The best Christmas gift for the unemployed

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Getting a Christmas gift for your unemployed friends or family members can be a difficult decision, especially if they're low on money and have been out of work for awhile.

Do you go with a fun gift they'll enjoy, such as an iPod, or something practical to help them in their job search, such as a gas card to help them get to job interviews or a free resume makeover? What about straight-up cash?

I'll leave the fun gift ideas to others. If you really want to help someone who is unemployed with a Christmas gift, help them find a job. That's what job seekers want -- a job.



How do you do that? Providing a contact is the best way, preferably by introducing them to someone who is hiring their skill set. It's the most likely gift that could lead to a job, since most jobs are offered after a personal introduction instead of filling out applications online.

A year ago when I wrote for WalletPop about Christmas gift ideas for the jobless, the national unemployment rate was 6.1%. The figure is now at 10% -- more than double the 4.9% unemployment rate when the recession started in December 2007. The 15.4 million people now unemployed are more than twice as many who were out of work in December 2007.

It's a need that keeps growing.

Last December I suggested many job hunting gifts for the unemployed, including a good job search book, a new suit, and introducing them to someone who is hiring.

But instead of detailing many other gift suggestions, this year I thought I'd concentrate on the one that is most likely to lead to a job. If you don't know of anyone who is hiring, then introduce them to someone working in the field they want to work in so they can at least have coffee together and chat about what's needed to work there.

Informational interviews are great ways to start networking, adding a key skill in a job hunt. And I'm not talking about social networking sites, although those are important too. Spending three hours a day on Facebook is too much, although 15 minutes is a good start.

There are business organizations to join, and getting out and meeting people in person is what it takes to get a job. So if you can't introduce you're unemployed friend to a hiring manager, then at least help them find a business group or networking group to join.

If you don't know someone who has been laid off, or you haven't been laid off yourself, then consider yourself lucky. With 10% of the working population out of a job, and 17.2% out of work if the underemployed and discouraged job seekers are included, the chances are pretty good that you know someone who is looking for full-time work.

If you don't, then make it your Christmas resolution to find someone who is out of work and help them.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be reached at www.AaronCrowe.net



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