To some it may seem an obvious topic – you find something you like and, if you can afford it, buy it!
Top tips for choosing the right business bag for you:
1. What size is your laptop?
And by this I don’t necessarily mean what screen size it is, as there is not a standard size that laptop manufacturers adhere to. Therefore, before you start looking for a case you need to measure the three dimensions of your laptop, or your new laptop if you are due to change.
If you just work on screen size you may be caught out, especially if you have a widescreen model. Screen size is measured diagonally and therefore can result in a wide variety of width, depth and height of the actual laptop and therefore it will impact on the space available inside a briefcase – especially with 17”+ models. So save yourself the time and expense and get to know your laptop measurements as if you were going to purchase it a made-to-measure suit!
2. What does your briefcase need to carry?
This will vary massively between individuals depending on your role and dependence on technology. I have some clients who just need an iPad and a couple of files for their office based role and also some teachers and Solicitors who end up with bags stuffed to capacity (and beyond) with books and files sticking out of every possible compartment!
Go through a mental list of all the things you carry round on a day-to-day basis. Don’t forget items like the little ancillaries that make your life easier; power leads, calculators, pens etc. This list may then extend for ladies who may also want somewhere for their basic handbag essentials to avoid having to also carry a handbag. How much space will these items require? Do you really need all the items you carry (e.g. power cables if your laptop has an adequate battery life)?
If you need to include items like money or credit cards, consider the importance of a secure compartment which can be locked or is hidden away from opportunistic pick-pockets, especially if commuting by train or the Tube, or if you travel through crowded environments.
3. How much do your needs change?
Do you have an occasional commute across the city, or a flight to visit a client? Or perhaps you are mostly office based with occasional visits to the field? If so the expectations of the role your briefcase needs to play may vary dramatically over a period of time.
In this instance you may decide that your needs are too diverse and actually it would be better to have two briefcases; one for every day and one for these less frequent needs.
If you can find a case that ticks every box it will either save you the extra cost of a second one or mean you can invest in a bigger budget to accommodate all your needs in one briefcase for every occasion.
4. What are the expectations of the environment you work in?
Although this sort of restriction is becoming less prominent as dress codes relax, there are still some unwritten rules and expectations we end up being influenced by. For example if you are a barrister it may not be looked on favourably if you entered a courtroom with a jazzy orange executive bag, even if orange is your favourite colour. Or you may be constrained by a strong dress code which must be adhered to in an office environment, where black is the norm for any business cases (though usually in this instance a deeper red is also acceptable). Men may be expected to use an attaché case or pilot case where their preference could be for a softer, less formal look.
Even if physical restrictions are not in place it may boil down to how comfortable you feel with the briefcase you choose. If you are looking for a long term investment you should avoid any trending fashions or ‘in’ colours unless you know they will stand the test of time for you, as when they then fall out of fashion you will feel less comfortable with your choice.
5. It should reflect who you are
Your briefcase is a big part of your professional image; what it looks like and how you organise it will send out signals on you as a person in the same way as the clothes you wear. We all know how important those first impressions are so you should aim to get a briefcase that you feel comfortable with and that makes you feel good when you use it. This can be a challenge, especially for women looking for a colour or style that reflects their personality but have previously been restricted by what is on offer.
In short, if it feels right for you it will increase your confidence and professional presence – something which should never be taken for granted.