How to make the most out of supervisor meetings
If you’re about to start your PhD , you probably have a lot on your mind. And your relationship with your supervisor may or not be on your list of things to be worried about. However, throughout your PhD they are there to help you, and make sure you finish on time (and with minimum corrections!), so it’s important you make the most out of your supervisions.
The 2017-2018 team have finished blogging for now, and are focusing on their theses and finishing their PhDs. However, just before leaving, they shared their best tips about how to ensure you have a good supervision relationship and make the most out of it.
In terms of communication, we can’t tell you enough how important it is to set expectations at the beginning of your PhD. Do you work best if you have regular, weekly meetings? Would you rather be left alone and contact them when you have an issue or just every now and again? Say so! Your supervisor might prefer a completely different approach, but it’s important to discuss this and reach a common ground. Even if you just say you don’t quite know what the best approach will be, that’s fine too. You can start from there, and hopefully figure out quite quickly what the best supervision method is for you.
However, if it’s still three weeks until your next scheduled meeting but you have a problem that needs sorting before then, drop them an email! They’ll value knowing what stage you are at, and their insight could save you days of stressing over it. If you need anything, just ask! When chatting to each other here at Blog HQ, we realised that while our PhDs are on a very wide range of topics, we all agreed that we got the best results when we told our supervisors what we needed and when we were struggling with one aspect or another of our PhD.
Once you’ve decided how often you want to meet, make sure you make the most out of it. Many of us find it helpful to make a list of the things we need to discus. Write down everything you need, even if it seems minor, from issues with data analysis and discussing abstracts you want to submit, to which short graduate training courses they recommend. If you need feedback on talk slides or reports during the meeting, it is often helpful to email the drafts to your supervisor a few days before the meeting. Our supervisors are busy people!
During the meeting, tell your supervisor again where you’re at, discuss the results- and not just the parts you struggle with. While you live with your PhD during working hours (remember, work-life balance is important), for your supervisor this is one of a few projects they’re working on so they might not be fully up to date with every detail of it. And if they’re explaining or suggesting something and you’re not quite sure what they mean, ask them! We can sometimes feel bad about interrupting them, but there is no reason to. And before you’re done, remember to set up the date for the next meeting and discuss what the next steps in your research should be.
After the meeting, it can be useful to make a note of all the comments and suggestions in your lab books. Especially if there are a lot of suggestions, it’s easy to forget some of them if they’re not written down.
In the end, remember that your supervisor is there to help you with your PhD and to make sure you are on track. However, they’re not a mind reader and cannot know if and when you need help unless you tell them.
What about you? Do you have any tips to make sure you have a good and helpful relationship with your supervisor? Let us know in the comments or tweet us at @UofG_PGRBlog!