Commercial Awareness: Why you need it, how to get it

Quick Quiz

Commercial awareness – regularly demanded, rarely defined.

Is it:

i) An ability to recite key articles from the Financial Times and The Economist from memory

ii) Understanding that all organisations, especially big businesses, are there to make profit, carve out a corner for themselves and undercut the opposition

iii) In-depth familiarity with how the City works: knowing your bulls from your bears and your equity from your elbow

iv) The realisation that hedging is a financial term, not a horticultural activity

The answer is ii), though i, iii and iv will chalk up a few extra brownie points and are essential if you intend to go into high finance.

Quick Fix

Impress employers by showing how your part-time work has nurtured your commercial insights. Forget “I work as a shelf filler at Asbury supermarket”. Limp and lame. Instead “Working at Asbury, I have seen how they promote key products, raising turnover by 20% and drawing customers away from their main local rival Waitco.” Sharp and shrewd.

If you want to go up several notches on the scale – a necessity when applying for the major grad schemes – add any or all of these into the mix:

Reading a respected daily paper or, alternatively, its website. Less Metro, Star, Sun or Standard, more Guardian, Indie, Times, Telegraph.

Forsaking Radio 1 for Radio 4

Taking a sales job, running a market stall, starting a micro business

Joining the Trading and Investment Society here at QM

Participating in an online “fantasy” investment game. Relax – no folding money changes hands. If you’d prefer, do this on an individual basis. Take out some “virtual” shares – again, you are not parting with any cash – in some actual assets and see how they perform.

Commercial awareness: you’ve got it. Use it.

Gill Sharp
Careers Consultant
QM Careers

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