Building your commercial awareness through experience

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Commercial awareness may seem like just another recruiter buzzword but it actually plays an important role in the job application process, especially at a graduate level.

In simple terms, commercial awareness means having an understanding of how the professional world works and how organisations operate and manage their resources.

While this may seem straightforward, it’s not always as easy to obtain as it sounds. Indeed, 67% of employers listed a lack of commercial awareness as one of the top 10 skills shortages among graduate applicants.

Commercial awareness needs to be worked on and developed over time; luckily there are a number of ways you can start doing this, starting with the below:

1. Work experience
Part-time, holiday or even volunteer work is a great way to build up commercial awareness and will give you excellent ammunition for the application process. It doesn’t really matter who you’ve been working for; what’s important are the observations you’re able to make along the way. Think about the organisation’s clientele and how it markets itself to them. How does it treat these customers and ensure repeat business?

2. Internships and shadowing
Even a short work placement such as an insight week is useful if it puts you in direct contact with the kind of people you eventually hope to work alongside. It should be enough to get a feel for how these individuals think and approach their work. It will also help you understand the bigger picture of where your target industry fits within the wider economy.

Be prepared to ask plenty of questions. What are the big developments taking place in the sector and how are they adapting to these?

3. Extra-curricular experience
Developing commercial acumen doesn’t necessarily need to involve being in a professional work environment. A student society, or any situation where you’re working alongside a community of people, is useful for developing the skills and insights recruiters are looking for.

Have you been involved in organising events? If so, how do you go about marketing these? What kind of decisions are made around budgets and cost considerations?

As you can see, commercial awareness comes in various guises and there are plenty of places to find it if you know where to look. Remember to find out whatever you can about the company, its clients/customers and competitors, how it meets the needs of those customers and markets itself. What are the big industry changes it is experiencing and how is it dealing with those? The trick is to start using all your experiences to your advantage and treating them as a learning opportunity.

Source: HN Global.