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Commercial Awareness

Jenny Keaveney
Careers and Employability Service

What is commercial
Best summarised as an understanding of
the marketplace and environment in which
an organisation operates
Equally important in both the public and
the private sectors

What is commercial
"At heart, commercial awareness is about being able to
talk to clients, finding out what they want, why they want
it, what they will do with it and what they are prepared to
pay, and then delivering it in the way they want.
To do that you need to understand how organisations
work, the issues they face and the role of people within
Christopher Stoakes
'All You Need to Know About Commercial Awareness'

Employers look for commercially

aware applicants who
understand the organisations mission and aims
are aware of the political and economic issues
affecting the organisation
are aware of the major competitors
understand the sectors the organisation
operates within
understand the commercial priorities of the

Do they find them?

We (a financial services firm) were surprised by the
number of candidates who were unable to say

why they had applied to us

what we do
what appealed to them about the job
how they could contribute

Candidates who are well-prepared, have done

their research and can demonstrate commercial
awareness stand out like shining lights in the
wilderness! (Solicitors firm)

Analysing organisations
What does the organisation do? (make a product,
provide a service, etc)
What roles are involved in doing this? (probably more
than you might think!)
How is the organisation structured?
What restrictions are there on how the organisation
operates? (professional, legal, regulatory etc)
What other organisations do similar things? Are they
direct competitors?
What outside factors may contribute to the organisations
success or failure?

Businesses involve a lot of

different people and activities


Some key roles and what they involve

Human Resource Management: getting the right people with the right
skills in the right places
Marketing: Finding the most motivating concept & inspiring people to
buy the product
Finance: Providing financial support to the factories and costing up
household brands
Supply Chain: Getting a product all the way from raw material state
through production to the shelves
Sales: creating unmissable opportunities visibility through all shopper
touch points
Manufacturing: Improving efficiency of the production lines through
coaching, training and problem solving
Engineering: Managing projects, to install the best technology
Quality Assurance: Ultimate responsibility for product safety,
uniformity and customer satisfaction

Some current hot topics


Banking regulation; the Public Accounts Commmittee hearing on
taxing multinationals


General Business issues

BAE Systems/EADS merger; M&S profits drop

Following up
The business press. This doesnt have to mean the
Financial Times (unless you are applying for investment
banking) but you should read the business pages of a
quality daily newspaper
Graduate publications/websites such as Real World,
TARGET jobs and sector-specific titles such as Lawyer
2B; Accountancy Age; e-financial careers

Watch/listen to:
Business-related programmes on TV and radio such
as Working Lunch, the Money Programme, Bottom
Line, Law in Action, Dragons Den, The Apprentice
BBC podcasts

Ways to develop commercial awareness

Get actively involved in student societies
Use your work experience
Research and analyse employers and job
sectors that interest you
Take the Careers Employability Award

Student societies

Management/leadership experience
Organising activities and events
Financial planning/budgeting/fundraising
Marketing and promotion
Sourcing materials e.g. T-shirts

Work experience

Think about your work experience

Who did you work for?
Who are their competitors?
What do they do well/not so well?
How is the company run?
Present it in a positive and relevant way to

Researching employers
Follow a company in the press for a month or so
Review a companys annual report
Perform a SWOT/PEST analysis on a company
or sector of interest to you
Analyse the market sector in which a specific
company works what are the current issues?
See for
some useful information resources
The British Library produces industry guides
covering everything from Advertising to TV & Film

Moodle Careers Employability Award

Develop and test your commercial awareness
Includes a how commercially aware are you? test and
an assignment to produce a report on a company or
organisation of your choice
By successfully completing this assignment you can gain
40 Employability Points
Go to and enter your Kent login and
Then "search modules" (via the search box) for careers
The module is called "CEM: Careers Employability Module": enter by
double clicking on it
Enrol by clicking on "Enrol me".

Further advice
Book: All you need to know about Commercial
Awareness in Careers Resources Room

Some advice for law students from Herbert

Smith Freehills
A useful article from Target Jobs

Commercial Awareness
the employers view


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Careers & Employability Advisers book an
appointment or just drop in
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