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Four Essential Steps to Demonstrating Business Acumen

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 09:04

Guest post by Fiona Triaca and Erica Davis, Naked Ambition

Ever wondered what can get you moving from being the assistant to having a team of assistants?

It’s simple really.

It’s curiosity.

It may have killed the cat, but it will get you everywhere in the business world.

To get that next big role… you want to start by asking questions and take it upon yourself to understand how your work fits in with the bigger picture. Learning the “business” of business is essential for career success and developing your business acumen will get you everywhere, particularly in large organisations.

If you are wondering how to step it up – ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you understand the direct connections between what you do each day and how it impacts your company’s success?
  • Do you know how your company (or your department) makes money and could you explain it to someone else?
  • Do you understand your company structure and how the different areas work together?

For a lot of us, the answer would be “umm… sort of…  I guess…”  Which is fine.

No need to panic. It just takes some time and energy outside of your day-to-day role to get an understanding of this stuff.

The goal is to develop an understanding of how your business operates, how the company makes money, and your role in that process. Business acumen is what you know about business and how you act upon – or implement – what you know.

1. Read! (Listen and watch, too)

Online, offline, and everywhere in between. Read books, magazines, industry publications and web sites, anything relating to your role, your company or your industry will be helpful in giving you an understanding of what’s happening in the big picture

When you read, scan for content that will help you better understand today’s business environment, give you a deeper understanding of industries you support, and educate yourself on new technologies.

2. Join professional or industry associations

Staying interested in industry or professional trends is much easier when you belong to professional or industry associations. Attending events and seminars keeps you connected to the pulse of what is going on in your profession and industry.

Plus you benefit from developing your professional network and sources of information, which is valuable for both you and your company. If you struggle to find events to attend, check out The Fetch, meetup.com or (this tip is KING) even think about organising your own event for young professionals in your industry.

3. Hang around after work and get the goss

Instead of rushing out the door at 5:30pm each day, make an effort to get to know what your colleagues are working on and what’s important to them. If you can find ways to help other people achieve their goals, you will build your brand in the company and people will want to help you achieve yours too.

4. Don’t rely on your boss to get you involved

If there’s something you are interested in within your company or you want to learn more about, go for it. Contact people you want to speak to, join committees, take on projects in other areas. Simply asking your boss to help you won’t be enough – take control of your own career.

Remember, business acumen doesn’t develop overnight so don’t be intimidated to ask questions. You don’t know what you don’t know! But the more effort you put in (and are seen to be putting in) to being curious about the business as a whole, not just your role, the further you will get.


First posted on the Naked Ambition blog.

Fiona Triaca and Erica Davis have almost 20 years of corporate experience between them, in industries including finance, stockbroking, sales, media and copywriting. Together they founded Naked Ambition, a company dedicated to accelerating the career development of young professional women, setting them up for long-term success.

Fiona and Erica will be presenting a Personal Branding Masterclass at AIM in Melbourne on Friday 30 May.