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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Commerical awareness: the graduate holy grail


Laura, our third editorial intern is back with her second post. Today she chose to talk about commercial awareness this is a great read. 

Dear TARGETjobs readers, I have a confession to make. I have no commercial awareness. I don’t know what overhead costs are and I would probably struggle to tell you what a profit margin is.

As you already know, I’m a recent graduate and one of the new editorial interns at TARGETjobs. The commercial side of work was something I’d never had to think about at university and at my first assessment centre in March this year made it very clear that my heart was in the right place but my head was in the clouds. ‘You can’t save the world every day’ was one particularly memorable thing my interviewer said and she was completely right. I was far too idealistic and sadly mistaken if I thought a business could survive on ideals and goodwill alone. All businesses, whether you work in an investment bank or a not-for-profit organisation, need to make money to survive. Like it or not, that’s just the way the world works.

To someone who is naturally commercially-minded this may seem obvious. For the last four years, however, I have filled my head with grammar rules and foreign literature, which was all very well at the time but did not provide me with the commercial awareness I needed to secure a graduate job.

The chance to do an internship at TARGETjobs was therefore perfect for me because it allowed me to work in a real business environment and learn things that years in Warwick’s humanities building could never have taught me. None of the jobs I’ve had before have been particularly business-orientated and after months of listening to careers advisors talking about how important commercial awareness is, I’ll be damned if I leave this job without it.

‘But how do you reach this holy grail of commercial awareness?’ I hear you say. I’m still not 100% sure but so far I’ve been going about it by asking lots of questions. For example, how does TARGETjobs make money if the content is free? What is the difference between advertorial and editorial content? Why do recruiters choose to advertise with us and not our competitors?

Publishing may seem to be a less of a corporate industry than retail or investment banking, but it is still a business and if a publishing house does not make money it will no longer be able to afford to produce its content. Editorial may seem like a safe, non-commercial bet, but don’t be fooled. Editors cost money and they must work efficiently to produce content that people will want to read. Think about the editors of free magazines that are funded by adverts. If they don’t produce a magazine that people want to read, companies will no longer want to put their adverts in it, and they will eventually be unable to fund the magazine’s production.

Whether you like it or not, every job role requires commercial awareness and the sooner you get some, the better. There is no shame in being a commercial ignoramus. I myself am one. However, it is not too late to change. You can use any job opportunity to ask questions about how a business works and in such a tough economy the applicant with a sensible, business-minded head on their shoulders is probably going to be the one who gets the job. On that note, I’ll get back to you if I ever find out what an overhead is.

Great post Laura. 
If you found this interesting, why not read up on what we have to say about commercial awareness.