How to Manage Your Grad School Adviser

by John Sides on September 16, 2013 · 3 comments

in Academia


Most advisers are flawed people set in their peculiar ways, and so busy they feel like they are losing their minds. I am no exception. In light of this, I can’t underestimate the importance of “upward management” in your work–with me or any time in your career.

That’s Columbia political scientist Chris Blattman.  His post has further instructions and advice for the students would might want to work with him.  For example:

It’s always good to send concise written updates (a couple of paragraphs by email) in advance of a meeting and, for specific questions, to try to formulate them beforehand.

Inside Higher Ed picked on up this and tried to gin up some controversy.  But there didn’t seem like much to be found.  To me, Chris’s advice suggests how to make adviser-advisee relationships increasingly positive-sum: the more a student prepares in advance of the meeting, the more the adviser will learn and the better the feedback he or she can give.

Based on other workplaces I know something about either first- or second-hand—especially law firms—upward management seems useful as a general strategy.

[Note: That is not a photo of Chris Blattman. Also, those people are too good-looking to be Ph.D. students.]

{ 3 comments }

MCM September 16, 2013 at 8:17 pm

The guy might be too attractive for a social sciences PhD, but for a humanities PhD it’s not that much of a stretch (I mean, you’re not forgetting that JAMES FRANCO is a “PhD candidate” at Yale, right?)

John Sides September 16, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Political science has the humanities beat!

http://themonkeycage.org/2009/01/21/hotness/

That said, the bar is low.

poor poor pitiful me September 17, 2013 at 5:11 am

as soon one who suffered tremendously from an abusive advisor–first thing is to choose your advisor carefully; talk to people who have worked under him/her

managing your advisor is also very important–but sometimes you do this by limiting contact. my advisor was always willing to send me down a rabbit hole for self-serving purposes. eventually, i figured out the less he knew, the better.

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