Commercial Awareness and COVID-19

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COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the UK and global economy meaning major shifts across industry and the labour market. Jade Rogan, Careers Consultant at University of Leeds has some tips on how you can keep commercially aware to inform your career planning in these uncertain times.

There are a few different words I could use to describe the current situation COVID-19 has put us all in. Most of which I couldn’t write here. When we look at the reports of the economic impact of COVID-19 we see buzz words, ‘Economic crisis’, ‘economic fallout’, ‘recession’ bandied about by the media.

Some recent news headlines from the BBC include ‘Chancellor warns of ‘tough times’ for UK economy’, ‘South Asia faces worst economic growth in 40 years’, and, to add insult to injury, ‘’Up to 50m’ pints going to waste in empty pubs’. It’s intimidating and it’s uncertain.  No one knows for sure what will happen in the next week, three months or in twelve months time.

But the wheels keep turning for students and graduates still looking for work experience, graduate roles or to pursue further study. So amongst all of the uncertainty and the media’s worrying headlines, how can you keep up to date and stay commercially aware? Why is this more important than ever? And how can you use this to your advantage when making applications or thinking about your career plans?

We’ve got some ideas, take a look…

What is commercial awareness? 

Put simply, commercial awareness is an understanding of how an organisation or industry works and how outside factors influence it. Commercial awareness of one industry or sector could be quite different to another.

Why is commercial awareness important in light of COVID 19? 

COVID-19 has caused a lot of changes to the UK, and the world, economy. As a result, major shifts have taken place across industry and the labour market. The economic impact of COVID-19 has led to some industries mostly shutting down (e.g. hospitality) whilst others are under more pressure than ever (e.g. healthcare, telecoms). Being aware of these changes can help inform your career plans, next step decisions and help your job applications.

Some examples of changes caused by COVID19: 

Business adaptation: Manufacturers are adapting to produce things like PPE, ventilators and hand sanitiser. These businesses have responded to the demands of the market by being flexible. Prada, Chanel and Burberry have changed production to make health care masks, or gowns for health services across the world. Adaptation has become vital for business survival.

Working remotelyCOVID-19 has forced the majority of the UK workforce to work from home. This is a huge change to how the labour market functions, as well as impacting the environment and other parts of the economy, such as the transport sector. Remote working has put increased pressure on Telecoms industries, with the amount of people using systems such as MS Teams, Skype and Zoom increasing massively.

Change in recruitment practices: Some employers are now pausing their student and graduate recruitment, some are maintaining it and others are cancelling recruitment all together. Those that are still recruiting have changed their recruitment practices to include remote selection of candidates, using video or telephone interviews or virtual assessment centres. Being aware of this will help you succeed in your applications as you will know what to prepare for.

How can being commercially aware help me?

Job searching– keeping up to date with industry and the labour market can provide an indication of where jobs roles are likely to be, which industries are recruiting. This gives you an indication of where you could focus job search, meaning you can use your time more effectively.

Career planning– think about the likelihood of getting a role within an industry during a set timeline. What is your commercial awareness telling you? If it’s not looking very feasible, maybe it’s time to widen the net for now and consider alternative options as well. Commercial awareness can help you be realistic, but also allows you to make informed choices.

Recruitment Processes – lots of employers are still recruiting, and they want to see that you understand their business and the industry they operate in. COVID-19 has impacted every employer in one way or another, showing them you understand how it affects their company will demonstrate your capabilities and enthusiasm. Talk about the impact of COVID-19 on their business in your applications and interviews to evidence your awareness.

How can I keep up to date? 

  • Check out the Careers Centre Instagram story every Friday for commercial awareness updates and key headlines @leedsunicareers
  • Use tools such as the news and social media to keep up to date with key industries you are interested in.
  • Follow relevant organisations and join relevant groups on LinkedIn to keep track of key changes and gain insights into how companies are functioning/adapting in this new landscape.
  • Keep track of official reports and articles published in the recent / upcoming weeks e.g. Office of Budget Responsibility provides insights into the economy and public finances

And finally, remember…

Like with anything, commercial awareness relies on you actively investing in your knowledge and understanding. Take the time to stay up to date, even just a few minutes a day will make all the difference in the long run!

Need some help or support with your career plans and commercial awareness? Book a Careers Guidance appointment via MyCareer to see a Careers Consultant.


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Filed under Advice, Covid-19

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