There are a number of things you can do to improve your commercial awareness:
Read the business pages of newspapers, and general interest economic magazines such as The Economist, readily available online. These will give you a good grounding in the general financial and economic situation in the world. If you’re looking for work in a particular sector, you should also read the specialist press for that sector. See our page: Critical Reading for ideas on how you can make your reading more effective.
Think about what you’ve learned from any job or work experience that you’ve ever had. Think about the organisation you worked in, and consider what you know about its customers, its sector and the broader environment in which it operates (and here, it can be helpful to think about political, economic, social and technological aspects separately), its competitors and anything else you can think of about the way it operates and why it is successful or not. Reflect on what you think can be generalised, and what you think might be sector- or company-specific. See if that fits with other companies that you know about. See? You’re already becoming commercially aware.
Brush up on your basic skills, especially your numeracy and, if possible, statistics. There’s very little more embarrassing than being presented with a graph in an interview and wondering which way up it goes. And percentages. What exactly is a percentage increase? Take a look at our Numeracy Skills pages, including Percentages and Percentage Change to see.
Take on voluntary roles that will help improve your commercial awareness. For example, does a local club need someone to take on a project? Does your children’s school PTA or similar group need a treasurer? Roles like this will increase your understanding of how organisations find or make money, and how they judge how well it is being used.