Holiday Gifts for the Unemployed

Chances are, someone on your holiday gift list is one of the 1.9 million U.S. workers laid off this past year.

You may be tempted to buy them a set of inspirational flash cards ("Tomorrow is a new day!") or a motivational coffee mug ("Dare to reach for the stars!").

Don't.

Your laid-off friends and family members don't need cheesy platitudes. Nor do they need a cheery, new holiday sweater. They need work, and they need it now, before their unemployment benefits run out and the debt collectors come calling.

Unfortunately, looking for a job costs money -- money that someone living on unemployment checks or credit card fumes isn't likely to have.

That's where you come in. Give the pink-slipped people you know something they can put to good use in their quest for gainful employment, and they'll be eternally grateful.

Herewith, my holiday gift recommendations for those in your life without a paycheck.

A Free Ride

Sure, paying $2 a gallon for gas is a huge improvement from the $4 a gallon drivers shelled out earlier this year. But filling the tank four times a month to race to interviews, job fairs and meetings with recruiters is still a big financial hit for those living close to the bone.

So do your unemployed loved ones a favor and buy them a gas card. If they don't drive, get them a week's worth of bus or subway passes.

A Free Lunch

Interviewing often means eating and caffeinating on the run. No matter how careful the budget-conscious candidates are to pack a Thermos of java and a bag of peanut butter sandwiches, there will always be an interview that runs long, leaving them drowsy, ravenous and too weak-willed to pinch pennies. Don't let your pink-slipped pals spend a small fortune fueling up at Starbucks or Subway. Get them gift certificates to their preferred purveyor of fast food and beverages.

Reading Material

One of the perks your paycheck-less friends may be missing is the free magazine, newspaper and Web site subscriptions their former employers purchased for them. Whether your allies are into Wired or Waste Handling Equipment News, a subscription not only helps them stay current on industry trends, it gives them something other than celebrity gossip sites to read.

If you, too, are short on cash, not to worry. The Web is rife with offers of free business and trade magazine subscriptions. Your friends will still appreciate that you were savvy enough to sign them up for a year's worth of reading material.

500 Business Cards

There's nothing more humiliating than meeting a recruiter at a job fair or networking event and having to scrawl your personal e-mail address and phone number on the back of the business card your former employer issued you.

Don't let this happen to your unemployed cohorts. Visit one of the many online printing companies offering bargain-basement prices on business cards and give the gift of dignity. If you're broke yourself, you can still nab a pal 250 free business cards from VistaPrint. All you'll pay is shipping and handling.

A Visit to the Resume Doctor

We all know we need to update our resumes to land a new employer, yet so few of us know the best way to go about it. Compounding the problem, many of us are too embarrassed to ask for a hand. That's where a professional resume writer comes in.

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