The importance of commercial awareness
Daniyal Aziz, Recruitment Consultant13 May 2019
Commercial awareness is prized by recruiters across every sector and industry. Working in legal recruitment, I know first-hand how important this skill is to law firms in order to make the right hire. Taking time to build your commercial acumen is a key part of the process of becoming a lawyer or standing out against hundreds of graduates after university. In this blog, I offer a couple of pointers on what exactly commercial awareness is and some practical ideas on how you can develop yours.
What is commercial awareness?
“Must demonstrate commercial awareness”, or “you’ll bring a genuine interest in business”, or “you’ll possess strong business skills”; these are all quotes I’ve taken from job adverts. All these recruiters are looking for the same thing although use different terms. But what does it mean?
Commercial Awareness can be difficult to define as a concept as it considers a range of things. Speaking in broad terms, it’s understanding the business world within the industry you work. This ranges from understanding the commercial priorities that a business would have (or in other words their commercial drivers) to understanding how business will be impacted by political, environmental or economic factors.
To explain some more…
For example, let’s look at some of the commercial priorities when a business is deciding where to open their new offices. They’d have to consider what the salaries look like in the region to be able to offer a rate in line or above that of their major competition so that they can attract and retain the best talent. An environmental factor to take into consideration would be how accessible the office is by public transport. By taking this into account they can appeal to candidates who do not drive further broadening their potential talent pool. And the B word - a political factor that’s already impacting businesses and the decisions they make… Brexit! For some industries it’s a threat whereas for others it’s an opportunity. It’s having a good idea of the underlying dynamics of a business that helps you to understand why. And it’s this which is being commercially aware.
How to develop your commercial awareness
Thanks to the internet, it’s easier now more than ever to build your commercial knowledge. If you’re browsing the internet, cut down on time spent on social media and instead catch up on business news in your area. Since I focus on legal recruitment in the Manchester and Liverpool markets, every morning I read a couple of local business news websites on my way to work. It’s super convenient and only takes up a small fraction of your day. A couple of my personal favourite sites are Business Up North and Business Manchester alongside the LBN (Liverpool Business News) which are all a great source of business knowledge. I also like to watch business focused shows like Dragons Den (or Shark tank – lol) and The Apprentice.
Get yourself out there
Like me, you can also attend events and talks set up within your industry. For example, in legal, firms tend to set up networking events and talks when there are major changes in legislations. These can help you stay on top of relevant news as well as connect with professional bodies. Having an account on LinkedIn also helps; you can join industry groups where you can read or even join in discussions to stay on top of the latest developments.
If you are a graduate looking to get your foot in the legal world, it’s a great benefit to have work experience or volunteering under your belt. Finding opportunities to gain first-hand experience within the industry environment puts you in a good place to pick up information, develop your awareness and understand how business works. At a very basic level, any recruiter will expect you to have gained an insight into any organisation you have worked or volunteered for. You may have had a part-time job in an organisation, but the expectation is that you will have asked questions to find out more, so make the most of your work experience and be ready to give examples.
Why it makes a difference
Commercial awareness is the understanding of how the business you work for, and the industry you’re in, operate and make money. When you demonstrate commercial awareness, you're focused on making money for your business and helping it achieve its aims. You have informed opinions on factors that affect its profitability or market share, and you understand its competitors and customers. Employees who understand the underlying dynamics of a business make a difference to its bottom line, and for any employer that’s a big bonus.
Daniyal brings his passion for commercial knowledge to his everyday role in recruiting non-qualified legal professionals and Paralegals across the North West. If you’re looking to further your legal career and want some advice on gaining more commercial knowledge, or to find the right firm where you can put your commercial acumen to the test, contact him today. You can call Daniyal on 0161 214 6119 or send him an email – firstname.lastname@example.org