Skip main navigation

Hurry, only 4 days left to get one year of Unlimited learning for £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Your personal network: identifying useful connections

Your network of personal contacts may also be helpful as you research your options. We discuss how to use your contacts when researching options.
Person taking notes in front of laptop while on a video call
© University of York

As well as online sources, there may be people within your own personal network who might be able to help you to find out more about Higher Education.

Everyone’s personal network is different, so who is in your network?

Friends and/or family network

Not everyone will have someone within their friends and/or family network who has direct experience of Higher Education, but someone within this group may have a useful contact via one of their work colleagues or friends.

School/college contacts

If you are currently attending, or recently attended, school or college contacts such as teachers, tutors and careers advisers can help you to identify potential contacts.

Employment contacts

If you are currently in employment, are there people in your workplace who have recent experience of Higher Education? This could be particularly relevant if the Higher Education route you are considering studying is directly relevant to the sector that you work in. However, even if you are considering a qualification that doesn’t seem directly related to your current area of work, you may still find useful contacts. For example, if you work in engineering but are interested in studying marketing, is there someone in your organisation’s marketing department who has recently graduated that you could contact?

Interests and community groups

Don’t forget about contacts related to your interests. For example, these could be people from youth groups, a sports club, or from within your faith community.

Online network

Beyond people you know or have met in-person, your online network may contain useful people.

Remember that anyone can set themselves up as an online expert, so bear that in mind before you decide to make contact. Consider the information that we mentioned in the previous step about evaluating information sources.

What if I can’t identify any contacts?

Don’t panic! Your personal network changes over time so you never know when you might find a new contact who can help. If you are attending an institution’s open day, you may be able to put your questions to a student ambassador. Student ambassadors are paid by universities to undertake a variety of duties, including attending open days, and they can be really great sources of information.

I’ve identified a potential contact – what now?

If you know the person well, it should be straightforward to agree a time to ask them some questions.

If you have a person in common, try and get that person to introduce you. You could give your mutual contact some information about why you are interested in contacting the person.

If you don’t have a mutual contact, you could try sending them a message directly.

Keep the contact short and identify something specific that you are looking for information about. Being specific can be helpful: remember that people are usually busy. Contacting someone asking them for a list of websites where you can find further information about the sector that they work in might not get a response as you could probably find this information yourself (or with the help of a careers advisor). A more specific question might be more likely to be responded to. Remember, the more senior a person is in an organisation, the more likely it is that someone is monitoring their accounts on their behalf, whereas someone who has recently graduated may have more up-to-date information and may have more time available to respond.

Your initial contact could be in the form of sending an email or direct message. Be polite, be brief and be specific. If you don’t hear back from them straightaway, don’t bombard them with further messages. Similarly, if someone responds saying that they unable to answer your question, don’t take it personally. Most importantly, when networking, take steps to stay safe.

Staying safe

There are a number of online job scams, which you might encounter online when building your network. While aimed at job seekers, the advice in JobsAware’s advice for safe job-seeking can be applied to building your network. You should consider your personal safety, particularly when making new contacts whether online or in person. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust offers advice on personal safety in a variety of situations.

Over to you

Have you successfully approached someone in your network for information about Higher Education? What tips would you have for others thinking about taking this step?

Share your thoughts with your fellow learners in the usual fashion.

© University of York
This article is from the free online

Diverse Routes into Higher Education

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now