When most people give themselves a gift, it tends to be something material that they otherwise may not have received from someone else. And while there may be benefits to getting yourself that gadget, piece of jewelry, or other whatnot, there are also non-material ways to reward yourself that can offer longer-term payoffs.

It's possible to give your work self a holiday gift. Think things that can benefit your career directly or in a more esoteric way. These aren't generally physical goods. Instead, these career gifts are your chance to use the holiday season as an excuse to "give" yourself permission to do or pursue things you otherwise may not. Let's consider a few examples.

A hand holds out a small gift box.

Give your career a gift this holiday season. Image source: Getty Images.

1. A vacation

While it seems silly to consider a vacation as a gift to yourself, more than 50% of U.S. workers don't take all of their allotted paid vacation days each year. That's a bad idea, because vacations aren't just about not going to work. They're a chance to relax, refresh, and refocus your brain on things that aren't work.

Doing that can also have its benefits in the workplace, as sometimes stepping back from a problem allows you to see something you were otherwise missing. Even if all you get out of a vacation is a little more sleep, that can translate into improved performance when you return to work.

2. A new skill

A lot of people think about learning a language, taking a coding class, or doing something else that will add to their skill set. It's easy to put off this type of self-improvement, but that can be self-defeating.

Invest the time in learning a new skill that will help you at work or increase your employment opportunities. Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part, so take the first step even if it's going to be a long journey.

3. Permission to fail

While your boss may not give you permission to fail, it's important that you give it to yourself. That doesn't mean doing a bad job or giving less than all your effort to work. Instead, it means taking risks or trying things that may not work out.

That could be as simple as applying for a job that's a bit of a reach given your skill set, or asking for new responsibilities at work. You won't always succeed when trying this type of thing, but you're guaranteed never to succeed if you refuse to try just because you might fail.

4. A new start

There have been a few times in my career that it was apparent the job I was in wasn't going to work out as well as I hoped. In a few of those cases, I saw the writing on the wall and smartly moved on. At other times I was shamed by the negative connotations of leaving a job that to everyone I knew looked like a great opportunity for me.

Whether you're miserable at work or merely eager to try something else, it's OK to move on. Do that responsibly, of course, considering your financial needs, but don't stay where you are just because that's where you've always been.

It's about you

Work should make you happy along with paying the bills. If it doesn't, then give yourself the gifts needed to improve your situation. You may not be able to put a new job under the Christmas tree or in a stocking, but you can put the tools to get one there. Reward yourself with a gift that will make your career better, improve your professional outlook, or simply help you feel better about where you are.

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