The Ultimate Business Professional “Go-Bag”

If you’ve never heard of a “Business Professional Go-Bag”, here is an example of when you might wish you had:

If you have not yet had an experience like this, I can guarantee you that sooner or later you will: It’s a quiet Friday morning in the office, and as you fire up your laptop you feel relaxed knowing that the only thing separating you from a well-deserved weekend is 8 hours of work. Yet before you can take your first sip of coffee, you see your manager walking briskly towards your desk. Uh-oh.

She explains to you that last night there was an urgent issue with a new client, and the department promised that an associate would be by first thing in the morning to discuss further. It’s only 8:15, but your manager needs you there now. It’s time to go!

There are those critical moments in your professional life where you do not have a morning to prepare for a meeting, or an afternoon to gather your materials. These are the moments where you have to trust that your bag or briefcase is packed and ready to go. In the following post we are going to explore the essential elements that I carry daily in my “Business Professional Go-Bag”, and you will learn how to make your own!

Item 1: The Bag

The bag is perhaps the most important element of your "go-bag".

Before you can begin to think about the contents of your “Business Professional Go-Bag”, the most essential element is the bag itself! Your bag or briefcase is the all-important transporter of your tools of the trade, and without it you are left fumbling and frantic. Let’s explore what elements make for a good bag.

When I graduated and began my leadership development program, I was fortunate enough to start out of the gate with a messenger bag I received for my birthday earlier that year. Lightweight, durable, plenty of space, and with a timelessly stylish look, I could not have been happier. Now of course, a nice briefcase remains a highlight of professionalism, I would take a strong stand in suggesting that a high quality messenger or laptop bag offers all of the tools you need for your “Go-Bag”, all while maintaining a professional appearance. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good when you walk into a client’s office!

Here are a few of the key features of my messenger bag that I would recommend you look for in your own:

Key Features

  • Padded Strap – A standard feature of most bags, it is absolutely necessary for the most comfortable experience when traveling
  • Laptop Sleeve – Most messenger or laptop bags you find will have this without question, but I certainly would suggest you not settle for a bag that does not offer a padded compartment for your important electronics
  • Small Item Compartments – Sure, you want room for laptops and folders, but your “Go-Bag” is going to be full of other small essentials that you’d rather not be fumbling around for in deep pockets
  • Quality Material – Any bag is going to get dirty or worn over time, especially if it is being used regularly, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for sub-par quality!

These important elements above should give you guidance when shopping for your own bag. If you’re interested, the messenger bag that I use daily and have been absolutely satisfied with is the Samsonite Colombian Leather Messenger Bag. It embodies all of the elements above, along with a classic professional style. You can find the Amazon link here:

Samsonite Colombian Leather Messenger Bag

Item 2: The Padfolio

The leather padfolio is an elegant and practical addition to your "Go-Bag".

The padfolio: If you don’t think you’ve heard of it, I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen it in the hands of college students on their way to an interview or lawyers on a television drama. The padfolio is an instant way to boost your professionalism, all while serving as a combination of notepad and folder. This is why it stands as one of the most important items in your “Business Professional Go-Bag”. You can find us talk more about the benefits of the padfolio in our article here:

7 Ways to Crush Your Next Big Meeting

I received my own padfolio as a Christmas present shortly before graduating, and I have found occasion to use it numerous times in my early career. From interviews, to performance reviews, to meetings with key customers and clients, this item is always in my “Business Go-Bag”.

Here are the qualities that have been most important in my padfolio, and that you should look for when shopping for your own:

  • Leather Material – I by no means claim to be a fashion expert but a significant part of the padfolio’s value is the professional and classic look you are able to lend to a notepad/folder, and that look is hard to obtain with other materials
  • Notepad/Folder Space – If the first significant part of the padfolio is the professional look, the second part of its significance stems from its utility! Your padfolio must have space for a notepad and folder
  • Quality – This will be a common theme in all items we discuss here, but its importance cannot be understated!

