Dr. Marvette Lacy Ph.D., (she/her) is the founder and CEO of Qual Scholars where she helps higher education folks finish their dissertations and start a profitable consulting business.
In this week’s episode, Marvette starts her series on communicating with your advisor. Listen in, as Marvette talks about how to know if you’re hiding from your advisor and what to do about it.
Hello. Hey. Hey. So y’all we are in August and we are headed into a new year, a new semester for many of you. And I was just thinking about, um, with Dr. Breeden along, like, what do people need to hear as we go into this new academic year? And, you know, we were talking like, people may be a bit hesitant because you know, y’all, it’s, the world have flipped upside down. Right. And we’re still in this whole Panorama and fatigue has definitely set in, and it’s probably more than fatigue at this point of just dealing with the shit of the world. Right. And you like along with many of my clients probably treated this summer as like, I just, I just need a minute. I just need to rest. I just need to be, and you didn’t have it for nobody else. You didn’t have it for your dissertation. You probably didn’t have it definitely for your advisor. And they probably didn’t have it for you either.
And you probably are just like, it’s just been a lot. I just want to process. I just want to be sad and be around family and friends again. Cause we have, you know, what, despite whatever feelings and criticisms, people in general have been, you know, seeing family members and traveling throughout the summer, because we’ve been through this already last year, kind of have an idea that this the summer, this, this time of year is more lenient than what may the fall may bring as it, you know, as it relates to COVID. But either way, the semester is starting. Shit is getting real. You’re thinking about like now it’s time to get back to work. You’re probably thinking about updating your timeline. What things do you need to get done to be, to complete the program, your dissertation timeline.
You’re probably wondering what can you reasonably get done in the next four months over this fall semester? And the person you probably need to talk to the most is your advisor or supervisor of your dissertation. And let me just say, if you’re not thinking that that is probably the thing that you need to do most, I’m going to invite you to keep them at the forefront of your planning, because it makes no sense for you to sit down and do all of these detailed plans. When the person who has to sign the piece of paper, hasn’t seen it or approve it. And especially if you haven’t spoken with them for quite some time, I am really going to invite you to rethink this.
Take Your Relationship to the Next Level:
And that is why for this episode and the next two episodes, I am going to be talking about all things about the relationship between you and your advisor. I’m going to push you to take your relationship with your advisor to the next level, whatever that looks like for you. So if there is no relationship, I’m invite you to establish one. If it’s like, it’s good. I mean, it ain’t bad ain’t good. I’m invite you to step it up. If it’s on, if you think it can’t get no better, I’m going to challenge you to say, take it up. Because this relationship that you have with your advisor is the most important one in your dissertation process. And even if you have the advisor from hell, there is always, always a way to make it work. You may not want to do what it takes to make it work. You may not like doing those things. And There’s always a way to make it work, but you are grown. You get to make your decisions. Okay. And what I will sit on the table, as we move forward in this conversation is,
Do you want to be right or do you want to be doctor? I will say it again. Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be doctor? Do you want to be right about, you know, I hear this mostly from people who are like my advisor and my program. They’re so awful. They’re horrible. They’re not supportive. Right. Do you want to be right about those things? Do you want your program to come to you and be like, yes, we’re awful. Yes we’re shitty. Do you want that more that you want to be doctor? Because even if they all came to you and they were like, yep, you’re right. We could have done better. We should have done better. You still have to decide how you’re going to move forward Next. You still have to decide what you want to do because you think like, you know, I’m going off on a tangent, but you think, and most people think like, if I get that validation, if I know, you know, like it’s not just me then it’ll mean everything. And it probably will be relieving and validating. I’m not saying that it won’t, I’m just saying what still exists to be resolved is your dissertation. What still exist on the table is, do you still, you still going to have to do some things them saying you’re right doesn’t absolve you from the goal you said, which is to be doctor. So that is really at the heart of the conversations over the next few weeks and all conversations really, it comes down to, do you want to be right? Or do you want to be doctor that’s the choice? It’s an either/or. And it like in the most simple simplest, basic terms, that’s the choice.
Free Resource Alert:
So we’re going to be exploring over the course of this advisor series on the podcast and what I want to also say is that we’ve created a resource for you, um, over you come over at qualscholars.com and it is communication chair guide. It is something that we have been using inside of our finish your dissertation program for the past three years. Um, since I recorded the first episode, which was episode 28, when I first talked about this and I created this resource, but I’ve been using it with clients for all these years because it works. And because I also recognize that it’s not enough to just tell you to go build a relationship with your advisor, go meet with them. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to say or do like, what good is that? Right? So that is what we’re going to be breaking down. But if you want that guide and you want to use any information that I’ll be talking about over the next few weeks, I’m going to highly encourage you to download that.
