The Job Hunt: Give the gift of support at holidays

If you have a job seeker on your holiday list this year, carefully consider your gift because it might lead to a better one later — a job.

One of those has been hard to come by in this terrible economy. Everyone knows someone who is seeking employment today or trying to better their bottom line. The state unemployment rate has been above 9 percent since 2009, and it's an even more dire picture if you add in people who aren't actively looking for jobs or those who are working part-time but desire a full-time job. Research firm Gallup's estimate of the country's underemployment rate is 18.4 percent.

"Even the smallest rejection or setback can knock the long- and even short-term unemployed off their game," says Allison Hemming, a noted career authority and author of Get Hired.

With all the difficulty in finding jobs, the unemployed can benefit from their family and friends spreading some cheer. I personally get excited about this season because people seem to be happier, and our tendency is to be much nicer.

With the job-search process so much more involved and stressful now, showing support and some kindness during the next month could assist in propelling your unemployed friends into the work force. Consider giving them gifts from the following three categories before purchasing that sweater, restaurant gift card, fishing rod or movie passes:

Inexpensive useful gifts: These can range in price from $20 to $45 and will provide some needed relief, as well as resources for the job search. Recently, I surveyed my Facebook community, and their top gift suggestion, much to my surprise, was a gas card. Here are a few other suggestions:

■ A prepaid bank card that can be used anywhere.

■ A gift certificate to a local printer for producing business cards and résumés or allowing computer usage.

■ Personalized note cards for follow-up thank-you notes after interviews.

■ Dry cleaning gift cards.

■ Coffee shop gift card.

■ Barber shop or salon gift certificate.

Major gifts: These might run more than a hundred dollars but will assist job seekers in securing employment:

■ Résumé and cover-letter writing and editing services.

■ Paid subscriptions to job search or networking sites. While many job-search sites are free, paid subscriptions can be a huge benefit because you can access more information.

■ An outfit for interviews.

Little to no-cost gifts: These can often be better than many of the expensive items. Hemming suggests you give your time by picking an unemployed friend or family member and "make a commitment to support them." "Be their job-search buddy," she said. Here are some ways you can help:

■ Give access to your frequent-flier miles for interview travel.

■ Encourage them to use the local library's resources.

■ Have them register and use the career center at the university from which they graduated.

■ Encourage them to use the resources of the state Office of Employment and Training.

■ Conduct practice interviews in person, online and by phone.

■ Help them gain networking contacts and identify companies for which they would like to work.

One final item to choose is the No. 2 gift suggestion from my Facebook survey. And while a gift certificate for the services of a career/life coach might be the priciest, it can also help someone find employment faster. Such services can easily cost several hundred dollars, but I have found many provide initial consultations at a reasonable price.

And, of course, you might want to consider providing the best gift ever — support and encouragement during the job search.