Socialising with supervisors

One of the bloggers I follow has written a really good advice post for PhD students. There’s some great stuff in there, written in a very this-is-how-it-is, no mollycoddling kind of way. I definitely recommend it. I always love talking to and hearing from people who have been through the PhD rite of passage as there seems to be a lot to learn from other people’s experiences. What’s more, this post seems to have re-inspired me with a few ideas for my own blog. Starting with Chris’s point #29 as it’s somewhat timely for me:

Never get drunk in front of your supervisor. While your supervisor will find it hilarious, it is ultimately quite embarrassing for you, and you can expect several months of smirks from your supervisor and his/her colleagues when they pass you in the hall.

Although I think I may (as far as I remember and have been told) have avoided anything permanently embarrassing, I can certainly confess to having been rather on the tipsy side on a couple of occasions in the presence of combinations of all 3 of my PhD supervisors (Christmas party, other people’s post-viva parties, Friday after work in the pub etc.). And although there is definite reason for caution, I would actually argue that having a drink or 2 can seriously make it less intimidating to talk to your PhD supervisors, to get to know them better and possibly even strengthen your relationship. After all, doing a PhD is about having that personal support and relationship and being friendly will surely help along with that, right?

Part of what I love about the UK (I’m originally from Eastern Europe but have lived in a number of places), is the relatively narrow social boundaries between young-older people, student-professor, worker-boss etc. Some cultures (mine included) even have a language which creates a divide (like the tu / vous distinction of addressing another person depending on whether you are being casual or respectful in French).

Being able to have a good time, have a laugh and maybe even ask for that bit of advice you haven’t had a chance to as your supervisor’s been really busy all week or whatever, is pretty good. I’ve found that it has certainly made me feel more comfortable when talking in meetings or bumping into people at work (kitchen, corridor, wherever) and created more of a feeling of belonging to the research group and department as a whole.

That all said, I am fairly sure that I may see some smirks (or at least amused smiles) from certain people next I bump into them in the office… So if you are at a social occasion with your supervisor or other more established/important members of your research group, make sure you do limit how much you drink and have a responsible friend looking out for you! I guess if and when such an occasion arises, you need to strike a balance between feeling comfortable and chatty and not making a complete fool of yourself… Beware of free drinks!


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