Commercial awareness has become a buzzword over the last few years. Regardless of industry or sector, employers are keen to see that you understand and engage with the world outside of the university bubble. Here's six ways you can improve your commercial awareness.
1. Stay switched on & up-to-date
It's easy in the midst of university life to forget about the outside world. However, staying up-to-date doesn't have to be laborious, nor does it mean reading the Financial Times cover to cover on a daily basis.
Podcasts have increased in popularity in the past few years and are easy to access. We recommend "Thinking Commercially", Bright Network's own commercial awareness podcast in partnership with commercial awareness author, Christ Stoakes. Find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts and get monthly updates on what's going on in business and industry.
Radio 4’s Today – their flagship news and current affairs programme, is a great place to find out what’s happening in the world. It’s on from 6am until 9am, but with iPlayer, there’s no excuse for those of you who aren’t early risers.
Other programmes on Radio 4 to look out for are Evan Davis' business conversations programme, The Bottom Line - great for gaining insights into strategy and business and The Media Show – all about the fast-changing media world.
Another excellent tip is to sign up for Google Alerts for top companies and leaders so that you receive breaking news directly to your inbox.
Want to prepare for potential commercial awareness questions for your interview? Use our helpful practice questions to get started.
2. Read stories you’re truly interested in
Improving your commercial awareness doesn’t have to be a chore. Discover what you’re truly interested in and learn from there. When using story examples in an interview or assessment centre to demonstrate your commercial awareness, employers will be able to see if you’re truly interested and passionate about the topic.
3. Have a point of view
Knowing the facts about an industry is important but having a sound point of view on them will help you to stand out further.
Citing detailed regulatory changes is all well and good but what do you think it means for the industry? Is it good or bad and if you were CEO, what would you do?
Start applying a spot of analytical thinking – and you’ll soon find yourself becoming more informed and connected to the industries or businesses you’re interested in.
Stay up to date with the main business and political stories each week by signing up to our Commercial Awareness Update. As a Bright Network member, you can also sign up to receive weekly updates straight to your email inbox by heading to your career preferences section and ticking the Weekly Commercial Awareness Updates box.
4. Do it yourself - get some experience
One of the best ways to learn more about an industry is to work in it. Whether it's an insight day or a week-long placement, experience helps you discover how a company runs on a day-to-day basis and will show you why they make certain decisions. In addition, you’ll strengthen your CV and start to identify whether you’re suited to and enjoy working in that industry.
One of the best ways in which you can get to grips with a particular sector is to join sector-focused university societies and/or commercial awareness clubs. Take advantage of what university can offer you - reading about news and current affairs is only one part of it – you need to get used to talking about it too and that’s where societies come in. The more you can show you are keen to learn the greater your chances of success.
5. Use your connections
Whether you’re a LinkedIn whizz or you’re new to building your network, this is a great time to make genuine connections with business experts or leaders in your industry who can offer you guidance for commercial awareness. Talking to experienced business leaders or those in your industry will help you grow your confidence when demonstrating commercial awareness at interviews. Use this time to be inquisitive and engaged with the discussion and make sure to form your own opinions too.
Having this experience of discussing commercial awareness will help broaden your knowledge of your sector and it’ll show employers you know your stuff.
6. Take a commercial awareness course
Now you understand what commercial awareness is and why it’s important, take the Bright Network Academy Commercial Awareness course delivered by a commercial awareness expert and author Chris Stoakes to learn how to develop your awareness and more.