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Importance of commercial awareness

​Why is it so important to know your industry inside and out?​

It sounds like some of the most obvious advice that you could possibly give a job-hunter, but that’s possibly because it’s such common-sense advice that it actually gets overlooked by many ambitious candidates: it really is crucial for you to be well-versed with your industry.

We aren’t just talking about being able to dazzle your interviewers with in-depth knowledge of your sector. That’s because the principle that ‘knowledge is power’ applies right at the very start of the process, when it gives you that awareness of what opportunities are available in your chosen industry, where to look for them and how to make yourself the most attractive candidate for them.

Finding the right vacancy – whatever your career stage

That continues through to the actual process of applying for a vacancy – do you know what the typical responsibilities and salaries are for jobs in your field? If you are a recent graduate or someone only just switching to this industry from another sector, do you know what kind of position you could realistically aim for with your current skill and experience levels?

When you do come to apply for a certain vacancy in your industry, do you also know what the typical recruitment processes are? While some fields may involve several interview stages and perhaps psychometric and other tests, others may be much more informal.​

Knowing what employers need and want

It also helps, of course, to know what the typical employer in your industry is actually looking for in a candidate. That can be ascertained in part by extensive periods of time spent perusing the person specifications and job descriptions of advertised jobs in the sector.

However, it’s also sometimes a matter of knowing what relevant employers are looking for from a bit more first-hand experience, even if you’ve merely informally spoken to such businesses rather than necessarily worked for them before.

Developing that crucial industry knowledge

Other invaluable ways of building knowledge of the sector in which you are looking for jobs include keeping an eye on the relevant labour market statistics and trends. Is this a sector that is on its way up, or down? How many people are employed in this industry and what are the typical salaries, at both the lower and higher ends?

You might also ask yourself how people work in this sector in order to ascertain the best way of breaking into it – for example, self-employment, freelancing or casual work may be possible.

Never underestimate the importance of sector know-how

From joining a relevant trade body or interest group to subscribing to the given sector’s most popular journals and magazines, and perhaps even volunteering or casual part-time work in the field in order to ‘put your toe in the water’, there’s so much that you can do to become familiar with your chosen industry.

The difference in your standard of preparation compared to other candidates is sure to be noticed when you apply for your next role.