Mentor-mentee relationship settingHaving a relationship with your mentor is one of the most important parts of the PhD.
For me the most important things to establish were communication regarding:
- output expectations: what exactly does the PI want, even if is not a fully formed idea
- deadlines: when does the PI want you to get something back to them, what is the deadline for the overall project and how does your work fit into the bigger picture..
Some other things to consider:
- Your PI chose you because they believe in your potential and work ethic. They need you!
- It is ok to go to your PI and say “I’m stuck”. It happens to all of everyone, even them, and they may brainstorm with you from time to time
- Your PI is usually not wrong, but sometimes they are.
- Your PI expects high quality work and thought, so bring your best.
- You can say no (e.g., "I have a lot on my plate right now") when they ask you to do projects. You may be asked to state your reasoning, since you are technically their employee, but if you support your argument, most PI's can be reasonable. They just may not realize what is "on your plate." If you aren't working effectively, that affects them too!
- Successful mentoring relationships were characterized by reciprocity, mutual respect, clear expectations, personal connection, and shared values.
- Failed mentoring relationships were characterized by poor communication, lack of commitment, personality differences, perceived (or real) competition, conflicts of interest, and the mentor’s lack of experience.
The attached PDF from the University of Michigan gives a lot of guidance as to what things may be important to students.