Why Having Business Acumen Skills Can Improve Your Employability
Why Having Business Acumen Skills Can Improve Your Employability
You’ve just started searching for a new job, and intensive keyword research continues to present the phrase “business acumen.” What in the world is business acumen, and what are some examples?
Prospective employers are requesting that job seekers have business acumen skills more often. Ultimately, hiring managers and recruiters are looking for candidates who can understand and navigate different business situations. This is the number one reason why having business acumen skills can improve your employability.
What is business acumen in simple words?
Acumen Learning says that business acumen is a skill that people use to “take a good idea and translate that into the economic value of…the company.” Put more simply, business acumen means that you can fuse general business knowledge with company-specific knowledge to solve problems and get things done. This skill set allows you to attest to being flexible, adaptable, and discerning as it relates to the finances and goals of a particular business.
While understanding how the business world works as a whole is important, you must demonstrate that you can help a company make decisions that are specific to what they do. The further down you can narrow your business acumen skills, the more people in roles above you will be able to see your value to the company.
Don’t be stressed by the few people who seem to have a natural tendency for doing well in business. This type of gut instinct isn’t the same as possessing business acumen skills. Strong business acumen is a skill that provides tangible results to a business, and it isn’t just for people in leadership or management positions.
5 Examples of business acumen
People in non-leadership roles have plenty of opportunities to showcase business acumen. There are countless business acumen skills, but here are five business competencies and specific qualities that will hint at your ability to make sound decisions that positively impact overall business operations:
1. Strategic thinking and problem-solving
Sadly, the term strategic thinking gets tossed around so much that it has lost some of its original meaning. In short, a strategic thinker is someone who diverges from the norm.
The status quo mindset (i.e., “this is how we’ve always done it”) is the best way for a business to fail. A strategic thinker looks at the whole picture of a situation and sees a pathway to a conclusion even if that means changing what may not seem broken. Often, this type of unconventional thinking leads to process improvements, saves the company money, or reduces labor hours.
Strategic thinking is a forward way of thinking that is supported by facts based on business data. Once the facts of a situation have been determined and analysis has been performed to determine how these things impact the organization, the strategic thinker solves the problems and implements new tactics.
You do not have to have the word leader in your title to demonstrate leadership. Any time you inspire someone to do something outside their normal daily activities, you are being a leader. Someone who presents with leadership skills knows how to be accountable for actions and how to get people to work together. These traits produce tangible results like improved team morale and increased productivity.
3. Growth mindset
A growth mindset is something that a strategic thinker, problem solver, and leader all possess. Business, on the whole, is not static. It changes every day. If you are the type of person who thrives in a dynamic environment and loves working through challenges, then you probably have a growth mindset. In your mind, failure is never failing. Instead, failure is learning.
Most importantly, your growth mindset isn’t pointed inward. You constantly strive to better yourself, but you want to help others, as well.
If you read ten job descriptions, it’s fair to say that eight of them will have some form of the word innovation within the text. When you can look to what you already know to develop ideas for the future, that is the basis of being innovative. Many people feel like disrupting markets and bringing the latest gizmo to market is how to show innovation. That’s not all it is, though.
You can be a member of a team involved with upgrading a process. Perhaps you’re automating some reporting procedures that will shave hours off current payroll procedures. This is innovation. It is creating value for the company.
Having some affinity for numbers and data falls into the realm of business acumen. There are four main types of analytics: Descriptive, Diagnostic, Predictive, and Prescriptive. They examine, respectively, what happened, why it happened, if it’ll happen again, and what should be done about it. Someone with strong business acumen will be able to perform qualitative and quantitative analysis of the details of a particular event to learn patterns and provide actionable data to leadership for recommended changes.
How to develop business acumen
Business acumen isn’t a thing that everyone possesses. However, whether you’re a data analyst, help desk technician, department manager, or human resources clerk, you must have business acumen. You may not have any ambitions to run your own business, but when you get to a place where you understand how a business runs, not only will you be more successful in your role, but you’ll open doors for promotions in the future.
The further you dive into understanding the company you work for, the better. Your company may sell 50,000 widgets to make $1M, but do you know what production costs the company incurs? How much of that $1M is profit? This is the type of open-minded, well-rounded individual a prospective employer seeks. They don’t want someone to come in, keep their head down, sell 50,000 widgets, and then go home.
