Handling a Rude/Mean Advisor

I have a friend who is in the last year of her PhD. She has been working extremely hard lately because her advisor is asking a lot from her. Unfortunately, it’s a bit overwhelming for her. Her advisor, who may be a great researcher, is a complete jerk. In fact, none of his students like him. I don’t know the man personally, but he does come off a bit pretentious. I have nothing against him but when my friend is hurt due to things he has said to her, I really take offense to that.

She has a rude advisor. Now, I am very fortunate and have an amazing advisor. He is super supportive, incredibly helpful, and also helps me grow as a researcher. These are all really good qualities to look for with an advisor. My friend’s advisor does little of this and it is really affecting her self esteem. I can offer some suggestions if you happen to have an adviser that you may not get along with or is just a jerk. Hopefully you don’t have to deal with this, but it can happen.

Woman in Black Jacket Sitting at Table

1) Talk to your advisor about the situation.

They could be completely oblivious to the fact that they are treating you this way. Make it know that it is unacceptable to be treated this way. This is often extremely difficult to do, so many students will do everything but this. Talking with them may make things much worse. This should be the very first thing you do, but it might be the hardest.

2) Ask yourself if they are actually rude or if you are just thinking they are.

Some things that people think are rude are actually not. I struggled with this for a very long time, especially in grad school. Some times constructive criticism is seem as being rude or mean, when actually it’s really not. So, before thinking your advisor is being rude or mean, ask yourself if it’s actually rude or you are taking it the wrong way. This may save a lot of unwanted suffering later.

3) Talk to the Department Head

Go straight to the boss. This could be the department head or the dean of the college. Let them know about what is going on and see if there are ways to handle this. Your advisors boss may actually talk with them and let them know that they need to be better. This can be very difficult to do as well. But if you are in a position where you feel down all of the time, this might be the best option prior to going to #4.

4) Get a new advisor.

Life is too short to be miserable. After a while, you may realize that your advisor is not the right fit. This is totally fine and you can find a different one. I knew a grad student that was a doctorate student since 2013 and went through I believe 3 advisors until he found the right fit. He is now a research scientist with his doctorate and a great career. His first advisor didn’t care much about him only because the student was being funded by someone else. I thought this was crazy that someone wouldn’t like their student because of funding.

Hopefully you never have to experience a mean or rude advisor. They can really cause a ton of unwanted stress in grad school. If you are in a situation like this, look for help. You do not need to have a bad experience that could have lasting effects. You may have a stressful experience (check out my blogs about anxiety and stress here), but you don’t have to experience a bad and hostile 4 to 5 years.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Ways to Fail Your PhD

Every PhD is different. You will have some where an individual spends all of their time in a lab just to produce 1 paper. And, you may have a few where the student seems to be on vacation all of the time, yet they produce 3 to 4 papers a year. I know both of these types of individuals which makes a PhD a slightly weird experience.

There are a million blogs and articles on how to successfully do a doctorate. Heck, my whole blog is pretty much about being a successful grad student without going insane. But, very little articles that I have found talk about the things that cause students to fail. I want to talk about a few of the most important ones so you, the doctorate student, will thrive in your program. Here is a list of a few ways that you can fail your PhD.

Black and White Checkered Paper Bag

1) Not asking for help

This is such an important part of doing a doctorate. You are going where few have gone before and that is exciting and down-right scary. At first, you may be working on stuff that is fairly straight forward and easy to do. But, soon you will find that doing a doctorate will take you places that may cause confusion and doubt. Ask for help! This can be asking your advisor for guidance on the next step or asking a friend to help you with some stress that you are having. Being stubborn and thinking you can handle everything alone is dumb and will cause you to fail. Reach out to people for help. I know you will find it.

2) Thinking you know everything

No one knows everything. Acting like you do will only lead to failure. Doing a doctorate is understanding that you don’t know everything, but you are willing to find out. I knew one individual that thought they knew everything there was prior to starting their grad program. Undergrad is a lot easier if you are like them but grad school is a different game entirely. In grad school, you are finding something out stuff that no one else has found out. You are contributing to knowledge. Those that think they know everything will become extremely frustrated in grad school because they will learn very quickly that our knowledge is extremely limited. The best way to succeed in grad school is know you don’t know everything but you are willing to learn as you go.

Crop unrecognizable coworkers in formal wear standing at table with laptop and documents while greeting each other before meeting

3) Always agreeing with your advisor

Your advisor may know quite a lot but they don’t know everything. Grad school is about becoming an independent researcher. It is about doing stuff that even your advisor doesn’t know. If you agree with everything they say, and take what they say as truth, then you will fail. Question everything they say because it may be wrong. In fact, it is often wrong because they are not doing your research, you are. You are the specialist in this field and it is Ok to question or even disagree with what they tell you. Don’t be afraid to disagree with things they say, especially if you know it is false.

High Angle View of Lying Down on Grass

4) Not taking time off of work

Rest is an essential part of work. If you are working at all times of the day, you’ll burn out quickly. Burn out is so sad to see, especially when it is with first-year students. A doctorate is a marathon, not a sprint so you need to rest to keep up your strength. Taking days off is a great way to increase productivity. In fact, I have written about how it helps (here).

Rest is essential because it allows our minds to recover and strengthen. If you work out, you know onset muscle soreness sucks. Burn out is like that but for your brain. If you over work tour brain, you’ll just be “sore” even more. You need time to recover. After working out, you are a tad bit stronger, and this is the same way with your brain. The days that I take off are usually the days where a “eureka” moment occurs. Try it out.

