For me, the relationship with my faculty advisors as a grad student has been like the relationship with one’s parents when one is young. They try to guide me in becoming an independent scholar, but I just want to hurry and get out of the academic house. Earlier in my training, I would respond by doing what I wanted to do. “Don’t do this study until you have the resources to do it,” they’d say. “Okay, okay, but blah, blah, blah,” I would respond. After years of reaping very little, I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, they know better than I do.
Particularly in the past couple of years, I have begun to really understand that my advisors have my best interests at heart and want to see me succeed. I can’t say that I do everything as they suggest, but I now listen more than I question, and I am starting to reap more and be prepared to begin my independent career strongly. With that, I have learned a few tips for minding your “parents” for success:
- Choose your advisor(s) wisely. One common mistake grad students make is choosing advisors based on research interests alone. But it is also critical to consider work styles and personalities. If you and your advisor(s) have personality clashes, you may never get to the point in your relationship where you can be open about your goals and challenges. One minor example: I tend to make jokes. My advisors are tolerant of them, and can see around them to hear the serious concerns nested within them. This might not be the case with all advisors.
- Know where you’re going. It is also important to have a good idea of where you want to go in your scholarly career. This does not mean having all the answers lined up. But if you are simply walking blindly, you won’t have the questions to ask your advisors that lead to effective guidance. I know that I want a faculty position that values teaching but also allows me to engage in research. If I didn’t know that, I couldn’t ask for feedback on people to talk to, institutions to explore and preparations to make before I graduate.
- Listen! Once you’ve developed a solid relationship, and shared your goals and challenges, listen to the feedback you get and take it to heart. Even if you ultimately decide to follow another path, at least take time to understand the logic behind their feedback. That process most often gives you pause, which leads to insight into the intricacies of developing a scholarly career. Furthermore, it shows your advisors that you value their feedback, which leads to more.
Enjoy your scholarly journey and start on the right foot by minding!
About the Author
Ebony Reddock, Ph.D. Student, Health Behavior and Health Education
Published in: Student Voices