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Using library resources to enhance your commercial awareness

Whichever career path you choose to take, in or beyond academia, it is important that you are commercially aware of the business and sector that you want to work in.  

Improving your commercial awareness will help: 

“Research the company that you are interested in, look at their annual report, look at what’s driving them, look at how they have done in the last few years.  
[Researching a company ahead of an interview] is important as 1) it shows that you’re interested in the company and 2) it shows that you’ve got a more rounded understanding of what the company has done. Research is really important!”

Dr Gary Gates (Senior VP, Pearson VUE), on the importance of increasing your commercial awareness ahead of an interview

Become commercially aware

Your university library could be an invaluable research resource you can use to develop your commercial awareness of businesses and sectors that interest you.  

See below for some examples of the services and databases which may be offered by your university library.  

The precise resources and databases available will vary between university libraries so check with your specialist librarians which ones are available to you.  

Company and market databases

Your university’s library may subscribe to company databases, which provide financial information, these are used extensively in the commercial world and are considered professional knowledge bases. 

There are many more, check with your librarian to find out which databases your institution uses. 

Examples of these include: 

Streaming resources

Your university library may provide access to a streaming audio-visual collection that can help you with your research into companies. This includes documentaries, TV and radio programmes, case studies and lectures. Some resources can be searched via the library’s academic search engine but some can only be searched directly.  

Examples of these include:

Newspapers and trade press

Your university library may also provide access to newspapers including the Financial Times, and all other major business publications via databases such as Nexis. Newspapers can useful for learning how a company is perceived and how they are performing.  

Trade press or publications are non-academic journals which are an industries’ main publication channel to keep industry insiders up to date.  There are professional and trade publications associated with many industries for example: Marketing Week, Nursing Times, Computer Weekly and The Economist. You can search for these using the academic search engine or in databases such as Business Source Complete.

Funding opportunities

Your university may provide you with access to Research Professional, an online database which provides information on funding opportunities and reach policy. 

If not, you can sign up to the newsletters and funding alerts of all the funding bodies relevant to you via their websites. To keep up to date with higher education policy in the UK you could subscribe to WonkHE. 

Not available to you? 

If you do not have access to a university library, there are still many easy and free ways that you can increase your commercial awareness and develop your skills in this area. 

Examples of these include:

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