Profile of a Super Supervisor

For some students, their graduate supervisor is the first “boss” they have ever had. So, what makes supervisors super?

They have good communication skills. Super supervisors are good listeners. They take the time to hear students’ comments, suggestions, and concerns before they give their own. If they do not have time to listen at the moment, they say, “Thank you for sharing. I’d love to hear more about that, but I have to attend a meeting. Let’s do this later.” When they do respond, super supervisors are clear and concise with their points and mainly give suggestions to move the conversation forward. They paraphrase for clarification and probe for understanding. They also communicate in an honest and open manner.

They are supportive. Supportive supervisors create an inclusive atmosphere by sharing opportunities with and soliciting ideas from students. They also stick up for their supervisees. Supportive supervisors have their students’ best interests at heart and are flexible with students’ evolving interests and life circumstances. These supervisors also have confidence in their students. They trust that their students will get work done unsupervised but will provide input and help make decisions when necessary. When things go wrong, supportive supervisors are quick to forgive.

They provide coaching. Super supervisors care about their students’ academic and personal development. They push their students by providing challenging yet achievable goals. Supervisors who coach give guidance (not necessarily answers) and share their personal stories about overcoming obstacles in graduate school.

They offer recognition. Super supervisors acknowledge their students’ contributions and hard work. They thank students for their efforts and praise students for exceptional work. Occasionally, they throw parties to celebrate these achievements.

They make excellent role models. All in all, super supervisors are those whom students want to emulate. They work hard and get lots of things done but also possess work-life balance. Super supervisors are both good leaders and team players. Despite being an expert, they continue to expand their knowledge. They are passionate about their career and motivate others with their enthusiasm, work ethics, and integrity.

If you have a super supervisor, take a moment today to thank her or him for making your graduate life incredible!

Note: This has recently been submitted to Psynopsis: Canada’s Psychology Newspaper, which is CPA’s newspaper that is published quarterly (without the picture, of course). I hope my article makes it!

Acknowledgment: I’d like to thank my super supervisor for inspiring this article! And I’d also like to thank my friend Julie for proof reading!

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