During this time of year, we all tend to get a little overwhelmed by the need to find just the right gift for everybody on our list.  It can be an overwhelming task, and yet we persevere, walking endless miles through shopping malls and burning the midnight oil with online shopping.  Sadly, most of what we end up with is just stuff.  Glittery wrapping, cheerful bows, the right size box.  But just stuff.

But during tough economic times, when everybody in the workforce needs to make themselves special if they’re going to find a job or keep the one they’ve got, the gift of knowledge is a more appropriate Christmas present than ever.

Here, then, are a few ideas for last-last-last minute Christmas gifts for the working stiffs on your list.

Language Learning

An increasing number of jobs prefer applicants who are able to speak more than one language, since all kinds of organizations have to interact with a culturally and linguistically diverse public.  Learning a second (or third language) or honing rudimentary college-requirement skills, is an excellent way to improve one’s marketability and become more valuable inside an organization.

IT Training

Computer technology continues to proliferate, now occupying nearly every corner of our working lives.  A knowledge of that technology is important, since even entry-level jobs can now require some level of IT skill.  There are a variety of sources for quality IT training, including Microsoft online IT training, and some classes produce certifications that do plenty to spruce up a resume.

Self-Defense Training

Granted, knowing karate isn’t likely to be a requirement for a job application, nor is your son or daughter likely to get fired for coming in last in the company Judo competition.  However, self-defense is as much about mindset as it is about fighting.  The same mindset that will reduce the likelihood of becoming the victim of an attack will help an individual to succeed and to avoid being victimized by his or her employer.

Refresher Courses

There’s a strange cycle in life.  We all get educated during our teens and early twenties.  And then during our thirties we start getting dumb again.  We forget a lot, from the principles of mathematics to the fine points of the academic areas that fascinated us as kids.  That forgetting can lead to making mistakes in the workplace – such as spelling errors or misquoting historical figures – that can make us look bad in the eyes of our colleagues and supervisors.  A refresher course from a community college is a great way to rekindle those skills and help us to come across as more educated, eloquent, and knowledgeable.

Sometimes, the best gifts don’t glitter.  Sometimes they have more pragmatic than aesthetic value.  Sometimes the thought that counts is a desire to make a meaningful investment in your loved ones.