Please note though, I am not including many relational like rapport type, like personal type things, um, in this list because I wanted it to be applicable and helpful to as many people as possible. And not everyone wants to have this amazing, like deep, close relationship with their advisor. Some people just want the advisor to do what they were assigned to do and nothing neither one of those are good or bad. There’s a moral value that needs to be placed on the relationship. I just didn’t want to make the assumption that everyone wanted to have a close relationship. I did make the assumption that everyone wanted to have a relationship that helps them get to the end goal of completing their dissertation and getting it approved. So I have a list of nine statements, and I just want you to take a moment whether you’re walking, you’re driving, you’re cleaning. Cause I know you gotta be doing all the things, listening to the podcast. I just want you to see what comes up for you. How do you respond to each of the statements? And just, just be curious, we’re not going to judge our thoughts. We’re not going to beat ourselves up. Right. Always celebrate yourself. If you want to, like, if you, if something resonates with you, like, yes, I did that. You do that, but we don’t need any like judgment or, or negative juju here.
Okay. So number one, I meet with my advisor at least once a month. Do you meet with your advisor once a month? Is it a consistent, at least once a month meeting.
Number two, I come prepared to the call with an agenda that has specific questions and points I want to discuss during the meeting. Right. So do you have a meeting? Do you come prepared with things that you want to talk about or questions that you want to ask? Like do you come, do you show up with something to the meeting or are you someone who comes to the meeting and you’re dependent on your advisor to be the one that’s like, this is what we’re going to talk about today. This is what we’re going to do. Who is steering the ship of the meeting If you will.
Number three, I record the meeting or take detailed notes during the meetings so that I can go back and refer to them later. Again, I read that again. I record the meeting or take detailed notes during the meeting so that I can go back and refer to them later. Right. So yes. You may meet with them. Yes. You may have an agenda. What is your mechanism for knowing the takeaways from the meeting? Right? Because a lot of people get caught up in just conversations and you have to remember that your advisor is an academic. And what I mean by that is academics love to theorize. They love to come up with ideas. They love to just think for the exercise, the exercise of thinking. That’s how we’re taught. A doctor philosophy means that you have been trying to just sit there and be like, I just wonder what, what could we go? How could we go here? What can we like? And so when you take your ideas that you may be having for your dissertation, right? Y’all may spend a lot of time just shooting the shit and brainstorming, but it may not be clear by the end of that, which one you decided on and why you decided on it and how you should move forward. Right? So when you record the meeting, if you’re meeting on zoom or if there’s a way to take detailed notes, I would either, I use to record meetings on my laptop, or my phone. I mean, of course I would tell the people I’m in the meeting with, but I just knew me that I also could get caught up in like thinking and brainstorming that I could be like now, what was I supposed to do? I mean, I still do it now.
Listen. Y’all if it wasn’t for Dr. Breeden I don’t know what I would be doing in this business. I don’t even know how I made it this far. Okay by myself, because she will tell you, we will have a, we will talk about something and we will decide on something. And then a week later I’d come back. Like now do we say we were doing this and that, and that could be completely annoying, but she loves me. She knows me and I, um, I’m usually in the right vicinity and it’s not because I didn’t take notes because I wrote it down y’all. But either I can’t read my writing or I don’t understand what I wrote or it didn’t quite make sense. Or I feel like I remember something different and because she takes detailed notes or I know that she was also taking notes and we have like agendas and documents and things. I could always go back and refer. But if you and your advisor are talking and your advisor, isn’t taking notes because it’s your meeting, you weren’t taking notes. How do you go back to know like what, what was said? Because I have heard this so many times of like, people go back and they’ll try to ask their advisor. Like, do you remember what we talked about? And they don’t remember why, because they’re advising probably 20 million other students and they have their own research projects and they have life, right That they may not remember. And it doesn’t have anything to do with you. My whole point in number three, before I get off on too far of a tangent is how to, I would just strongly encourage you to record your meetings. Strongly encourage you, because you may say something y’all may come up with something together. And like, once it’s out your brain forgets, it’s like, okay, we did that check. What is going to be your way of recalling and keeping track of what was discussed. Okay. I think we got number three.
Number 4, before I end the meeting with a summary of tasks that need to be completed and who is responsible for completing those tasks. So episode 28, I believe is originally called like how to keep your committee on track. And I went on a lot of rants on the episode, but one of them is like, this is your dissertation. This is your experience. And you have to be the one leading. It doesn’t mean be disrespectful or unthought. Like, its un-thoughtful a word? We’ll go with it. But it means like this, you have to lead this. And so yes. Think about being in, at work or yeah. Think about you leading a team meeting. It’s the same thing with your advisor. So getting to the end of the meeting and being like, okay, this is what we discussed. I am going to write chapter two and give that to you by Friday. Y’all I’m making this up. Okay. I’m going to write chapter 2 and give it to you by Friday. You adviser, you’re going to review chapter one, give me edits by Monday. Sounds good. Right now everybody knows, now everybody is clear. Excuse me. Cause some of y’all got advisors that administrative work is not their strong suit and that’s okay.
