In 2015, talk to your advisor!

I speak with many grad students and postdoc every year, both in informal context (coffee break) and formal occasions  (mentoring sessions at conferences). Not surprisingly, most of them do not speak to their advisors/supervisors. Keeping everything in does not help doing good science, and definitely does not improve one’s happiness   at work.

30 years old people with  a PhD are capable of running complex experiments, but not ready to  talk. We do not get trained in conflict resolution and interactions with colleagues. Suddenly, someone breaks and disappear, or leaves angrily to a new job.

Join this effort in improving academic communication in 2015. Invite your busy advisor/supervisor for a coffee, luring him/her with the perspective of a high IF publication! If your advisor is Prof. Smith, do this ONLY after securing another job!

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2 thoughts on “In 2015, talk to your advisor!

  1. I can talk from my own experience that is not that easy to talk to a supervisor because of his / her own lack of interest in talking to the student. Many supervisors are too busy with their own research agendas to talk to their students. Some supervisors make students feel like they are wasting their time. So what are the chances of dialogue in this type of context? How should the student approach the supervisor to talk about feelings of letting down?

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  2. I wish there was a simple recipe for that. Maybe there should be a facilitator, a third person that is in charge of monitoring and improving this communication process. For example, I can help a student of a colleague to communicate effectively with his/her supervisor, or I can talk with the supervisor, suggesting and recommending regular meetings. In the end, these are just short-term relieves. If the senior researcher does not develop and interest or an (academic) feeling for the junior researcher under his/her supervision, the whole PhD might be at risk. A quick research on this topic return many interesting documents (that I will add to my notes), such as: http://www.itl.usyd.edu.au/supervision/old_site/casestudies/files/harbon.pdf
    http://www.uwo.ca/tsc/resources/pdf/PG_1_Supervision.pdf
    As for my experience, I had supervised so far 6 grad students and 5 postdoc. Postdocs, no problem. PhD, one in 5 we did not establish decent communication, 2 of the remaining are great, the last two have some margins of improvement.
    Immediate actions from me, as a supervisor: ask how things are going quite often and involve the student in early stage of creative process, so that s/he feels a BIG part of the game, as it should be.
    Immediate request to the student (if I could): do not be afraid of disclosing problems in a truthful and even conflictual way!

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