Preparing for your future, Work Experience

Commercial Awareness: What you need to know

Emily McCarthy from the Work Experience Team explains what commercial awareness is and what you can do to be more commercially aware…

What is commercial awareness?

Commercial awareness is a term that refers to a candidate’s general knowledge of business, their business experiences (or work experience) and, specifically, their understanding of the industry which they are applying to join.

Why it is important?

To compete in the graduate jobs market you need to be able to demonstrate commercial awareness from online applications right through to assessment days and interviews.

Employers will want to see that you have an understanding of the following:

  • Their business – things to consider: What is the company’s ethos? Who is their customer and what are their needs? What are the company’s short term and long term goals? What sets them apart from their competitors (their unique selling point)?
  • The industry – things to consider: Where does the company fit within the wider industry? Who are their competitors? What challenges might that industry be facing currently and in the future?


How to develop commercial awareness

This is a skill developed over time by embedding yourself into a company/ industry.

A great way to start developing commercial awareness is through work experience. Getting a foot in the door will help you submerge yourself into that company and get an understanding of the challenges they are facing. Seeing firsthand how the industry works and talking to those within the company will help you get a wider understanding of that company’s needs and the needs of the wider industry.


How to demonstrate commercial awareness

Commercial awareness can be anything from trainee teachers making themselves aware of changes in education policy to Computer Science students being aware of the latest developments in computer technology.

Being able to demonstrate commercial awareness takes practice. Take a look at the below questions and consider how you might answer them in an interview:

What issues or events in the commercial world are you particularly interested in at the moment and why?

  • Pick one or two topics related to the job you’re applying for and research them in detail
  • Choose topics that you are generally interested in, so that interest is genuine. Employers value authenticity

What are the biggest issues facing our industry?

  • Look at news articles and industry publications
  • Check out the company’s website
  • Think big picture and look outside of the industry to see wider issues such as economic changes, the development of new technologies and global issues


6 top ways to become more commercially aware

1. Use Twitter

Follow relevant Twitter feeds for companies in the industry you are looking to work in. This is a quick and easy way to keep up to date with the latest company developments. You can look at what is trending on Twitter to have a global commercial awareness of world issues.

2. Gain work experience

Cardiff University has its own central dedicated Work Experience team who offer a wide range of opportunities in different areas and industries throughout the year that are flexible to your timetable.

See current Work Experience opportunities.

Sign up to our fortnightly emails to receive Work Experience opportunities straight to your inbox.

3. Set up google alerts

You can get alerts from Google for articles and news reports by entering keywords and areas of interest. This way you don’t even need to search for industry updates, they will be sent directly to your inbox.

4. Read, watch or listen to the news

Put asides 10 minutes every day to watch the News. This could be on your daily commute or whilst you drink your morning coffee and toast. This will allow you to stay informed about wider issues such as globalisation, new technologies, political and economic changes that could all affect the industry you aim to work in.

You could also download a news app like BBC News or Sky News, which allow you to browse news by category.

5. Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn has lots of interesting articles that are posted directly by leading industry employers. Find what articles interest you and look into these topics further.

6. Attend a commercial awareness masterclass

Cardiff University Careers offer free workshops on Commercial Awareness. This is the perfect setting to learn more about how you can demonstrate commercial awareness. By being aware of what employers are looking for you can give yourself an invaluable edge in a competitive graduate market. View the full timetable and reserve your space by logging onto the student Intranet.


Were you aware that Cardiff University has their very own Work Experience Team within Careers and Employability?

The team has contacts with a variety of local employers who target Cardiff University students and graduates specifically, so you are in a great position to get some invaluable work experience for your future careers.

Why not register to our fortnightly Newsletter to have the latest opportunities delivered right to your inbox?

Sign up here

We have drop-in sessions every Wednesday afternoon 13:00-16:00. Book in person on the day from 12:00 at the Careers & Employability front reception desk, 51A Park Place. We also have a dedicated space on the online Jobs Board, look for the Work Experience tab where we advertise our full range of opportunities.

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Your feedback and help please

Have you found this blog post useful?  Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.

We’d also be grateful if you can share this information by re-tweeting or sharing with your fellow students who may find this useful – you can do this by using the share buttons or via twitter and facebook.


Best Wishes,

Emily McCarthy, Work Experience Team.

Your Student Life, Supported.

The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including Advice & Money, Careers & Employability, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing, Disability & Dyslexia and International Student Support.

The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus. For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.


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