That’s okay. As someone who also, you know, is challenged by administrative tasks, I get it. It’s okay. But you got to know thyself and you also need to know thy advisor. All right? Know your advisor. We’re not going to expect them to be nobody different. We’re not going to expect them to all of a sudden be the best organized person ever. No, no, no. That’s not their ministry. It’s not their ministry. Or if they are like, and I’m speaking in a lot of binaries, but if there’s someone who tends more to like type a to now, you know how to show up and you can’t force or wish people to be the opposite of, or be something that they’re not right. Work with the cars that you’ve been dealt. Stop, wishing that they will change. Show up in a way. Remember, this is your process, your degree, they got their letters already. You want your letters. So if that means that you gotta take the extra step and do a summary of tasks at the end of the meeting. Sounds good. Cause that’s going to get you to what you want quicker. Right? So when it comes to meetings, those are the four things that I would say that definitely should be of consideration. I’ll repeat the floor. Number one, you meet with your advisor at least once a month. Number two, you come prepared to the call with an agenda, with specific questions and points that you want to discuss during the meeting, you record the meeting or have very detailed notes, but I, I strongly suggest you record them. And number four, you end the meeting with a summary of tasks that need to be completed and who is responsible for completing those tasks. So those are meetings.
Now the next five items that I’m going to ask you to consider will also help you. But it’s probably things that you didn’t know, nobody told you to think about. So number five, I know what dates by advisor would be unavailable and or off contract throughout the next semester. Some of y’all are in semester. Some of y’all are on quarters, right? Some of y’all have different terms and whatnot. Some advisors are going to take sabbatical, right? This particularly comes up during like summer and winter breaks. And any other break or holiday time, your advisor is not always on contract. Meaning if they are not on contract, they are not obligated to work. You my dear, are work, you, my dear are part of their job. And so if they’re not on contract, they’re not getting paid. And most people work like I do, I’m not working for free. I’m not working if I’m not getting paid. So if I am going to be off contract or I’m going to be at a conference or I’m going to be on vacation most of the time, like you can expect that I’m just not going to be available. Right. That’s the same as true for your advisor. Like in the same, it’s probably true for you. If you’re going to do things, a lot of y’all get too comfortable and you want to send, you want to send off a draft the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and expecting some edits and feedback by the Friday on black Friday, that don’t even make no sense, it makes no sense. This By like getting these dates ahead of time. Like, this is the perfect time to have this conversation with your advisor. What dates do you already know that you’re going to be on available? So you know how to plan your schedule.
You know how to plan your timeline. You know how to, you know, you know when to give them something and you can have a realistic expectation of when you’re going to receive a response back. It is okay to ask your advisor about when their, their availability it’s all right. Some advisors will take the Liberty of giving you that information. A lot of them don’t, they’re not thinking about it in that way. You are leading or steering a ship, ask them. So that’s number five.
Number six. I know the best ways to communicate with my advisor and which forms of communication works best for them. Do you know the best way to communicate with your advisor? Do you keep trying to email your advisor and they don’t ever respond or they respond really fast and then just months go by and you don’t hear nothing. Maybe emailing ain’t the best form of communication. Maybe they prefer that you just schedule meetings and that’s when y’all communicate in person or on zoom. Maybe they are someone who is comfortable giving you their, um, phone number and y’all text or call. But this is a great question to ask. What is the best way to communicate with you in between meetings? If I have a question, if I have a quick question, do I do, is there a different form of communication that you prefer versus if I have a more detailed question, right? Some people will say, if it’s something quick and you just it’ll take a few minutes to text me, but if it’s going to be something I need to think more about than email me. Right. But you don’t know until you ask your advisor, it clears up so much miscommunication by just asking them what’s the best ways.
Number seven I understand they’re writing feedback and dissertation direction philosophies to assist me in my planning efforts. All right, let’s break this down. What is your advisors’ Writing feedback philosophy. Are they someone who gives detailed feedback and you open up the document and you’re like, whoa, all these track changes closed. Are they someone who’s like, looks good, keep going. Are they somewhere in between? Are they really good at APA, but not so much In structure? Or are they really good about the kind of literature to add in? Or they’re just going to help you with grammar and spelling. That is good information to get a sense of asking them, like, you know, when you are looking at a great question is to ask, like, when you’re looking at a document or draft or something, what are you looking for asking them what they look for? Cause then they’ll give you some indicators of their style, right? Some people are sticklers for APA. Some people are like, I don’t know APA. That’s me. I’m like, no, I can tell you flow and structure. Some people are like, um, you can go hire somebody to do that grammar and those mechanic things. I’m not going to do that. I’m not gonna waste my time.
