Commercial awareness: what is it, why do I need it and how can I demonstrate it to an employer?

James Clark, a former Army Captain and Commercial Lead at Portakabin Limited, shares why commercial awareness is crucial in a civilian career, and why Service leavers have more of it then they might realise.

Commercial awareness is about understanding the customer journey and is critical in anything you do. If you are aware of what the customer wants and needs, what you’re offering and the market you’re going into then you are commercially aware. It’s not a skill just reserved for business, all organisations need employees who are commercially aware, whether you’re in design, engineering, marketing or management, you have to understand how events may impact your company commercially.

An understanding of people is crucial for commercial awareness, and what the Armed Forces does is help you to be aware of people and circumstances. Nurturing people to help create teams that fulfil tasks equates to good teamwork, especially if they contribute to getting the job done in the time needed. You’re used to working with different people with different backgrounds and skill-sets, these people skills are a key element to having commercial awareness, demonstrate that to a potential employer and it will put you on a strong footing.

One element of commercial awareness that most of us can demonstrate is not just taking responsibility for your own work, but ensuring others do their job. It is something that you’re taught very well in the military – getting others to do their jobs and taking responsibility for your own. Take these experiences and build on them. Employers know that they might have to take a gamble on somebody because they think they’re the right person, they just might not have the exact skill set at that moment, but as a former member of the Armed Forces you have the ability to grasp things and learn quickly, and you’re task focused. Just make sure you show this at interviews and on your CV.

Ask the Expert
You can read James’s answer, as well as other industry leaders, in Pathfinder Magazine – the monthly publication for Service leavers. The OA edits a regular article called ‘Ask the Expert’, in which career questions are answered by a panel of relevant experts. Read the full article.