Why international students need to increase their commercial awareness now

Employers cite a lack of commercial awareness as the biggest gap when it comes to graduate recruitment. It can be hard to pin down exactly what commercial awareness means, so we have broken it down so you can find out exactly what it is and how it can lead you to a graduate role.

What is it?

Commercial awareness is understanding the factors that affect the business world and their context in the wider marketplace. Put simply, it’s being up to date on current affairs and understanding how they might impact your chosen sector. For example, if you were applying for a role at Microsoft, the expectation would be that you would understand what the company is working on, current trends in the leading IT companies and who their competitors are. The Nottingham post give a positive explanation that “Nobody expects an interviewee to understand the intricate workings of a business they have not been in, but some grasp of how it makes a profit and the areas in which it could grow – as well as the potential threats to the company’s financial performance – are essential”.

Why do you need it?

We have seen a number of reports that highlight the skills gap between what graduates can do and what employers are looking for. Here at GradLink, our partner employers mirror this requirement and list lack of commercial awareness to be one of their biggest challenges when recruiting. As an international graduate, having this under your belt could give you the edge over other candidates to secure your role. People management site Investors in People give a great example, asking you to “Imagine you owned a business and had to recruit someone. You’d look for someone with passion, vision and great enthusiasm but you’d really want someone who also understood the boundaries of decision-making within the organisation: the realities of what you had to deal with as a business. This is commercial awareness!” Employers understand that you will have a wealth of knowledge from university, but want to see if you can apply this to real-life situations in the workplace.

How can you get it?

There are a number of ways that international students and graduates can increase awareness of their sector and expose themselves to commerce while preparing themselves for their career.

  • Reading. Start at the company website and find out exactly what they do and who they work with. This will help you identify who the collaborators and competitors are. Then expand into newspapers and journals that tackle any issues relating to the business or wider issues such as economic changes.
  • Work experience. This covers any part-time work, your university placement or any internship you can relate to your career. When working on applications or interview prep, try to show that you can apply the theory you have gained to real-world experiences.
  • Volunteering. We cannot stress enough the value that this can have for accessible experience. By volunteering at a charity, for example, balancing their books could give you experience of managing a small budget which can be transferred to a larger organisation.
  • Shadowing. This can be achieved by approaching companies or asking your university or part-time job to shadow a colleague’s work to learn more about what they do.
  • University programmes. Have you been part of business simulations at university or any games which have helped expand your industry knowledge? Many universities have Entrepreneurship competitions, becoming involved in these yourself of helping a friend who is taking part will give you a wider understanding that can be used in applications and interviews.

Find sites that can keep you up to date with news and careers updates that will help when looking for graduate roles. Look at the business newspapers for the country you would like to work in and sign up for alerts. For careers advice, a global jobs board and blogs for international students and graduates, register for GradLink today!



By Jen Garmston Published: Feb 15,2018