Demonstrating commercial awareness is vital for whatever sector you are hoping to go into – law, technology, politics, health, for example, not just business. Yet every year, graduate recruiters frequently tell me that graduates lack commercial awareness at interview or assessment centres. I find this too when I carry out mock interviews and assessment centres with students at City. Questions like“What do you think are some of the key issues affecting our sector at the moment”? or “Give me an example of an article or programme which has interested you recently” (a typical question to test how you keep youself up to date with sector issues) are frequently met with blankness or hesitation with lots of ums and ers!
Of course an internship, placement, or voluntary work experience is the ideal way of gaining or dveloping commercial awarness, but a lot can be achieved by thoroughly researching specific organisations you are interested in and keeping up to date with the sector in general. There are lots of ways of doing this, but a good start can be finding out about organisation’s culture, values and goals via their website and signing up for their newsfeeds. Some professional bodies also provide good resources to develop commercial awareness. The ACCA (Association of Certified Chartered Accountants) has excellent podcasts on its dedicated graduate website about how to develop your commercial awareness. The Research and Insights section on the main ACCA website is also an excellent resource for keeping up with industry specific trends if you are interested in a career in finance.
The first podcast is suited to grads of any discipline. But don’t be put off by the remaining titles which seem to focus on accountancy. They would be very useful for anyone interested in a career in business including finance and marketing, as well as economics, law etc as the examples focus on commercial issues experienced by diverse companies, which would go down very well at interview. These podcasts would help you to talk fluently at interview and assesment centres about important commercial issues.
You can read learn about developing your commercial awareness in our guide and by attending the events about commmercial awareness organised by the Careers and Skills Development Service.