Gifts That Pay Off: These holiday gifts will help your friends and family earn a promotion

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This story is part of a new MarketWatch series, “Gifts that pay off.” Between now and Dec. 25, we will look at gifts that could potentially earn the recipients money or improve their lives.

This holiday season, give your loved ones a gift that could give them a leg up on the ladder of success.

Certain hobbies, skills and networking opportunities could pay off big over the long term: with 85% of people reporting having gotten jobs through networking, according to a 2016 LinkedIn survey, buying a gift that teaches someone a new skill or places them in a new and more successful network could elevate their career.

Networking events don’t have to be cheesy cocktail hours with name tags and awkward handshakes. You can meet people who could further your career by participating in a variety of hobbies, classes, and volunteer opportunities that interest you, said Laura Katen, president of New York–based professional development training company Katen Consulting.

“My advice to my clients is to do what you love to do,” she said. “If you are authentically doing something you love and you meet someone there, it will show.”

Here are 5 gifts to sharpen your networking skills:

Golf lessons to rub shoulders with the old guard

Business deals are still done on the golf course. Bosses who don’t play golf are paid 17% less than those that do play, according to one study from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. Before spending more than $6,000 on a club membership for your partner (and you), try some private golf lessons.

They cost an average of $50 to $100 per hour, according to cost-analysis site What It Costs. A 9-hole playing lesson can cost $150 to $200, and an 18-hole lesson can cost $250 to $300. Meanwhile, some of the world’s top golf coaches charge upwards of $1,000 an hour, if you want to go professional. The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) offers an official listing of golf instructors across the country, with 35 instructors in Chicago, 101 in Los Angeles, and 15 near New York City.

MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto

This story is part of a new MarketWatch series, “Gifts that pay off.” Between now and Dec. 25, we will look at gifts that could potentially earn the recipients money or improve their lives.

Vitality weekends for the young and upwardly mobile…

Others say that golf has become a business strategy of the past: Millennials don’t hang out at the same after-hours places as previous generations and they have different requirements when it comes to gifts, said Georgene Huang, chief executive officer and co-founder of Fairygodboss, a New York-based employer review site for women.

She suggested classes with celebrity fitness coach Tracy Anderson, which are held in private studios in New York City, Los Angeles and London. A “vitality weekend” pass for networking and exercise is $1,000 while a one-time initiation fee for new members is $1,500. Anderson describes it as “an environment where we are able to look each other in the eye, move together in the same space, encourage one another, and form incredible lifelong friendships.”

And, fingers crossed, business contacts.

Also see: The race to make money off America’s fastest-growing sport

…or just give them a good old-fashioned workout

Competitive classes will keep you sharp and help reduce workplace stress by increasing endorphins. And, who knows, perhaps you’ll end up on a treadmill next to the CEO. For a cheaper workout-related gift for the corporate climber in your life, consider other en-vogue workout classes like SoulCycle, which cost $320 for 10 classes, or Barry’s Bootcamp, which ranges from $36 for one class to $1,444 for 50 classes. Business professionals and recruiters have touted “sweatworking” as the new “networking,” preferring classes and workouts to the classic business lunch.

Want to shine? Try a “mud run,” Katen said. These 5-kilometer or 10-kilometer obstacle races are another way for colleagues and friends to bond and team build. The “Mud Run Guide” lists events by state, including the upcoming Spartan Race in Southern California and a Spartan Race in April 2018 in New Jersey.

Taste some wine, make some friends (and contacts)

Another standby gift for people hoping to rub elbows with the upper class is knowing the intricacies of good wine, said Huang. Check Groupon and other coupon apps for affordable wine tasting classes, or call your local winery to see if they have gift packages. One New York City Groupon offers a wine-pairing course valued at $59 for $5. Another offers admission for one person at $38.50, or lets you bring a friend at $72.50 for two. A Los Angeles wine and cheese pairing class costs $36.50 per person and another Chicago-area wine tasting for two is just $10.

Private clubs that help you work and play alongside professionals

A professional club membership is a classic option for the upwardly mobile. They can be cool rather than cringeworthy. For journalists, the Online News Association membership is $75 a year. The National Association of Realtors charges $120 a year. The American Nurses Association is $191 a year and the American Psychological Association is $99 the first year and increases gradually over eight years to a base rate of $247 a year.

New networking space The Wing offers women the opportunity to mingle and co-work with other young professionals. It has two spaces in New York City and one opening in Washington, D.C. in Winter 2018 at around $2,000 a year. The more exclusive Soho House is about $3,000 per year and offers free movie screenings and a pool at its New York City location; it also has locations in the U.K., Berlin and Barcelona. Wingtip, a classy men’s club in San Francisco is $3,000 to sign up and then $300 a month. The Norwood, a Victorian-era professional clubhouse in New York City is $800 to sign up and $2,000 in annual dues.

Next: Gifts that encourage you to broaden your social circle