That saves a lot of time, as any adviser can recognize fully-formed ideas.Good advisers peer through the thicket and find the ideas lurking among the brambles.
Or they recognize that you’re lost in a maze of your own creation.
In either case, sharing work often in the early stages of proposing and writing a dissertation requires a mentor who can see potential and who won’t hold you back by demanding crystalline prose and impeccable logic at the outset. And your interactions with prospective advisers during course work are a good barometer of just how generous they will be.
This one comes first in my list because I’ve seen the harm withholding affirmation can do to a graduate student’s confidence and productivity.
And it’s a tenet many academics instinctively resist. Academe’s prestige economy and the twin beasts of self-deprecation and the humble brag aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
When I first began teaching honors students, for example, I noticed that many of them would stay after class to ask for clarification.
I learned quickly that to head off anxiety, I needed to elucidate all aspects of each assignment.Last winter I organized a panel focused on the graduate adviser-advisee relationship.I was struck by the fact that each panelist (many of them advisers) emphasized how they had made undergraduate teaching a central part of the graduate adviser-advisee relationship.Advisers have reputations, and you need, for the sake of your sanity and career, to do your best to find out as much as you can about an adviser before you commit.You’ll get a better sense of the value of this mentor’s advice and dedication by scoping out a range of voices.That’s because the general climate of a school and department matters, even if you don’t end up sticking with the faculty member whose work and mentoring style you admire.Once you arrive on campus, you can use your time in course work to evaluate your options on a wide array of subjects, including careers and advisers.Good advisers don’t assume that the intelligence they gathered years ago about the job market is still valid today.Good advisers follow the spirit of this passage from the Hippocratic oath: “I will not be ashamed to say ‘I know not,’ nor will I fail to call on my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.” In the context of graduate education in the humanities, this means that good advisers must learn to work as part of a team whose goal is not to clone the adviser but to fashion a path through graduate school that aligns with the student's goals. In my experience, high-performing students worry the most about guidelines.That is, in addition to discussing your seminar papers and dissertation chapters, make sure that you spend at least some of the time discussing and reworking your assignments, syllabi and other teaching documents. Time to degree matters: you want to get on with your life.What will keep you in graduate school for far too long are the proposal and dissertation stages. Try to cultivate a relationship with an adviser that allows you to share rough work, rough ideas, jumbles of thoughts.