Commercial awareness – regularly demanded, rarely defined.
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.
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.