7 Holiday Gifts for the Downsized and Disgruntled

December 3rd, 2008

As you’re making that list and checking it twice, you’ll probably notice that some of your nearest and dearest are among the downsized (recently laid off) or disgruntled (stuck in miserable or stressful jobs for purely paycheck reasons) this year.

These are the friends and family members who deserve an extra special gift this year. They’re dealing with increased stress and financial uncertainty and could use a bit of extra good cheer. And you don’t have to bust your budget to give a thoughtful present. After all, this is a year of reduced gift budgets for everybody.

A great present for your downsized, laid off, or job-loathing loved one will accomplish one (or more) of the following goals: 1) Assist with their job hunt or career change; 2) Offer some distraction or escapism from their work or no-work stresses; or 3) Provide a little bit of luxury or pampering that they may feel guilty about spending money on right now. Here are some gift ideas to consider:

1) A Great Book — Books are perfect gifts because they are always affordable and always personal. Show how much you care by taking the time to pick out just the right book. You can opt for a title that will support your pal’s current career transition — like the always-appreciated Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams. Naturally, I am biased and think my own book is the perfect gift for the downsized or disgruntled. In fact, I was inspired to put together this list after hearing from several readers who had purchased extra copies for holiday gifts. Another good career-related book is Smart Networking, which has valuable advice on using online and in-person networking strategies to make career-boosting connections.

Then again, it might be more fun to give a fantastic novel or engrossing nonfiction work that is totally unrelated to the job hunt. Or a book of hilarious essays like David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed in Flames or Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking.

2) A Resume Revamp — A strong resume is the key to booking that career-changing interview. And sometimes, a little bit of professional, unbiased input can turn a dull resume into a brilliant marketing document. Buy your buddy a gift certificate for a professional resume edit or rewrite. Find a certified professional resume writer in your area through the Professional Association of Resume Writers. Most resume writers offer a range of services at different price points — from a quick edit of an existing resume to a full rewrite.

3) Network Building — Another way to help with the job hunt is by giving the gift of networking. Pay to upgrade your friend to a premium LinkedIn account for a few months. The Business ($19.95 per month) and Business Plus ($50 per month) accounts include more powerful search capabilities and the ability to connect with more people outside your immediate network.

4) A Night at the Movies — Everybody loves the movies. Give Fandango Bucks and your best buds can enjoy some end-of-the-year Oscar bait or a fun holiday popcorn flick (throw in a few bucks extra for Twizzlers or Junior Mints). They can even enjoy one of the perks of unemployment and play hooky at the movies in the middle of a weekday while you’re slaving away in your cube. Another option is to pick up a great DVD for a cozy movie night at home (popcorn from Orville Redenbacher is much cheaper). Good DVD choices for the downsized and disgruntled include Office Space and Jerry Maguire.

5) A Spa Indulgence — Just when your best buddy could most use a massage or a bit of pampering, she probably feels guilty about spending the bucks on something “impractical.” Treat her to a well-deserved rubdown or give a gift certificate to put toward a day of relaxation. SpaFinder can help you find top-rated spas and purchase gift certificates online. Or you can treat her to a little at-home pampering for around $20 with a Spa-In-A-Basket With Comfy Slippers And Massage Tool or Dr. Scholl’s Foot Spa with Bubbles and Massage

6) Overpriced Coffee — Overpriced luxuries are the first things that get cut from most downsized budgets. For your favorite Starbucks fanatics, it’s probably painful to give up those lattes and mochas and espressos for cheaper home brews. So why not perk up their lives with Starbucks gift cards? They get to enjoy some extra caffeinated treats during the holiday season without feeling guilty about frivolous spending. And for those coffee fans who are fed up with the job hunt and searching for a Plan B? Buy a copy of How Starbucks Saved My Life so your pal can learn more about the joys of barista-ing (health insurance, free coffee, and valuable life lessons!).

7) Lots of Love and a Juicy Job Lead — But what if there’s no room in your gift budget for your favorite unemployed or unhappily employed friend? Believe me, he will understand if your wallet is a little light this year. You can always show your love with a holiday card with a personal message or a batch of home-baked holiday treats. Even better, think about whether there’s a favor you can do to help out. Can you think of a job lead to pass on or a potentially valuable introduction that you could make? Could you offer to help punch up that resume or brainstorm career ideas? These are gifts that don’t cost you a dime but can be worth a lot to a friend who’s feeling stuck in a job-hunt rut.

Buy The Book
Marilyn Diaz

i like the resume idea, but I think the juicy lead (and a recommendation) will probably score you a job more easily.

Dan Jones

Great tips. Thanks for the recommendations!


These are all great ideas given our current economy! We have posted some kosher gift ideas on our site for those friends who keep kosher. Check it out at

Tim Reynolds

Nice post. Thank you for the info. Keep it up.

Hayli @ Rise Smart

On the movies idea, also consider a gift subscription to Netflix. It can be as cheap as $60 for the whole year, and the gift recipient can upgrade from there if they want.

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