Food For Thought

By popular demand: How to approach a potential supervisor about doing a PhD.

The thing about being a Lonely Conservationist is that sometimes we forget that we aren’t that lonely anymore. A LC reached out to me asking if I could ask the group advice for approaching a supervisor with the potential to do a PhD. It was her goal, but she was nervous as she knew the topics and labs she liked but didn’t have a specific question in mind. There is always the fear of seeming unsure or unprepared to supervisors, and she definitely wanted to make a good first impression.

Soon enough, everyone was sending me paragraphs of advice! So many people either had been through this exact experience before or were equally curious themselves. With too much information to share with the group, I passed on the contacts straight to the LC in question- but you all wanted to know too! So many people were in the same boat and were faced with exactly the same predicament, so I am left with no choice but to share it.

Here is the LC advice for approaching a potential PhD supervisor, suggested by Lonely Conservationists:

  1. Prepare yourself with a “what have I got to lose” mindset and prepare for a certain level of rejection
  2. Don’t be afraid to call or email, there will always be someone interested in you
  3. Send a short email with your interest and arrange a time to call (so many people’s advice was just to send an email!)
  4. Trust yourself and know your worth
  5. Don’t be afraid. Listen to your heart and be honest about what you feel passionate about
  6. Just be yourself, be polite and confident. Make sure you have thought through most things as lectures and supervisors don’t want to do all the work for you. They are more likely to help you if you can prove you have done most of the work yourself-even if there are mistakes!
  7. Be bold and confident.
  8. You are a product, you have knowledge and skills. You have to show the supervisors that you are the cats pyjamas and that they MUST have you.
  9. Humble brag the whole way and be upfront. “I like your work and am interested in pursuing a PhD. Do you have any positions or funding available?”
  10. Make sure your CV is up to date and highlights all of the awesome stuff you have done relating to the field, including all your extra curricular activities
  11. Just write to the scientists that take your interest! The LC that suggested this had received so many nice responses and got many opportunities like lab visits and meetings out of it. Even if they can’t take anybody right now, they may be able to suggest somebody that can.

So there you have it, basically the LCs that have done this before suggest to just go for it- what is the harm in sending an email, reaching out and starting the discussion?

Just remember- you are resilient, determined and incredible at what you do so approach this situation knowing you’re worthy of an amazing supervisor and project. I believe in you, and so do the 2000 Lonely Conservationists standing behind you.

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