By Gabriella Ezeani, Chairperson of University of Leicester Law Society (2017-2018)
What is commercial awareness?
The term commercial awareness can be defined as an awareness and understanding of the business and commercial world and how it impacts your chosen industry. As a law student, commercial awareness is understanding how daily happenings in the business and commercial world affect the legal industry.
To Illustrate, how would Brexit affect the legal world? To tackle this broad question, I will identify the key players within the legal world and how Brexit will affect them. For me, this will include, law firms, their clients, and junior lawyers alongside others. By understanding the commercial world, I have a better insight on what affects my chosen industry. I am also able to articulate future risks within my chosen sector.
How I develop commercial awareness
Similar to the phrase, Rome wasnt built in a day, commercial awareness cannot be learnt in a day. It must be a process for you and as you make a habit of understanding the world around you. It gets easier to articulate and engage with current news.
So, if you are beginner or advanced with your commercial awareness, here are my top 5 ways of gaining or improving your commercial understanding.
I like to think of Finimize as the cool aunt who comes bearing gifts and gives insightful knowledge on everything. Finimize allows you to understand the commercial world within 3 minutes. Yes, thats right, 3 minutes. Having dyslexia means that sometimes I am unable to process large chunks of information. It becomes tedious for me and what would be an hour read for someone else would mean two hours or longer read for me. However, the good aspect of being able to take your time in reading an article means you learn more and understand it more so than others and it allows you to develop an insane attention to detail. The negative is that you cant read a lot in a day. So Finimize is here to save the day.
Finimize breaks the news into mini chunks that enables you to process information quicker. A Finimize email has a very cool heading that makes you smile in the morning and updates on the commercial world. It gives you a summary of the news, what it means to the key players within that industry and how it affects you as an individual. It does not assume that you know what is happening, it gives you all the information you need to understand what is going on. The best part about integrating Finimize into your daily life is that it becomes a habit. When I wake up at 6am, I instinctively head straight to my inbox to read the latest commercial news. It is beginner friendly and has a beautiful layout that allows for a smooth read.
So, if you want to stay on top of the news, Finimize should be your bestfriend. Oh yeah, I forgot the best part, it is free. All you have to do is enter your email address and you become a finimizer ????
I am a huge fan of the Financial Times. As an investor, I enjoy the in-depth analysis of a specific subject matter. It covers a broad range of current issues and it delivers it in a well written and objective standpoint. It also allows you to follow topics that you want to focus on the most. For example, I follow technology, Bitcoin, mergers & acquisition, Oil and Donald Trump as topics. This means I get personalised emails that focuses on these topics. It enables me to choose what I read about and follow people or issues that are important for my chosen industry. It also allows me to have a deeper understanding of a subject matter. It has been instrumental to me as an individual. The better you are at reading the Financial Times the easier job applications, assessment centres and interviews become. In some law firms, as part of the interview stage, you can be asked to read a physical copy of the Financial Times and discuss what you have read. If you begin the process of understanding the writing style of the FT, it gets easier discuss to engage with any subject matter.
As a student, the Financial Times is free for me. I simply go to the library section of my University website and sign in using my student details.
3. Get on Twitter
Yes, Twitter can be a fantastic news source if you follow the right people. Some of the people I follow include Bloomberg, Finimize, Lawcareers.net and so many other insightful organisations. My Twitter feed is filled with insightful articles, breaking news and people who are pioneers within their industry. It gives me the opportunity to engage with topics on a more personal level. For example, my dissertation is on cryptocurrency and using Twitter has enhanced my understanding of cryptocurrencies. I just dont read the articles, I participate in the discussion and engage with other Twitter users. Twitter allows you to have a holistic approach to a subject matter. It gives you different perspectives on a single topic. Now, this can be tricky if you follow too many meme accounts and friends who retweet everything you could possibly imagine.
My top tip is to get a separate Twitter account (a professional account) dedicated to improving your professional self and brand. Identify what you enjoy keeping updated on and follow people that share the same passion. For me, I enjoy anything investment, technology, diversity and legal. So, except for following some parody Kanye West accounts, I follow people who have a passion for what they do, and I engage with their material. Psss, its free as well.
4. Play a podcast
As a student, you realise that you have a unique way of studying. Take me for example, I enjoy visual or audio learning to compliment my reading. I also apply this to how I keep myself commercially aware. Every day, I wake up at 6 and instantly reach for my phone. I read my daily Finimize and head to my kitchen. I make myself a cup of tea and put my headphones in and listen to the BBC Podcast. Today was all about how venture capitalists are failing to invest in female-led companies. Podcasts are generally subjective discussions that focus on a subject matter. It has a lot of character and gives you something to talk about to friends, family or acquaintances. The podcasts are under 20 minutes but captures a lot within that time. You can listen to podcasts anywhere, in the gym, bus, or on the train. The same applies to reading but its much more enjoyable when audio is involved. There is a lot of podcasts available to download through a variety of news outlets. So, you do not have to stick to one podcast.
5. Take an interest in your surroundings
My surroundings play a huge part in what I choose to engage in. Outside of what you can get from engaging with the resources available to you. You can also improve commercial awareness through your surroundings. For example, I work part time whilst at university and during work, I engage with a variety of people that study different degrees. I enjoy programming and having a conversation with my colleague that studies computer science can take my understanding to the next level. I have friends who tag me to different Facebook articles that discuss African politics. I also have people who send me news articles that relate to things that I enjoy. Last week, I had a heated conversation regarding the classification of bitcoin and how its classification will affect its risk.
This week, I discussed the impact of population growth in Africa with a friend over Snapchat. Even, the music you listen too can help as well. For example, Jay Z in his new album 4:44 discusses the impact of his childhood heroes on his ambition, his investment mistakes, his mum helping him learn about the investment world and the growth of black entrepreneurs. The films/TV shows you watch allow you to also articulate a wide variety of issues. I am currently watching Mad Men, it shows how some of the key brands have marketed themselves in a way that have allowed them to lead the market.
Additionally, my law department and involvement in the law society has taken my understanding of commercial awareness to the next level. Having the opportunity to discuss current issues like sexual misconduct within Hollywood, Brexit, Technology and so many more topics with professors, students and other people within my department has enhanced my understanding of what it means to be commercially aware. The best part about your surrounding is that it is free and easily accessible.
Conclusively, commercial awareness can be fun. It is all about viewing the worlds perspective on a subject matter and leaving your imprint. It also makes you a well-articulated and spoken individual. This is how I keep myself updated on the world and you can make use of some of the resources that I use and create your own version.