitalize off of other people’s hardships.
Miller’s own failure to gain employment in 2010 inspired her to begin Linking Michiana. Her own mistakes, lack of work experience and connections, and no local friends for moral support – because she moved to Indiana from Georgia. It all began by helping people, locally and out of state, through social media, emails, and one-on-one counseling by traveling to various public locations.
With four years combined, Linking Michiana organized and hosted annual hiring events that drew in hundreds of job seekers from 10 counties in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan and connected them to over 50 companies and organizations. Since moving into their downtown office, Linking Michiana has grown from personally assisting an average of 12 individuals annually to over 100 this year, all by word of mouth! Their results:
- Assisting clients with resumes and employment applications contributed to 80% job placement
- The majority of applicants fell into two age groups: early twenties and over 40
- Open Interviews allowed employers to promote opportunities, benefits and assist with their hiring process in a comfortable atmosphere.
- Moral support boosted confidence and improved results for job seekers
- Only 3% failed a pre-employment drug screen
Moving into an office allows Linking Michiana to form partnerships and provide services to employers and job seekers. Open Interviews – Employers schedule dates and time to meet and interview job seekers at Linking Michiana’s office. This service proved to be more valuable than expected. Regardless of work history, skills and background, job seekers experience a team of people prepared to assist them. If applicants do not match the employer’s qualifications, Linking Michiana assists them.
During the summer of 2015, Linking Michiana formed a working partnership with Michigan Works Southwest. Linking Michiana volunteers to help as needed and both refer each other for leads and resources. Miller adds, “Michigan Works! is an underestimated resource for both employers and job seekers. I love everything about their organization from their team of people, commitment, enthusiasm, multiple programs, and their compassion for the Michigan community!”
After a few meetings, Linking Michiana forged a unique partnership with two bail bonding companies and their agent the first of October. Tracey Hawk of Hawk Bail Bonds, and Bonnie Barrett of Bonnie & Clyde Bail Bonds, of LaGrange County, and Lee Sexton of America Bonding Co, LLC contribute a portion of bonds written, in return, Linking Michiana assists their clients to find employment.
Hawk states, “As bail bond agents, we’re conscious of the connection between unemployment and crime. A large number of defendants are unemployed, or lose their current job due to their recent criminal activity. Having a criminal record can make it more challenging to getting hired. Maria Miller, owner of Linking Michiana, already advocates for job seekers of all types of backgrounds. Working with her is a good fit for our clients and our goals in making a positive difference in our community.”
Linking Michiana is continuing to expand by launching a new service for employers, a Referral Service Membership. This is a low-cost supplement for employers, with no additional fees per person, connecting employers directly with prospects, and an add-on option for application assistance.
Marnie Grimes, a staffing recruiter with Stratopshere Quality, affirms, “Working with Maria Miller, of Linking Michiana, is the equivalent to an interactive billboard – she’s very social, loyal to her people and devoted to her mission, and is building her company by helping others. During the six weeks we worked with her, she helped us with advertising ideas, assisted us with assignments outside her range and helped us process new hires from Open Interviews.”
A new year begins for Linking Michiana as they transition into a referral service for job seekers and employers. It remains a free resource for people needing assistance with resumes, job leads, employment applications, and moral support. And for employers there are several opportunities to engage with Linking Michiana: Referral Service Membership, Open Interviews, Job Fairs, and Online Job Board. For more information visit LinkingMichiana.com.