Commercial awareness - what is it how to get it?

Commercial awareness  

The phrase “commercial awareness” is often used in the context of graduate recruitment. Students seem to be constantly told that they need to be commercially aware, though they are not always told what this means. This article will explain what that phrase means, give some examples of it, and help you to learn how to become more commercially aware.  

What is commercial awareness?  

In short, commercial awareness is knowing what is going on and why this matters. It takes two primary forms. Firstly, you should learn about what is happening in the news generally and think about what this means for your industry. For example, if you are interested in working in an investment bank, you might read about Brexit and the negotiations surrounding financial passporting rights and consider how this may affect the banking industry.

Secondly, commercial awareness can be more industry-specific and focus on the news in that particular area. Having a good idea of which firms are market leaders, which ones specialise in certain areas, and any sector-specific changes that are likely to impact the market are all things to consider when researching firms. Also think about any recent deals a firm has done, and mention these if given the chance at interview. You might be sat opposite people that have worked on those deals, so take this opportunity to ask thoughtful questions about the deal. 

How can I become more commercially aware? 

A great place to start is by reading a newspaper regularly. This will provide a useful amount of background knowledge about the big issues of the day, something that you can apply to industry-specific problems.

As well as this, you should start to read industry-specific sources of news. This might be, for example, the law pages in The Times on a Thursday, The Economist, or The Financial Times. This will really hone your knowledge of the industry.

Once you start identifying firms you are interested in working at, you should look on the firms’ websites, particularly at their “News” sections. They will often have a series of articles on recent deals they have been involved in, as well as other news about the firm. 

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