“It’s how the industry fits together.” - TARGETjobs
Developing commercial awareness increases you chances of getting a better job with a higher salary. It enables you to ask highly relevant questions at interview and demonstrate your motivation, business acumen and the effort you have put into researching organisations you are applying to and the industries in which they operate.
It means understanding how a business operates, the factors that enable it to succeed, challenges it may face and aspects of its wider commercial context /environment - political, social, technological etc.
Almost all employers look for commercial awareness, not just banks or companies offering sales or marketing jobs. Public sector organisations, charities and volunteering organisations also need to be business savvy to raise funds and manage available resources effectively; so the kinds of skills you may have gained in a private sector company could be transferable to the public/not for profit sector too.
Here are some topic headings to think about when you research organisations you might want to work for:
How a business operates:
- Its staffing structure - the nature of the job roles that exist within it and the professional development/training opportunities available to staff
- Processes: Financial management/accounting, Human Resources, the information technology systems it uses, production/service delivery processes, legislation it has to comply with
- Its mission statement – The purpose of an organisation, what it aims to achieve in the future
- Values - its ethos and culture, management style, family friendly policies, diversity policies, its impact on the community and its approach to Corporate Social Responsibility
- How it markets itself – who are its customers and how it retains them, the niche in the market where it operates, who its competitors are and how it compares with them – who the key players in the industry are
- Who its suppliers are
- The types of products and services it provides and the standards/levels of service it aims to achieve
- It’s growth rate, profitability
- Issues facing the industry in which an organisation operates
- Political – e.g. import/export agreements
- Economic – general state of the economy, effect of competition
- Social – impact on the environment/local community
- Issues connected with an organisation’s impact on the environment and sustainable development
- Technological advances
- Media coverage – whether there have been any recent deals or mergers within the business sector generally.
Firstly, visit the website of the employer you are researching and read any literature they can send you. Don’t just read their recruitment web pages – look at the sections for customers too. Talk to current employees, particularly recent graduates, to gain an insight into the organisation's work culture and values – things like internships, work-shadowing, careers fairs and our programme of employers’ talks all provide excellent opportunities to do this. Click here for information about our events programme.
Here are some useful links to help you get started with gathering ideas about commercial awareness:
- Job sectors on the Graduate Prospects website
- Commercial awareness: it's how the industry fits together
- Commercial awareness: a key requirement for a graduate career in accounting
- Employer research checklist Scroll down to ‘Resources to help you research graduate employers’.
- www.thejobcrowd.com - over 2000 reviews of employers written by graduates
- Sector Skills Councils
Professional bodies provide information on careers and Continuing Professional Development (CPD), student membership and professional journals. For example, visit totalprofessions.com; this site brings together information that professional bodies provide on professional careers, routes of entry, internships, graduate schemes, qualifications and funding for training.
TV and radio
BBC news TV/radio programmes such as: Working Lunch, The Money Programme, World Business Review, BBC World Business Report etc. Programmes like Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice are more light-hearted but raise relevant issues.
Press and news agencies
Use your networks:
- The Careers Service: Attend events such as recruitment presentations and careers fairs where you will have the chance to talk to employers’ recent graduate recruits and find out what the key issues are for them.
- Your contacts: Talk to your friends, family, tutors
- Student societies: organising events, Bright futures, AIESEC
- Professional bodies: careers information, student membership, professional journals
- Information interviews: Contact organisations you’re interested in working for
How do businesses assess your commercial awareness?