Woman Sitting in Front of Macbook

5) Not controlling your stress

You are going to be stressed in grad school. If you can control it, you have a great advantage. Stress can lead to all sorts of problems (read about them here). Stree management is key to your success. I have a few ways you can reduce it in my blog (link here). Check it out. Reducing stress will not only allow you to continue this journey but it will make it an enjoyable one. I think the stress that comes from grad school is the reason many people fail. If you can control this stress and use it to your advantage, you will be extremely successful, I guarantee it.

Person Holding Red Book With Silver Link Bracelet Round Analog Watch

6) Being afraid to fail

No one likes to fail, but failure is the way to being successful. I think in an age where we are put down for failure has made us afraid to try anything that may lead to failing. Social media doesn’t help because you look at everyone’s accomplishments, not their failures. Grad school is about failing at stuff so many times that you become desensitized to it. Your experiments will fail, you may fail exams, you will fail in writing and friendships and everything. This is good. It means that you are trying. If you are afraid of failure, you will never take any risks. You will stay in your comfort zone and miss out on the wonderful things that can happen outside of your comfort zone.

I am currently listening to the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. In it, the author talks about how people are afraid of failure and that is why there are a ton of missed opportunities. He emphasizes that failure is essential for growth. You try, you fail. You try again, you fail again but learned something from it. This is how growth occurs. If you want to grow as a researcher, you need to be ok with failure. Remember that a failed experiment may lead to a discovery that could change the world.

I want you to know that a doctorate is hard, life is hard, everything is hard. There is no right way to go about doing a doctorate but these things that I have mentioned are great ways to fail at it. For those just starting out, welcome. You will succeed, I know you will. This journey is an interesting, scary, exciting, and down-right awesome one. Enjoy the ride.

Feeling Old in Grad School

I know, I know, I am not that old, but I still feel old on campus. I turned 29 last Saturday which is pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my 20’s, but I am ready to move on. Frankly, some of my darkest days were in my mid 20’s and I want to say goodbye to them. Anyway, compared to my undergrad counterparts, I am a dinosaur.

Feeling old

The freshman are all wearing UF 2025 shirts which makes me realize that I am 10 years older than they are. That is insane to think about and kind of scary. If you are like me, and much older than most of the people on campus, don’t fret. There are plenty of ways to feel right at home and not ancient.

One thing that makes me feel less old is actually asking how old other grad students are. Compared to them, I’m a baby. I know we had one guy that graduated a year ago who was almost 50. Another grad student from last year was almost 40. This definitely helped to make me less sad that I was still in school at my age. I also read that the average age for grad students is 33 (link). So I still have a long way to go.

I want to encourage those that are thinking about grad school to do it, regardless of your age. Honestly, you spend so much time with other people that are similar in age that you aren’t really bothered by the undergrads. I read somewhere about a girl who was contemplating grad school. She was talking with her mother and brought up the fact that she would be 30-something by the time she had her doctorate. This really made the girl feel bad. Her mother told the daughter that she would be 30-something whether she wanted to or not, but at least she would have a doctorate.

So, if you are deciding to go back to school, or thinking of doing a grad program after undergrad, just know that you will feel old. But, that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be part of the undergrad world anymore. Honestly, that time kind of sucks. The parties and friends were awesome, but now you get to work towards your dreams and your future goals. You get to do fun research that might be groundbreaking stuff! You have also matured way passed that phase of your life.

If you haven’t checked out my blog about the pros and cons of going back to grad school, I highly suggest doing so. (link here). I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday, and I will see you in the next blog.

Habits of a Successful Graduate Student

Surviving grad school can be a tricky thing to do. You will be faced with a significant amount of road blocks in the 2-8 years that you are in school for. Some of these roadblocks are easy to traverse around while others may be a bit more difficult. But, with a few good habits, you can train yourself to take these head on and be quite successful, or at least survive. Here are 8 Habits that I have found quite useful to have when in grad school.

  1. Stay consistent. Stick to a schedule and try and keep that such as getting to the lab every day at 9 am and staying until 5 pm. By having a routine and sticking with it, you will find getting things done way easier. I stick to being in the lab from 8 am to 6 pm. This gives me enough time to get stuff done and doesn’t have me doing extra work in the evening.
  2. Make time for joy. Remember that life is so much more than your work. Why people say differently is so mind boggling. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Figure that out and do it after your work day is up. Or, doing it during the work day when your experience are running lol. A grad program can be long but that doesn’t mean that your life stops. Finding joy in your life with increase productivity, I guarantee that,
  3. Exercise. I have a ton of blogs on exercising and how it helps. Stay consistent and exercise often. You will be happier, more energetic, and a much better grad student.
  4. Sleep at a reasonable time. Sleep is as important, if not more, than anything on this list. There are many effects that can occur if you do not sleep enough. Read more about it here.
  5. Learn to motivate yourself and don’t wait to be motivated. There is a great video by Therapy in a Nutshell about motivation. I suggest watching it. Here it is.
  6. Make your bed. You have probably seen this all over the internet. It’s true, making your bed is a great habit to have. Here is a great video to watch that is also extremely motivating. I hope it helps.
  7. Stay off social media. Social media is such a distraction, especially when you don’t want to do work. By learning to stay off of it, you will be more productive, and, to be honest, happier. You can get way more done in a shorter amount of time so you can leave and go do things that bring you joy. This is a habit that I am currently trying to get. It is hard but worth it.
  8. Meditate. Mental health is as important or even more important than physical health. Making this a habit can be the difference between finishing your doctorate/ masters or not. Trust me when I say, meditation is a life saver. Read about how to start here.

These are a few habits that I think will help you finish this journey. Grad school is tough, but with help, you can survive and thrive. I hope you already have some of these habits down or you are willing to try and create these habits. I know they will help you significantly. If you are having trouble getting motivated, I highly suggest taking a look at some of the courses at INeedmotivation.com. Here’s a link to those courses.