A well-rounded selection of business attire is essential for any professional. Yet I would add that the right set of business accessories is equally as important in developing a polished image for the workplace. Professional accoutrements combine form and function to give the impression of a prepared and put-together individual. Anyone ranging from recent graduates just entering the workforce to seasoned employees can benefit from these suggestions.

An elegant bag or briefcase. For new graduates heading to job interviews: it’s time to retire the backpacks and book bags you used in university, at least for business functions. If you are attempting to make a good impression on a potential employer, a worn canvas or nylon bag won’t do the trick. Investing in an elegant briefcase or a smart work bag will prove its value as you advance your career – or, if a new purchase isn’t an option, consider borrowing one from a family member or friend. Leather is ideal, but a durable synthetic material in brown or black can also look great.

A portfolio. How often do you find yourself at a formal meeting, trying to impress a client or boss with your hard work? Your research, ideas, or reports may be top-notch – but if you bring them in a messy stack of papers stuffed in a flimsy folder, it could distract from your progress. Whomever you are meeting may interpret any visual disorganization as a reflection on your work. It looks much more impressive when you have all your papers crisp, clean, and ready at hand in an attractive folder or portfolio. Look for classic and neutral colours; stay away from overly dramatic patterns or logos.

Business stationery. Whether you need to write a thank-you note after a business meal or an interview, or if you simply want to make a personal connection with a valuable contact, good stationery is key. Choose fine paper or note cards with matching envelopes in white or ecru. When writing, use a blue or black ink pen: this looks more polished than ballpoint pen or pencil.

Business cards and cardholder. In Japan, exchanging business cards (or meishi) is a formal affair. The individual giving his or her information will remove a pristine business card from a sleek cardholder and present it. Accepting the card with both hands, the recipient then takes the time to look at all the details of the presenter’s name, company, and information. Here in North America, we may not pay as much attention to the aesthetics of exchanging business cards – but a stylish cardholder nevertheless will help you keep your cards organized and show that you take yourself and your company seriously. If you don’t own business cards, consider getting calling cards printed with your name, phone number, and e-mail address. They make a great networking tool and will help contacts to remember you.

These accoutrements are not only a practical means of keeping you organized and prepared, but also can be a fun way to show your style in the workplace. In choosing business accessories, look for professional and elegant design – but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through, too!

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Diane Craig
Image and Etiquette Expert

Diane Craig, President of Corporate Class Inc., is a leading image and etiquette consultant. For over 20 years she has provided corporate consultations, helping hundreds of men and women realize their professional and personal goals. She is a sought after speaker at national business meetings, regularly gives comprehensive workshops to corporate groups, and offers private consultations on business etiquette, dress and dining.