Right. But you won’t know again, until you ask. The other piece is about their dissertation philosophy, like how do they view the dissertation process? Like I think about my chair who was like, it’s an educational exercise. You’re supposed to learn, be free, try new things. Whereas my home girl, like her advisor was like, absolutely not. And needs to be this way. It looks this way. This, it needs to be at least 200 pages. Right? But again, because your chair is the one who gets to sign off and approve things that is who’s whose philosophy you need to know. It doesn’t mean you can ask all your friends and other programs and other faculty how to do a dissertation. But if that goes against what your advisor has in mind, it don’t. It don’t matter who you ask. It don’t, it don’t matter. Which goes to the next one I have, my next point, I have asked for and reviewed copies of dissertations that meet my advisor’s expectations. This is a big one. Ask your advisor, but are there like one to three dissertations that either from past students or ones that you’ve read that meet your expectation or your philosophy of how a dissertation should be done? Not that I’m not that I’m going to sit here and copy it word from word, but at least I can have an idea of what you’re looking for. And they usually have it like front of mind and can give it to you. So those, these two asking for their reading, their reading, their writing feedback, philosophy, their dissertation direction, philosophy, and asking them for copies of past dissertations would do wonders for you. You would be surprised.
And then the last one, and these were not in any particular order of just writing. But the last one is I have shared my updated timeline where my advisor and they have approved this updated timeline. Listen, let me say it again. For the people in the back child, I have shared my updated timeline with my advisor, updated timeline with my advisor. And my advisor has approved this updated timeline because some of y’all are out here. You got things in your head, you making plans and your advisor don’t know nothing about it. And y’all over here operating off two different timelines. And then your feelings is going to get hurt when you go and you say, can I go schedule my defense date And they laugh at you cause you, there was no communication. Excuse me. There was no communication. They did not know what you were doing. And, and what I, and I’m talking a lot about from you, what you can control. Now. It’s not lost on me that like, there are some advisors out here who just a hot mess in the half. I’m not saying that’s not in existence, but you first need to do these nine things to make sure your ducks is it ducks in a row or in order the ducks doing something, you have to make sure that you’ve done everything that you can do in your power and your control. And then, you know what you will also have. You will have all the receipts of why it’s the advisor. So that’s how my petty is set up.
I don’t want it to be no confusion that when I come for you, I got all my receipts because I tried to talk to you, tried to meet with you once a month, had an agenda. I talked about the summary of who’s going to do what I asked you, what dates you were going to be available. I asked you about your philosophies. I asked you about the best way to communicate. I asked you for some examples and I shared with you my timeline, what else did you want me to do, child? Right? Then you put the ball back in their court. And be like, and so what are we gonna do? How are we gonna move forward? Before you go to the Dean or the program director, you need to make sure you’ve done everything that you’ve you can do. And if you have an amazing relationship with your advisor already, this helps make their life even more easier. Like you just helped them. Like when you show up and you’re intentional and you’re purposeful, it just makes it a joy to work with you because they know they don’t have to like, because they know it won’t take a lot of effort to do these things. They’re more willing to spend time with you. They’re more willing to help you because you it’s, it’s reciprocal at this point, you’re helping make their job easier for you.
You’re making it easier for them to help you. Okay? I’m going off on a tangent. But what I will say is I am going to invite you to, if you haven’t sent an email to your chair and ask them to schedule a 30 minute meeting with you, I haven’t included a, an example of an agenda for you to send to them before hand, before you meet so that they can prepare whatever they may need to prepare. And y’all can just hit the ground running and have a very efficient meeting. If you want to know what that looks like, come on over to the website and download the guide, but that’s going to do it for me.
Next Week Preview:
Y’all next week. What we’re talking about next week, next week, we are going to be talking about like, your advisor is human and how to keep them accountable. Right? So we talked about everything that you’ve been doing your control and next week we’re going to be talking about, okay, what happened when they start acting up, though? What can you do? That’s what we’re going to talk about. Announcements Y’all this. If you’re listening to this in real time, or even if you’re not, cause the recording is available, we are doing another 30 day literature review workshop on Sunday, August 15th, 1:00 PM. Eastern. You want to be there. You do. I get better every time, listen better every time. And as always, we put up the recording to our member site, if you’re not able to make it in real time, but you want to make it in real time. You do. Also, if you want to join the, write your dissertation accelerator what’d you doing, come on over, sign up, come on over to www.qualscholars.com and you’ll see the button at the top, right? So now come join us. But for real, I’m going to go. I have a coaching call and I look forward to talking to you next week. Bye for now.