Did I miss the memo? I was 20 years old sat in Croydon asking myself why getting amazing grades at school didn’t somehow teach me to be “commercially aware”? Why did no-one mention this to me until NOW, a few months before application deadlines? Was it obvious to everyone else at university that we needed to be “commercially aware”?
I sat there in silence asking myself these questions in disbelief. I then found my laptop and looked at my student subscriptions and added three news ones. I subscribed to the Economist, the Financial Times and Time magazine. I had never read any of these publications before that day and remember wanting things to change for me. I feel that was the day my commercial awareness journey started, and if you’re reading this thinking you didn’t get the memo either, yours might have started today too.
12 years after graduating from university, and as a qualified lawyer, business advisor and author, here are three things you should know about commercial awareness.
- No-one is born with commercial awareness.
- Commercial awareness is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and sharpened.
- If you want to work in the City, you will need commercial awareness skills for your business career from this day forward.
This blog will start you on your path, and if you stay the course, you’ll be commercially aware, savvy and smart. If you’re ready, keep reading.
What is commercial awareness?
Commercial awareness is the ability to be up-to-speed on business and world news and apply this to how a law firm, or business organisation, operates and serves it clients. For solicitors and professional services specifically, it is important because advisory services will typically be driven by, relate to and be provided in the context of business, economic and political events. Having the attribute of commercial awareness can be the difference between succeeding at an interview or not.
How do you develop commercial awareness?
Ask yourself what articles, resources and materials you should be making an extra effort to read. There are so many out there, including free city career webinars, ‘recent deals’ sections on firm websites and the publications I noted above. You would not be best served to read every single page like you would a book. Start by scanning the headings and find articles that are at the top of the global and UK business agenda. In addition to this, aim to find articles that relate to your area of interest, for example data privacy, technology or regulation. Set up online alerts and add yourself to mailing lists so you never miss a beat.
Start to immerse yourself in commercial conversations, either in person or by listening to interviews, podcasts or watching Bloomberg, and share your views with like-minded individuals.
Meera’s three-step commercial awareness methodology
Apply the below every time you read a business article and as you prepare for your interviews.
- Truly understand the business news story you are reading.
- Write down a list of key departments at the law firm or company you are applying to, for example Tax, Corporate, Litigation and Employment.
- Assess the news story against each department you wrote down, and ask yourself relevant questions including:
- How will this story impact each department’s clients?
- How will this story impact each department itself?
- Is the impact good or bad? Could it lead to a profit or a loss for the company?
Seek knowledge, apply and improve – repeat. You’ll forget you missed the memo and only remember when someone asks you how you figured it all out.
Big thanks to Meera Patel for writing this guest article and sharing it with us! Meera is the author of Get Into Law and a Director at Deloitte.
For more career information from Meera Patel, find her book Get Into Law on Amazon and follow @getintolawbook on Instagram.
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