Lately I have been tweeting about the relationship between the graduate student and his/her advisor/supervisor. Students studying abroad refer to their advisor as their supervisor. Hence every time your read advisor in this article you can substitute the words supervisor. Unlike the undergraduate advisor, at the graduate level, the relationship with your advisor or supervisor is critical to your success in graduate school. This relationship is a professional relationship. Because your advisor will be writing recommendations for you for a long time, you need to manage this relationship carefully. Your interaction with him or her will determine what he/she writes. S/he should be the expert on your dissertation topic. If not, you will have a tough time getting him or her to read something that is not interesting to him/her. Keep in mind that your advisor is not your best friend, guidance counselor, career counselor, editor, cheerleader, problem solver, colleague, close friend, or therapist. Simply put, if your advisor/supervisor reads your dissertation and provides feedback s/he has done his or her job. Let’s face it, your advisor has more than one dissertation student. S/he is responsible for more than one dissertation project. He also has articles to write and review, classes to teach, and campus committees to chair. Your supervisor/advisor does not want to hear about your personal problems— that’s what your friends and therapist are for.
If your advisor/supervisor does more than write your recommendations, chair your dissertation defense, and provide feedback on the document, count yourself lucky. You don’t have to like him/her just be professional. At best you are an employee and s/he is your boss who is providing you with funds to live on. Even if s/he is not providing your funding this is the nature of the relationship. He or she is not your colleague. Colleagues are equals. Think of your advisor as in loco parentis. Your advisor is your graduate parent and the committee is your graduate family. What you do for the rest of your academic career is a reflection of this family. Here is 10 tips to make a good impression with your supervisor:
- Be on time
- Deliver what you promise
- Do what you say you are going to do
- Take notes during all of your meetings
- Know what questions you have ahead of the meeting (create an agenda)
- Send a follow-up email on what you agreed to
- Call and cancel if you are not going to make it
- Let him/her know all that you have tried before asking for help
- Provide a cover sheet letting him/her know what type of feedback you are looking for
- First deliver what your advisor asks for then you can add more.