- Accounting and Finance
- Business and Management / Warwick Business School
- Careers & Employability
Developing ‘Commercial Awareness’
As a quick summary, I explore the importance of developing commercial awareness as a university student followed by tips and tricks to strengthen it through useful resources and how to make it a habit.
Commercial awareness supports internship preparation and academia
When preparing for summer internship applications, the thing I found most difficult was developing strong commercial awareness. The advice I have previously got was ‘read the Financial Times’, but I found this overwhelming as it didn’t solve the issue of consistency and it seemed to mean missing key trends and the bigger picture. Also, first-year Macroeconomics taught me that commercial awareness is a fundamental muscle for undergraduate economics students that once again, I struggled to master.
Whether asked what you think about ESG, a news item that has interested you, who the winners and losers have been from COVID, or what you see as the greatest economic threats over the next 12 months: it is being detail-oriented and specific that will convince someone you are commercially aware.
Marshall your resources and make it a habit
I began to realise a few hacks to developing commercial awareness after talking to others that had seemed to master this mammoth task. I’ll take each of these hacks in turn:
- Use newsletters: E.g. find your favourite from Andrew Ross Sorkin, the FT selection, Pitchbook (great Sunday edition albeit American focused), Morning Brew, Techcrunch, Snippet Finance (from the legendary Yuri Khodjamirian).
- Listen to podcasts: FT daily podcast (it’s free), Finimize (if you’re interested in things related to the finance sector), BBC business news podcasts.
- Use consulting reports: If you want to get a deeper understanding of a major trend (e.g. the next inflexion point of the mobility tech, e-sports, or challenges faced by the financial sector), then check out consulting reports – this is what the industry professionals use.
- Make it a habit: once you have your favourite newsletter, make reading and taking snippets from it a habit. I love the technique of habit stacking (see Atomic Habits by James Clear), where you layer it onto an existing habit.
How I ‘habit stack’
- Just after planning my day, I would load up the Techcrunch and Andrew Ross Sorkin newsletter, only to add my favourite parts in a Word Doc where I have accumulated my favourite snippets (using headings and the navigation panel to keep things organised). City AM is a great alternative to FT if you want something more concise to read through.
- Just before I have a shower, I either do a mini-10-minute workout or go for a light run where I listen to the FT podcast followed by another podcast e.g. Finimize (on 2x speed, so it takes a very small amount of time to get through).
Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day of this, but never miss 2 days, because after 2 days, you risk losing the habit (also talked about in Atomic Habits).
Another key note is that listening to a podcast and reading a newsletter double up in a powerful way, because like marketing, we need to see things multiple times before they stick. If all the resources I use mention the same trend, I know it’s a big one.
As a final note, and something I hope to blog about in the future, remember to try and enjoy the process of building commercial awareness. A book called ‘The Practicing Mind’ talks about the dangers of being too results-oriented, especially with something like commercial awareness that may take a while before you properly reap the benefits.