Alternative ways of developing commercial awareness

Krishen Muthoo runs through some alternative ways of developing commercial awareness. 

  • Last updated Aug 23, 2019 10:14:46 AM
  • Krishen Muthoo

Commercial awareness is a tricky one. You know what to do as you’ve heard it a million times: read The Economist, study the Financial Times and so on. But you might realise that it’s quite difficult to get to grips with those papers, or that at first you feel like you get it, but afterwards you realise you don’t know how to answer questions on how business works.

I’ve interviewed many people who’ve secured training contracts and vacation schemes. They’ve told me how they developed commercial awareness and how it helped them get top jobs at big firms. Here are three of the best tips I’ve found on how to develop commercial awareness.

There’s nothing like actual experience 

Get a job. Aside from helping you cover some of your expenses, getting a regular job at a small business (perhaps part-time or on the weekend) is one of the most effective ways to develop commercial awareness. These less “glamorous” kinds of roles—such as working part-time as a waiter or doing the books at a car garage—give you the opportunity to understand the inner workings of a business, how it’s run and why certain decisions are made.

When you have a proactive role working in a business, you naturally begin to understand it in a way that you wouldn’t if you just read about it in an article. Doing a job like this regularly over time will increase your understanding of what drives a business, what concerns it and what it needs to do to grow or survive. Once you understand that on a small level, it becomes easier to understand big businesses.

Reading isn’t the only way to consume information 

A misconception that students have is thinking they need to read to become knowledgeable and understand business. The problem with this is that, if you don’t enjoy reading or find it more difficult to understand, you’ll end up giving up on it altogether. In today’s climate, you don’t need to do this. 

You can learn about business in a million ways. There are podcasts that you can listen to on the way to work. You can have a chat with someone about a topic in the news or join a discussion group where you might make friends in the process. Don’t forget YouTube either—there are thousands of videos on topics such as how the economy works, current-affairs stories and light-hearted videos that explain business jargon with clever animations. 

It doesn’t have to be about complex business

Don’t forget that while all industries and businesses work differently, they’re all businesses; you don’t have to learn complex stories about finance or debt restructuring to develop commercial awareness. 

One of the best ways to develop an understanding of business is to pick an industry you’re genuinely interested in. It could be a player in the music industry or a football club you support. Follow them, look at the deals and decisions they make as a company, and think about why they’re doing that. You’ll learn to understand business better by doing this than if you tried to read up on an obscure but seemingly important business story you have no interest in. 

To sum up: find the industries you’re actually interested in and discover the way you learn best. Also consider getting a part-time job if you have some spare time. It takes effort to develop your commercial awareness, so make sure you find a way to enjoy it. 

 

More like this

  • How to become commercially aware Anna Vall Navés

    Developing commercial awareness is crucial for any aspiring lawyer, but it can often be difficult to know exactly how to go about acquiring it. While there are plenty of different methods that can help you become commercially aware, knowing how to read and understand relevant publications is essential.

  • Answering commercial awareness questionsTuula Petersen & Becky Kells

    Commercial awareness has become something of a buzzword in the legal sphere. Lawyers are required to demonstrate an understanding of commercial issues and contextualise current affairs within a legal framework. Consequently, recruiters will be paying close attention to the candidates’ commercial awareness during the interview, assessment centre and the initial written application.

  • Using social media to become commercially awareBy Billy Sexton

    Commercial awareness is a buzzword you’re going to hear all the time when you’re applying for vacation schemes and training contracts. In order to be successful in your applications, you need to display a high degree of commercial awareness.

  • Why is commercial awareness important?By Billy Sexton, Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk

    Commercial awareness. The two magic words that law firms, lecturers, your fellow students and even the lovely people at AllAboutLaw.co.uk bang on about all the time. We’re just trying to be

  • Developing commercial awareness at universityTuula Petersen

    As an aspiring solicitor or barrister, you have most likely come across the term commercial awareness. However, you may not have realised exactly what commercial awareness entails or how it can apply to your own personal development as a legal professional.