Commercial awareness and career motivation


Heard the terms commercial awareness and career motivation but not sure what they are?  Here our Director, Bob Gilworth gives us an insight into what these terms mean and how you can develop them.

Consistent feedback tells us that the two most common causes of candidate failure in graduate selection processes are perceived lack of: commercial awareness and career motivation. These are often the key differentiators between applicants who are otherwise similarly qualified with similar evidence of transferable skills such as problem solving, communication and teamwork.

Demonstrating commercial awareness means showing that you understand:

  • Why the organisation exists (particularly who it serves, how it generates its income and for what purpose)
  • Who it competes with and how it ranks against those competitors
  • Some ways in which the organisation might improve
  • The potential impact of the external environment (stories in the news etc) on the organisation

Asking a job applicant to demonstrate commercial awareness is really saying “Show us what you really understand about our organisation and its environment.” Commercial awareness is not confined to for-profit business. The list above can be applied to any organisation or sector including public and voluntary.

Demonstrating career motivation is about being able to explain clearly and convincingly, your rationale for pursuing the option in question – in other words providing a really good answer to the inevitable question “why have you applied for this job?”

It is important to understand that commercial awareness and career motivation are specific to the context (the role, the organisation, the industry), unlike transferable skills which tend to be generic and well, transferable.

If you were interviewed for two completely different graduate jobs in two different sectors and both organisations asked you to describe an occasion when you led a team for example, you could legitimately give them both the same answer. Trying to give the same answer to why you have applied for the job or what you understand to be the purpose of the organisation would not work.

Developing commercial awareness:

Work experience can really help. Working in an organisation generates understanding of the organisation and its environment, provided that you are observant and ask the right questions (see above). This can then be applied to the particular organisation or sector and others which are similar.

If you are a student at Leeds you are taught how to do research. Use your skills to research your target organisations and sectors. Look beyond graduate recruitment sites. Look at information aimed at customers, stakeholders and partners. Look at competitors and the market/sector in general. Look at relevant items in the news media and consider the connections to your organsiations/sectors.

Developing career motivation:

This is about understanding yourself (motivations, values, interests, skills) and the options available. You can use the career planning sections of our website , sign up for a career planning module and/or use on line career planning tools such as Prospects Planner or Target Jobs careers report.

If you need any further help about any of the above or any other career related query, pop into our drop-in service for some advice.

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Filed under Advice, Develop your employability, Interviews, Job Market

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