A survey of over 1,500 first year undergraduates from 70 different universities conducted by leading graduate careers site targetjobs.co.uk shows that friends and family are major influencers on students’ choice of career.

TARGETjobs asked first years whether they knew someone, other than teachers and speakers, who had made them interested in a career they were considering.

51% of first years surveyed said yes, they did know someone who had made them interested in a particular career. 17% were family members and 34% friends outside the family.

Of the 51% who had spoken to family or friends, two-thirds had received practical help and advice in applying for internships or jobs.

But there were interesting differences between men and women first years and between those who were privately-educated and educated in the state system. Men were more likely to use personal networks than women and privately educated students were much better connected than state-educated students.

  •  55% of men surveyed had spoken to friends and family about careers compared to 49% of women.
  • 34% of women who had spoken to friends and family, did not get help or advice on their application compared with 31% of men.
  • 54% of state-educated first years didn’t know any friends or family members who made them interested in a particular career, compared to only 41% of those privately-educated.
  • 35% of state-educated undergraduates who had spoken to friends and family, did not get any application advice compared with 24% of those privately-educated.

It was a balanced sample of 1,500 first years with approximately a third of respondents studying arts and social science degrees, a third science and engineering and the rest management, business and law. With careers service provision in school patchy at best, it’s clear that family and friends are well-placed to offer advice about careers based on their own experience and contacts. From the evidence of the survey, men are more likely to avail themselves of these informal networks than women, and those who have been privately educated appear to be the most active networkers.

Chris Phillips, Research Director at GTI Media/TARGETjobs said: “This is just one of the findings from this new survey of the career aims of first year undergraduates and the results should interest the growing number of graduate recruiters targeting students at the start of their studies. The influence of friends and family is clearly a significant factor in helping students choose careers but question marks surely remain over the objectivity and accuracy of the advice being offered.”