You can beef up your business acumen skills by doing one or more of the following:
It may not be part of your job description, but learning things about the areas of the business you don’t have immediate exposure to can open a lot of doors.
Most importantly learn about the finance and marketing side of the business. Every business on the planet has some sort of way they track finances. Find out what the key numbers are and how they affect your company’s future. Financial metrics don’t involve only profits and losses. Your company could also be tracking things like client onboarding and retention, return on investment for ad spend, and total contract value or deal size.
A highly impactful way of learning the marketing side of the business is to listen to customers. Some say that listening to customers is one of the most important things you can do for the success of a business. When you can nail down what your company’s customers want, you can define avenues for meeting their needs.
Adopt a strategic mindset
Yes, the company may sell 50,000 widgets to make $1M. But how do they do that? Find out if there are critical industry partnerships that must be maintained. Learn what makes this particular widget so important to business objectives. That means you’ll also need to find out what the objectives are.
Analyze your company’s business model
Believe it or not, businesses spend an enormous amount of time figuring out what their objectives are and defining how goals will be attained. Along the way, there are key components put into place–like a supply chain and talent acquisition strategy–that support the company’s objectives. Being able to support a company’s objectives and goals is a foundational component of strong business acumen skills.
Learn some of the numbers
There is no doubt that you have drilled your income down to the last dollar so that you understand what you have to do and when to bring home the money you need to live the lifestyle you want. Have you taken the time to learn how numbers affect the company you work for? Brushing up on financial literacy is another way to improve overall business acumen skills. Learn how to track metrics and understand business intelligence data.
Go to school or attend some professional development training
As with anything in life, when you want to get better at something, go to a place where you can learn. Some companies will even reimburse your tuition if the coursework has a direct impact on your performance at work.
Keep up with current events
Some of the most impactful information you can acquire about business is found in the news, specifically business news. Reading, watching, and listening to news stories will give you some insight into what is going on and how industry changes can impact the company where you work. Then, you can work with leaders to stay ahead of challenges.
There is always someone who thrives on mentoring others. A great way to improve your business acumen skills is to find someone who already has business savvy and learn from them.
Let them know you have business acumen skills
Now that you know what it is, how do you let prospective employers know you have business acumen skills? The first place is on your resume. Of course, be sure to type it correctly. Acumen doesn’t mean skill, so writing that you have good business skills is completely different than writing that you have strong business acumen skills.
On your resume
Anytime you write anything on your resume, you should be thinking about whether what you’re writing shows value. The best way to have value is to talk about achievements. Of course, you can simply list a few business acumen skills in your “Core Competencies” section, or you can take advantage of the profile paragraph or career highlights sections to go into more detail. If you use the STAR method to discuss achievements where you displayed business acumen skills, your resume will reach the top of the stack.
In the cover letter
For the love of all things progressive, do not regurgitate the same information from your resume to your cover letter. Stick with talking about career achievements to highlight your business acumen skills but find something other than what you’ve already talked about on the resume. Before you submit the cover letter to a job opening, ask yourself if the business acumen achievements written will entice the hiring manager to read the resume.
During an interview
Some of your business acumen skills will come across during the interview just through the way you talk. If you exude confidence and speak clearly, the hiring manager will immediately have the impression that you are good at working through challenges. As with the resume and cover letter, be sure to talk about career achievements where you were able to utilize business acumen skills to solve a problem for a past company. Mention the specific business acumen skills you used and how the things you did in the past are repeatable for the new company.
The progression of your career depends upon your ability to make sound judgments in business-critical situations. As you begin the next step of your career journey, think about the past so you can effectively communicate how you can utilize business savvy for the new company. Don’t forget that with every piece of analysis, you’ve done and every innovative idea, there was some type of measurable achievement.
Marsha Hebert, Professional Resume Writer
Marsha is a resume writer with a strong background in marketing and writing. After completing a Business Marketing degree, she discovered that she could combine her passion for writing with a natural talent for marketing. For more than 10 years, Marsha has helped companies and individuals market themselves. Read more advice from Marsha on ZipJob's blog.