How can students make sure they stay ‘commercially aware’?
Careers Practitioner, University of Southampton
Commercial awareness means being aware of and staying up-to-date with current issues in the business, as well as the legal world. You need to develop an understanding of the world in which your clients do business in order to help them find commercially practicable solutions. This is true whether you are interested in working for a large international or national firm or a smaller local or regional firm.
Read a “quality” newspaper on a daily basis and don’t ignore the business news, however dull it may seem! The very least you should aim to do is to read the business section in the weekend papers – they provide an excellent summary of the main business stories of the preceding week.
One way of making this more relevant and interesting is to follow the fortunes of a company or organisation in which you have a genuine interest. This could for example be a mobile phone or technology company, the National Theatre, a sports team or a specific retailer. Ask yourself some of the following questions: Are they doing well? If so, why? If not, why not? Who are their competitors? Who are their clients? What are the issues facing them in the future?
Reading the legal press such as the Lawyer 2B, Legal Week Student, Legal Business and the Law Society Gazette or on-line sites such as Inside Buzz and Lawcareers.net regularly will keep you in touch with the main issues, cases and deals affecting the legal world.
Career Consultant from The Careers Group, University of London
Commercial awareness could be summed up as an interest in business and an understanding of the wider environment in which an organisation operates: its customers, competitors and suppliers. Generally it includes knowledge of the market place in which the company operates.
Tips on how to be commercially aware:
- Read the employer's brochure and check their web site for background information – it may be a good idea to review their annual report.
- Find out who the organisation's competitors are. Take an interest in any activity that you find is topical and relevant to the organisation you are applying to and their competitors. What are they doing? Research these areas well – this will demonstrate to the employer that you have taken an interest in them, are motivated to work for them and importantly, are aware of who their competitors are and what they are doing, as well as the issues that affect them.
- Read the relevant publications for the sector you are interested in so you can keep up-to-date with developments in the relevant sector. Graduate publications such as Real World magazine, TARGET magazine and sector-specific titles such as Accountancy Age for example, can also help – many of these are available free from the careers libraries.
- Make a point of viewing/listening to business-related programmes on TV and radio such as Working Lunch, the Money Programme and World Business Review.
- Arrange a consultation with C2 [or your careers service] – we can help you identify the key areas of your research which are related to your applications/job hunting so as to improve your chances of success.