The Chemist: Managing Expectations

Hey everyone! I hope you all are having a great week, especially since this is right off of a holiday. Finish out the week strong! This week, we're talking about how to manage your boss's expectations of you.

I know I've said this a few times, but grad school is not just school, it is my full time job. I have a boss (my advisor) and the "job" part of the program is conducting research and with that comes a tonnnnn of responsibilities. So it's important to know how to interact with your boss so you all are both on the same page. Here are some tips on how to do that.

Be upfront

When you first pick a research group, you have a meeting with your advisor and you discuss potential projects and expectations they have of you. Be 100% honest with them with what you want to get out of the group, your interests, things you're not comfortable with, etc. It is important to lay down the groundwork at that initial meeting so there are no surprises. Think about the expectations you have of your advisor and make that known. If you're going to need more hands on guidance, say that. If you're an independent thinker/researcher, say that too. The main goal of being upfront is to start building a sense of trust with each other.

Check-in with your boss

Once you have that initial meeting, that doesn't mean you never talk to your boss again. You want to occasionally check in to make sure both parties are holding up their end of the bargain. Make sure you're working hard and meeting their expectations of you, but also make sure you're getting the most out of them too. Remember that these are people that are going to give you recommendation letters, can help you get jobs, so you want to always maintain a great relationship with them. You want to make sure they know you, so definitely check-in with them every once in a while.


My last piece of advice on managing your boss's expectations, is always be willing to compromise. Your boss always has projects they want you to do that you may not necessarily like and you may want to explore something that it's on their radar. This is where compromise comes in. Give a little to gain a lot. You won't be able to get out of everything you don't want to do, but if you're consistently working hard, producing results, and have a good relationship with them, they'll be more inclined to listen to your project pitch and even let you pursue it. These kinds of relationships are always give and take, so keep that in mind.

I hope these help! Tweet me with other advice on how to handle your boss.

-The Chemist

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