supervisorMake sure you make arrangements with your supervisor(s)

‘You have to take the rough with the smooth.’

In short, that’s how PhD students explain to me what they think about how they are supervised.

Some are happy with how they are supported by their supervisor and (daily) tutor(s), others get really upset, insecure, frustrated and even unhappy.

What can you do to make sure you cooperate smoothly with your supervisor(s)? Five tips.

Tip 1 Schedule appointments with your PhD team

Scheduling appointments to discuss your supervision at the start of your PhD journey has a strong preference. Make sure you have everybody present. Talk about the mutual expectations. What are the supervisor(s)’ ways of working? What do they expect from you? What do you expect from them? What is everybody’s responsibility? And we are not talking about the contents, but also about the process. How often do you talk to each other, and who are you going to talk to? Who decides which courses or training you will take part in? Who decides which conferences or symposia to attend? Who decides the spending of the budget?

Provide clarity!

Did you not make these arrangements at the start of your PhD? Do it now! Plan a separate meeting to talk about the process and how you collaborate. For once skip discussing the content of your PhD.

Tip 2 Schedule appointments with your daily promotor

The appointments with your PhD team are essential, however, the appointment with your daily promotor is even more important. Coordinate together how to outline your daily mentoring. Every 3 to 6 months, plan an evaluation and update the way you work together. Depending on the phase of your PhD the support you need might be completely different.

Tip 3 Prepare your meetings

Once you have planned a meeting with your supervisor(s) make sure you prepare this meeting thoroughly. Set up an agenda, sent out specific items in time and make sure you have clearly outlined which questions you want to be answered. Also: what do you need to take the next step? Make sure this is an item on the agenda. What to do to make sure your meetings with your supervisor run smoothly?

Tip 4 Read the following blogs

These blogs give you lots of solutions for tricky situations. A couple of examples: how to work together with someone you don’t like? What questions to ask when meetings with your supervisor are difficult?

Tip 5 Be on the lookout for the qualities of your supervisor(s)

As crazy as it sounds: your supervisor didn’t get the job of supervisor because he is a master in supervising. He or she was appointed supervisor because of his/her superior scientific qualities, not necessarily his/her didactic talents.

So lookout for the qualities of your supervisor and try to figure out where you can find the things you miss elsewhere, like peer support.


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