I am relatively new to supervising research students. I have had one completed honours student, who I am now supervising in a PhD, and this year I have 6 honours students. Being a new supervisor can be daunting, it feels like a lot of pressure and everyone has different supervising strategies, so finding your own is tricky. While I am most definitely not yet an expert in this area, I have identified a few key things of importance for new supervisors.
- Be organised- I talk about organisation a lot, because I genuinely don’t think I would be in the position I am in without being organised. This is essential when supervising, particularly if you are supervising more than one student. Know deadlines in advance, book time into your calendar for meetings and drafts, keep all the files in an easy to find location, and keep detailed notes about meetings and what you discuss.
- Give the student space- Both honours and PhD students need the space to make their own decisions and develop their own ideas. While we are the ‘experts’, they will have ideas that we have never thought of before- often great ideas. Foster these ideas by giving students space and encouragement- don’t shut down ideas (if they are not appropriate discuss why rather than just saying ‘no’).
- Give the students accountability- While we need to be flexible as students will all have their own approaches to research, we need to keep students accountable with deadlines.
- Be present- When you are meeting with a student, give them your full attention. Turn off email alerts and try to ignore your long todo list.
- Be kind- In my opinion, being a supervisor is also being a mentor. Talk to your students, check in with them, ask them how they are going, encourage them to take time off when needed. Be kind.