If you are interested, the padfolio that I use regularly is the Royce Leather Portfolio Padfolio. Quality leather material, a fresh notepad, and folder space make this an excellent choice for a reasonable budget. You can find the Amazon link here:

Royce Leather Portfolio Padfolio

Item 3: The Pen

A quality pen is an absolutely essential element in your "Go-Bag".

We’ve all been there – You’re on the phone trying to jot down an important address, or scribbling down actions to take after a meeting, and yet no matter what you do the pen just wont right. Your “Business Professional Go-Bag” does not need these low-quality pens!

Of course, when it comes to the world of pens, there are tiers upon tiers of style, quality, and price. Ballpoint or gel, blue or black or red, the choices go on and on. Let’s keep things simple and let’s set the record straight: You do not need a Mont Blanc or a fountain pen here! Sure, they make a nice graduation or special-occasion gift, and they certainly possess a timeless professionalism. Yet what we are looking for in our “Go-Bag” are reliable pen options that will not let you down.

The top three qualities I focus on when picking out pens to keep with me are below:

  • Bold Ink – Whether you prefer to write in blue, black, or red, I cannot bear to use a pen that does not leave a bold mark
  • Consistency– This seems to correlate to the quality and price of the pen, and it seems to be more reliable in gel pens, but a pen that will write without “skipping” or drying out generally makes for a great pen
  • Quality – The magic element of all of our “Go-Bag” items, pen quality means a comfortable grip, durable cap or strong spring mechanism, and good ink! These are the key elements that will separate your pen from the unreliable pens of the world

Load up your “Business Professional Go-Bag” with a few of these pens and never stress about it again!

Item 4: The Business Card Holder

Business cards are an essential element to keep in your "Go-Bag" - You never know who you'll meet!

When I ordered my first set of business cards, the feeling of excitement at having such a “professional” item was also met with a bit of cynicism. When was I really going to need these? It’s not like I was a junior partner at a high-powered law firm, or a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Yet before I knew it, I was spending so much face-to-face time with suppliers and customers alike that I realized I needed to start carrying business cards with me!

You may not get your business cards ordered in your first week on the job, but it should absolutely be a priority to get your hands on some. Once you do have your cards, picking up an inexpensive business card holder should be next on your list. After all, your “Business Go-Bag” is just that – the bag of items you need when you’re on the go! Once you have your business cards and business card holder in your bag, you will be prepared anytime you are shaking hands and meeting new suppliers or clients.

Now I will admit, for the longest time I did not have a business card holder to go along with my business cards. But, if you’re interested, the business card holder I ordered recently is the MaxGear Stainless Steel Business Card Holder. Inexpensive and minimalist, it is exactly what I needed in my “Go-Bag” You can find the Amazon link here:

MaxGear Stainless Steel Business Card Holder

Item 5: The Book

Be prepared for continuous learning during your downtime.

I’ll admit, this last one may sound a bit cheesy, but I mean it sincerely: Keep a book that you are reading in your “Business Go-Bag”! You never know when you will be on the road or in the field with time on your hands. In the spirit of continuous learning and personal development, making sure that you have a book tucked into your bag will afford you the opportunity to read more often than you’d think.

A common interview question or topic of conversation with mentors is this: “What have you read lately?” In the Digital Age, you will be shocked at the low level of expectations many veteran professionals have for young professionals when it comes to the personal and career enrichment that can come from reading. Blow these expectations out of the water! If you need some ideas of books to read, check out our article on essential books for young and future leaders here.

3 Essential Leadership Books for Future Leaders

Conclusion

You can start building your "Business Go-Bag" today!

When it comes to last minute client meetings or supplier visits, the truth is that as a young professional these experiences more often turn out to be exciting than stressful. With a bit of careful effort and preparation, you can reduce this stress even further by building your own “Business Go-Bag” and crush the urgent meetings with confidence!

Do you have thoughts on the elements described in the “Business Go-Bag”? Have you made a “Go-Bag” of your own? Share below!

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