Commercial awareness, or business acumen, involves understanding how the business world works. As a job candidate it includes understanding the company you are applying to. Employers want candidates to demonstrate a clear understanding and a keen interest in how their company operates, which means to be successful you need to familiarise yourself with the company’s products and services, departments and divisions and the different roles they offer. It also requires understanding the market the company operates in. For example ask yourself:
Commercial awareness is also about having a big picture understanding of the major issues affecting the economy, politics and the business world at large. We live in an interconnected world, so every headline you read, whether economic, social or natural, may have ripple effects across the industry, company and role you are applying for.
Commercial awareness isn’t something you can pick up the night before an interview. It takes time to learn. Here are some ways to start building your knowledge base.
Think about any activities you are or have been involved in, from a commercial perspective. For example:
Start reading a daily paper, The Economist, The New York Times or WSJ along with specialist trade and industry publications, newsletters and websites.
From friends to family to university professors, never be afraid to ask lots of questions and discuss relevant issues.
Above all, remember that all businesses – and the markets they operate in – are constantly changing; being commercially aware means staying on top of new developments and keeping abreast of current events.