How to Be Commercially Aware in 2020 |

How to Be Commercially Aware in 2020

By Niamh O

Updated January 17, 2020 Updated January 17, 2020

Being aware of the world around you is worth its weight in gold. Understanding changes in culture, society and business is crucial for any aspiring MBA student, especially as some admissions interviews may seek to test your commercial awareness.

Unsure what that really means? Here’s everything you need to know in order to be commercially aware.

The basics

Having commercial awareness enables you to make well-informed decisions to benefit your organization and in turn, your standing as a professional. Without such knowledge, your decisions may be naïve, and colleagues or employers will lose confidence in your abilities.       

Essentially, commercial awareness is the real-world knowledge which you’re able to bring to the theoretical principles you’re taught in the classroom. You need both things to be successful and by being truly commercially aware, you’ll understand what your company needs to do to be profitable and serve customers efficiently.

This means you’ll know your organization’s business challenges, core values, key stakeholders and its biggest competitors. Similarly, you’ll fully understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses, and therefore make sensible decisions for the benefit of the organization.

If it’s marketing, advertising or media in which you’re interested, you’ll need to know the latest advertising deals, success of recent campaigns and movements within the industry.

Developing your skills

In its most basic form, commercial awareness means understanding your role within a business and the environment in which the business operates.

Understanding and keeping on top of current affairs and how they will affect your organization and other organizations in the sector are also a must. You can enhance this through social media, publications, and general networking with others in the sector.

A checkpoint you could follow would include:

  • What is your organization trying to do?
  • What is its market position?
  • What differentiates the organization from competitors?
  • Who are your clients?
  • How are current affairs affecting the organization and its clients?

When applying for jobs, you’ll also need to be able to answer these questions about the company you’re hoping to join so research is crucial.

Above all else, having commercial awareness means appreciating organizations are commercial enterprises in their own right – with a main focus on creating revenue.

Understand how the business makes money and what factors could affect it to be really successful in your position moving forward.

But how could you truly develop your skills?

Decision making: Practice making decisions in a more informed way and learn to listen to your gut – be confident in saying no when you think something won’t benefit you or your business.

Financial and numerical literacy: Keep your numerical thinking at the top of its game and develop your understanding about money management – you never know when you could be in charge of huge sums of money at a company.

Also, become adept at concepts like interest, debt, percentages, financial graphs – you’ll thank us in the long-run.

Think about the big picture: Build up a rich network of connections and put social media to good use.

Stay in-tune with the world and its happenings and pay close attention to social, demographic and technology trends that may affect the organization you’re a part of.

Similarly, interact with people from all over the world – the level of value understanding business culture across the globe is second to none.

Finally, read up on your sector: Subscribe to newspapers, follow prominent writers in your chosen sector and make sure you’re fully aware of how global geopolitical events could have an impact on different industries. A well-read business student is a successful business student!

This article was originally published in January 2020 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (;, creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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