I was chatting with a friend recently, when she mentioned that her supervisor gives a yearly talk about expectations. Specifically, what the supervisor expects from the grad students. In the talk, the supervisor mentions that his main expectation is that the students don’t lie or try to cover up if something goes wrong. That they admit it upfront, so they (the student and supervisor) can immediately work to move forward, instead of wasting time. While my friend has heard this talk multiple times, she mentioned it’s a nice reminder to get each year, and takes some of the pressure off about being a grad student.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a straight expectations talk from my supervisor. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever really even had an “evaluation” talk, where we discuss my progress and if its satisfactory. Instead, every once in a while, my supervisor will make an off hand comment in a meeting that I use to gauge my progress. Probably not the best method, as it’s possible I’m misinterpreting what he’s thinking.

I don’t think my supervisor is unhappy with my progress (at least not overall), because he took me on for my PhD after my Masters. But, I do know that right now, I don’t think he’s super happy with my progress (neither am I) in that things are taking forever to come together. But, I do make it a point to be able to show some level of progress and explain what’s going on, so that it doesn’t seem like I’m doing nothing.

However, after hearing my friends comments, it does make me think that it’s probably something that is worth bringing up with my supervisor. Maybe not specifically a “what are you expectations”, but more of a “how am I doing, what do you think I could/should be doing better” conversation. I’ve already filled out last year’s progress report (in a fit of motivation, I actually managed to get it done well in advance). So I could base my questions around that. I think I’ll make a note to bring this up when I get a chance.

If you’re just looking for a supervisor now, then I think this idea of expectations is a really good one to consider when talking to potential supervisors. And, if I was looking around now, I think that would be one of my first questions, after I was pretty sure that we had common research interests and that the partnership seems reasonable.

Have you ever had a talk with your supervisor about expectations? Or have you ever had an “evaluation” or “progress” talk?


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