Promoting your work experience – Commercial Awareness
Welcome back to our series of blogs on promoting your skills gained via work experience. These blogs aren’t trying to ignore the excellent skills gained on your university course but are designed to try and get you think of other ways in which you are getting skills. Using skills from education and any other experience will enrich your CV, applications and interviews.
We have covered a number of skills already and in this blog we turn our attention to Commercial awareness.
Commercial awareness or business acumen is often mentioned but sometimes can be quite hard to fathom and understand. Essentially all of us need to be aware of how an organisation functions and how goods and services are accessed and ultimately paid for and by whom. If you are self employed it will be thinking of how the client or customer will pay you. Every organisation needs an income that doesn’t exceed its outgoings in order to survive.
So commercial awareness is a sense of how familiar you are with commercial life. So when you have worked somewhere have you picked up on how the business operates and who are the key clients? How does the organisation promote, market and sell it’s products or services and how does it treat its customers?
So if you have worked in any role think about how commercial awareness can be applied to the service the customer or client received.
There is lots to consider in all different types of roles. here are some ideas to get you thinking about this can be applied to a setting you have been in.
Sales and marketing is an easy one to begin with as it can feel commercial awareness is transparent in this context. So think back to a time when you were involved in any kind of sales role.
- Were you asked to sell certain goods or services?
- How successful were you?
- If you were successful at selling try and think about how you did this.
- What made it a success?
- How did you measure this success?
- Did you have targets to reach as an individual or a group and was your income partly dependent on this, for example were you on commission?
- Did you serve a particular group of people, for example fellow students, children, parents, adults or senior citizens? If it was a mixture did you adapt your communication style to the group being served?
- Did you receive any training ?
- Were you involved in any kind of promotion event? If you were in retail were you working over the busy holiday times so Christmas, special events etc.
If you haven’t been involved in sales and marketing then think about other work experiences which can also provide a wealth of evidence in this context. Think about times when you were given responsibility.
- Were you for example responsible for collecting money?
- Were you given the keys to open up or lock up?
- Did you train anyone else?
- Have you supervised anyone?
- Did you cover for your manager in a short term capacity or even longer, if say they went away on leave?
- Were you involved in interviewing for any posts?
Another area to focus on is numbers so examples could be to think about explaining how many were in the team and what targets you had to meet.
- If you say for example ‘I worked in a team of 4 and we had to aim to sell 20 units per day’ this brings the example to life and has more detail than ‘I worked in a team selling units’. Of course some facts have to remain confidential and that is acceptable. Say as much as you are comfortable with, without contravening any confidentiality rules.
Now think of yourself as a the manager.
- If you were in charge how might you do things differently ?
- For example what events would you put on to help increase sales or improve reach?
- Would you organise the tasks your staff were doing differently?
- Would you seek to improve it? If so how could you improve the situation?
- What would be your management style?
So when referring to this on a CV or application form and at interview try and summarise the experiences you have had and focus on what you were asked to do or better still volunteered to do.
- Did you go the extra mile?
- How can you demonstrate this?
As you can see within the skill of commercial awareness lies lots of others, communication, persuasion, teamwork, organisation and numerical ability. Skills can be interwoven. One tip is to ensure you focus on the skill in hand as asked for by the employer and think of evidence that shows that skill.
For more help in identifying skills and looking at how to provide evidence of these go to the Careers Service website or come and see one of our members of staff who can offer more help and advice.