How can you build commercial awareness while at university?


When you’re a student, the world of work may still feel a long way away. However, it’s increasingly important that your time at university is used not just for studying, but for the many opportunities it presents to prepare you for life and the world of work.

A good degree is only one element that a future employer will consider when scanning through a pile of graduate CVs. On average, a degree takes three years to complete; there’s plenty of time to prepare for work without sacrificing the university experience. It’s possible to study and build a bank of work experience, while still having time to party or participate in clubs and societies.

So, what can you do to stand out and show the value and potential you could bring to an employer? It’s all about becoming savvy about the world of work.

The importance of building commercial awareness

Commercial awareness is an understanding of the wider environment in which organisations operate. This doesn’t just relate to businesses, but also the public sector, charities, not-for-profit organisations, educational institutions, cooperatives and beyond. Having a grasp on current issues, trends and developments can impact organisations and you add value when you apply this to a role.

A good commercially aware individual is committed to staying up-to-date with current affairs and daily developments. They are dynamic in how they apply this knowledge, which is constantly changing at pace.

Before kick-starting your career, it’s hugely beneficial to both you and prospective employers if you understand the industry in which you wish to work. It’s also vital to be aware of the challenges and scenarios you may experience when working with new groups of people. At the interview stage, you won’t be expected to know everything, since expertise is developed over time, but showing awareness and prior experience will put you in good stead.

Transferring interests into skills

Even with the best of intentions, not all degree courses will give you the skills that will directly transfer into the workplace. Being able to construct a researched, well-written essay will satisfy your tutor, but will it do the same for your boss? Possibly not. But, if through writing and researching your essays and other coursework, you can demonstrate a clear understanding and confident navigation of Microsoft Office, fresh thinking and problem solving, then you’re on to something.

It’s also a great idea to think about what your strengths are, what you enjoy doing and how you could apply it in the workplace. Younger generations are particularly adept on social media and are often far more in touch with the latest apps and digital trends. This puts you at an advantage over other age groups. Taking time to understand how social media is used in business, what tools can be introduced, and what can’t, is a great exercise.

Gaining work experience

How many entry-level job adverts have you seen that require work experience? You may find yourself wondering how you are supposed to gain that experience without a job in the first place! It’s a catch-22 reality for many.

Students are one of the few groups of people ideally positioned to seek work experience and internships from companies within industries of interest. It’s one of the reasons why Unisource was created; to enable students to gain paid, degree-relevant experience. It’s also an easy way to identify if your career focus is right for you, but it can also show you how the things you love and are interested in can become your career. You’ll be working for a long time, so it’s worth trying out different options to find the area that really fires your imagination.

How can Unisource help?

Unisource is a free digital hub that connects businesses seeking assistance with university students looking for work experience. It’s a great way to build commercial awareness and experience the world of work – remotely and at times that suit you. If you’d like to find out more, please visit our student pages to find out how Unisource can ease the transition from campus to career.

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