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by Kaitlin McManus | November 27, 2018


Presents Under Tree

It’s Cyberweek, and you know what that means—I’m broke now. I don’t know if it was the Kindle sales that did me in or the ill-advised attempt to get my Christmas shopping done early, but let’s just say I’m glad Friday’s payday. This time last year, though, things were a little grimmer: ya girl was a grad student, unemployed except for a few inconsistent side-hustles. Pretty much no one got a gift from me, so I’m trying to make up for it this year. And as I was emptying my wallet on various gifts for friends and family, I got to thinking about all the stuff that should’ve been on my list last year when I was on the job hunt. So if someone on your list is shopping around for a new position, here are a few gifts that might give them a leg-up.

A New Suit

I wish band t-shirts and flannel shirts were proper interview attire, but we can’t all work at hip startups like our one too-cool friend. Every time I got called into an interview, I’d sit in front of my closet and ask myself, “Why don’t I buy nice clothes?” I needed a suit—or at least a blazer and decent shoes. While I wouldn’t recommend going out and buying the actual suit yourself for your job seeker, a gift card to Banana Republic, Loft, or Macy’s does the trick just fine. And if you’re really feeling fancy, places like MySuit and Sharpe Suiting do bespoke work for that custom-fit confidence.


Fact: there is a finite number of positions you can apply to and people you can reach out to in a day. Taking breaks is key to an effective job hunt, otherwise you burn out. As it happens, I’ve never read more than the period in which I was unemployed. A good career advice book can do wonders for a job hunter’s outlook, give them new leads or renewed drive, or give them a behind-the-scenes look at their desired industry. These are some of my favorites that helped me over the unemployment hump:

Job Search Resources

Monthly subscription boxes are popular gifts come holiday time, but career-boosting services might be a more practical option for job seekers. There are a ton of resources out there to help job seekers find positions, make connections, and learn about their preferred industries, all of which make perfect gifts for those on the job hunt.

  • LinkedIn Premium: This tool makes your profile more visible and lets you see your competition in a job posting’s applicant pool.
  • Vault Gold: I might be biased, but when I was job hunting, having access to career advice, resumé tips, and countless employee reviews would have been super helpful during my job search.
  • Workshops & Apps: There are countless other resources for bolstering a job search and application materials—like Career Magic and resume-building apps—that can make a job seeker’s life 100 times easier, if only they had the money to afford them.


Sad fact: I had to borrow a bag for every interview I ever went to. My mainstay bag, my old reliable, is an old canvas tote printed with a Smith’s lyric—which I love. But I can’t pull my amazing resumé and writing samples out of it and expect to be taken seriously. So I borrowed from my sister, my roommate, whoever I could convince. What I needed was a briefcase or a very large (but nice) purse. These can run the full gamut of affordable to pricy, so shop to your budget. If your recipient isn’t much of a bag person, a portfolio is a must-have. I’m a fan of this one—it’s got a pad of paper for note-taking and pockets for pens and business cards. Very profesh.

Business Cards

Speaking of business cards, these can be an amazing gift. Printing services like Moo or Vistaprint allow you to customize the look of your business cards, from shape to fonts to embossing. I’d recommend sticking to the simple and classy: white paper, black lettering, standard font. You might also consider a gift card to these places, to allow your job seeker to design their own cards. Particularly if they’re in a creative or design-influenced field, as their card gives them that extra chance to show off their skills.

Appointment with recruiter/resumé reader/etc.

Resumés are a little like art: everyone’s got an opinion on what it should look like. Reading expert resumé tips is always helpful, but sometimes the best thing you can do is sit down with someone who’s made their career out of making resumés shine. Recruiters and resumé advisors are out there in spades, so do a little research, find one that seems legit, and give the unemployed person in your life the gift of a sparkling resumé for the new year.

Productivity Supplies

I love to-do lists. Maybe it’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome since I can’t remember anything unless I’ve written it down, but my love for planners, apps, and cutesy list-focused stationary is real and intense. And job seekers have a ton to do in their quests for a position—it can be tough to keep it all organized. Analogue-style folks might appreciate The Passion Planner (my personal fave) or the oft-touted Erin Condren model. But for those who, unlike me, have decided to live in this newfangled 21st century, a productivity app with all the bells and whistles would be a great gift. I recommend you check out Things or, but there are thousands of them out there for every device.

Dolla Dolla Bills, Y’all

Giving cash can sometimes seem a bit uncouth. Like you couldn’t be bothered to think of a good gift for someone, so you just gave them the budget you allocated for them. Maybe I’m a little low class, but anyone who cut me a check last holiday season was in danger of getting a big, sloppy thank-you kiss. Why? Because new clothes and cute tchotchkes are nice, but they don’t pay my rent. Money is an enormous concern when you’re unemployed, no two ways about it. Having a little cash cushion, particularly in a month with more than the usual expenses (gifts, travel, etc.) can be an enormous relief. So if you really aren’t sure what the out-of-work person in your life would appreciate the most, there’s nothing wrong with a check inside a nice card. Or, if that still feels a bit icky, try a gift card to their grocery store or the coffee shop they go to when writing cover letters or taking out a networking contact.

Vault Guides

That’s right—so many new guides are out, just in time for the holidays. Vault guides are free to any student whose school provides access to Vault Campus, so double-check their university’s resources before buying. But for non-students and students at schools who don’t subscribe, Vault guides can be a great way to gain more insight on an industry and what its employers are looking for. We cover a range of industries, from Accounting to Hospitality and everything in between. And, as the Associate Law Editor, I should mention that our various Law guides are invaluable for getting an inside look at the top firms