The phrase ‘commercial awareness’ was one that I heard repeatedly throughout my time at university and even more so after graduating, and I share the view that raising your commercial awareness is synonymous with career success. But what most people never offer is advice on just how to do that.
Planning is a world where change is always happening whether through local decisions, innovative thinking or policy developments, meaning that it is imperative that you stay informed of recent events. Commercial awareness is not something to consider when simply considering your first job or next career move - whilst interviews will always require a demonstration of your commercial awareness, I would argue it is most relevant throughout your everyday responsibilities. There are many ways to improve your awareness or ‘top it up’ and this article is far from exhaustive but highlights some useful tips.
The most obvious place to start – Planning. It’s hard to find quiet time to read a good novel for many of us, let alone a magazine based around our work but I feel this affords you the very best opportunity to take in the main bulk of news relevant to improving that all-important commercial awareness. Aside from the print magazine the website is awash with useful articles, breaking news and the opportunity to join their mailing list meaning you can even break up your day with their regular newsletter.
Aside from reading in a quiet place or sat at your desk the very best place to improve your commercial awareness and test your knowledge is out there with your fellow planners and Real Estate professionals. I really do believe that networking is the very best method to improving your awareness and knowledge whilst also building your network that may prove very useful one day. The RTPI and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have both really improved their offering of events throughout the year as well as their marketing of these events to ensure they are no longer scarcely attended but are quite often the first dates put in any diary. The nature of events ranges from golf days through to weekend-long conferences focused on policy issues. The Young Planners Networks, which runs regional events, are excellent at hosting relaxed social functions. The sponsorship of such events from consultancies, recruitment consultants and others means they are often well located, offering free food and drink and, most importantly, an excellent environment in which to raise your commercial awareness.
Lastly, I would advocate the use of LinkedIn - there is a great benefit to the use of this social network. I have noticed a sharp rise in the number of status updates from planners raising awareness of their most recent projects and accomplishments, their responses to policy changes (or lack of, in some cases) and sharing of opportunities. I would advise anyone looking to raise their commercial awareness to join the groups associated with planning, moderated by those at the RTPI or set-up by individuals, to engage in healthy debate and read the views of those across the sector. LinkedIn is easily accessed at your desk or via their useful phone apps now and it can prove to be an extremely effective way of raising that awareness and putting it to the test.
In short, commercial awareness can be gained in numerous ways and the very best advice I can offer those of you keen to raise the bar – be bold, be brave and be heard. Book to attend that next RTPI event in your city, read and comment on a LinkedIn post about policy in your region and find time to grab a drink away from technology and get page-flipping Planning!
Jason Moore is town planning recruiter at Cobalt Recruitment