Phd supervisors: The good, the bad, the ugly

I think getting a great supervisor for your PhD can be a bit hit and miss. I have friends who are friendly with their supervisors and can easily go for a drink after work with them, and I have friends who cry almost every week because their supervisor is putting too much pressure on them or belittling their work.

Not ashamed to say this bitmoji really did represent me more than once during my first year.

If there was one piece of advice I wish I had had before I started my PhD it would be this: Don’t go in blind, get to know your supervisor before committing and make sure THEY are right fit for YOU.

My experience has turned out fine in the end, I am still plodding along with my PhD and haven’t felt so bad about it that I have ACTUALLY quit rather than just saying I was going to and then forgetting about it the next day (which I have done multiple times). However, I know at least one person who hasn’t been so lucky and has actually requested a change of supervisor as the fit just wasn’t right.

A real issue I have seen for a lot of students is their own self-doubt. I have read a lot of blog posts about how students can develop ‘imposter syndrome’ where they feel like they don’t deserve to be in the position they are, and honestly I don’t think I have ever met a PhD student who hasn’t felt this at one point to some extent. A lot of the time this is because they haven’t been getting as many results as others they know. A supervisor should be someone able to encourage you through these doubts and assure you that the results will come if you keep going.. because they will! Having a good supervisor who knows when to praise and when to constructively criticise is key to getting past this and realising you are here for a reason, and you can definitely do this!


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