Free classes being offered for local job seekers

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- AnnaMay Douthitt has been keeping herself busy for the past seven months.

"Trying to find jobs online, going to the networking group," Douthitt said.

She's been out of work since March.

"Some days can be really good,” she said. “Some days are really depressing."

Douthitt was suddenly laid off from her job as a pricing analyst.

"Completely caught us off guard, did not see it coming," she said.

Even with 21 years of experience and a degree in accounting, Douthitt says it's still hard.

She's been on about 10 interviews but still hasn’t found anything.

"Sometimes it just feels like people look down on you because you don't have a job," she said.

It’s a feeling Damian Birkel tries to help many who go to his classes and seminars work through.

"Unemployment is very discouraging,” said Birkel, the founder of Professionals in Transition. “It hurts. You're out there alone and you struggle."

Birkel holds four classes a week throughout Winston-Salem, teaching interviewing skills, resume building, and working with those who he calls the "underground unemployed."

"The underground unemployed are the thousands of people in the Triad who are out there without work, who are struggling to find jobs daily," Birkel said.

According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, the unemployment rate as of August in Forsyth County was 4.9 percent.

In Guilford County, that rate was 5.3 percent and 4.8 percent in Alamance County.

But Birkel says those numbers don't include discouraged workers who stopped looking after not having any luck.

"They have fallen through the cracks” he said. “They are not counted by the unemployment numbers."

Above everything else, he says helping job seekers stay hopeful is his biggest mission.

“Job loss is a temporary situation,” Birkel said. “It's not an illness."

For more information on Professionals in Transition, go to jobsearching.org.