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Employability skills

Commercial awareness

What is commercial awareness?

Commercial awareness involves an awareness of an organisation's stakeholders (e.g. customers, suppliers, regulatory bodies), the market place in which the organisation operates, and an awareness of your role within the organisation.

Commercial awareness impacts on all areas of work and every sector, not simply the corporate or 'business' world as some people assume. For example, in order for a charity to be successful it is important that employees understand relevant legislation, know what will motivate people to donate, how they can reach a wider audience, what the charities main objectives are and so on.

Why do employers want commercial awareness?

For an organisation to be successful, it needs to be aware of the external factors and demands placed upon it. This translates down from organisational level to individual roles within the business. By developing your commercial awareness you can demonstrate your understanding of the importance of your role to the business as a whole as well as an understanding of the environment in which it operates.

Commercial awareness is one of the factors employers most frequently tell us that students struggle to demonstrate effectively.

Examples of how commercial awareness can be developed or evidenced

  • Gaining work experience in the sector.
  • The University of Leeds has subscribed to IBISWorld which has industry reports on over 400 industries, updated 1-4 times per year to provide you with the latest strategic insights and analysis.  
  • Conducting PESTLE or SWOT analyses of the sector and organisation. See JISC Infonet website for further explanation and templates you can download.
  • Staying up to date with current affairs. If you use a resource such as BBC News Business you will build up a breadth and depth of knowledge about topical business affairs and details of individual companies' activities.
  • Join Finimize, a free service which gives you each day's financial news within 3 minutes. Experts demystify finance by delivering news in a way that is easily understood by people outside the industry.
  • Reading relevant industry publications or news feeds.
  • Joining and participating in industry networking groups - this could be in-person or 'virtually' - for example through LinkedIn groups.
  • Researching potential employers, their competitors, suppliers and customers.
  • Part-time work - however mundane - will enable you to gain an understanding of how businesses operate and the factors which impact on their success.
  • Networking - speak to friends, family, recruiters at fairs or events or people working in the industry.

How we can help

We regularly run workshops on commercial awareness or have employers running presentations. Check out our events database, or come and talk to us. 

Commercial awareness

Further information on commercial awareness.

Commercial awareness