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Commercial Awareness
Jenny Keaveney
Careers and Employability Service
What is commercial awareness?
• 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 awareness?
"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 organisation’s 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 organisation’s
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
• Retail
• Finance
– Banking regulation; the Public Accounts Commmittee hearing on
taxing multinationals
• Law
• General Business issues
– BAE Systems/EADS merger; M&S profits drop
Following up
• Read:
– The business press. This doesn’t 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 company’s 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
• Open 9-5, Monday-Friday
• Careers Resources Room
• Careers & Employability Advisers – book an
appointment or just drop in
• Networked PCs and IT resources