If you don’t have lots of non-academic work experience and aren’t studying a financial subject, you don’t have to give up when you see a job ad demanding commercial awareness. My colleague, Tammy, has spoken to dozens of employers and compiled a section on our Careers Service website to help you understand and develop Commercial Awareness.
It’s not so much about understanding the financial nuts and bolts of a business, more about understanding the business environment in which the organisation operates. The website suggests questions you should be asking about an employer’s business, and directs you to some resources to help answer those questions. (In general, these aren’t the kinds of questions to ask at interview – unless you want to demonstrate that you don’t have commercial awareness and haven’t done your research.)
Any opportunity you get to demonstrate that you understand the way companies (and not-for-profit organisations) operate really helps to convince employers that you have management potential. Taking courses or qualifications can help to demonstrate your interest and commitment to business, but commercial employers are often more interested in how you apply your knowledge, whether gained through qualification or your own personal research.
This could be taking an organisational role in a charity or taking part in a business simulation, for example, the annual “Biotechnology YES” entrepreneurial competition. This year, a team of life scientists from Manchester walked off with a prize for their business plan. If you’re not a business postgrad yourself and doubt that you could compete against those with management experience, just watch this Quicktime movie to see what a bunch of postgraduate scientists can come up with (given some focus and serious effort) or click on the picture below to read about it (it’s on page 7) and get inspired.