When you’re at the very beginning of a research programme, it can feel like there’s an overwhelming amount of stuff that you are encouraged to engage with (including induction and Welcome) on top of getting started on your research.
My advice? Prioritise the activities that will help you build relationships with people. Yes, sometimes even over your research activity. It’s the people around you who can make all the difference to your PGR experience.
Your supervisory team
Probably the most obvious relationship to cultivate is that with your supervisor. Make a good start by making sure that you have similar expectations for this relationship (you could use this document as a conversation starter) and that you’re clear on the roles of your lead and co-supervisors. Find out who your mentor is.
Your PGR peers
There’s a reason why so many of the PGR-contributed posts on this blog talk about the value of community. Having a network of your peers will provide you with essential support throughout your programme – this will be people to share your success with, cry on the shoulders of, act as sounding boards for your crazier ideas, give advice, share experiences, laugh about it all with, and many other things. The best network is highly diverse, with peers at the same stage as you as well as those who are further along in their programme, those whose research is very close to yours and those from totally different disciplines, those with a similar life/educational experience to yours and those whose culture and background is significantly different. Sometimes you need someone who can closely identify with your situation, and sometimes you need someone to see things differently, to challenge your thinking or to just keep asking questions. Your PGR peers are likely to become your core support network, future research collaborators, and/or life-long friends. Look out for all kinds of events for PGRs from your School/Department, and the University Graduate School.
While you’re building a network of those who share a first-hand understanding of your PGR experience, it’s also important to have friends and family to whom you can turn when you want a break from all that. Don’t forget to let them all know how you’re getting on in your new programme and that you still care about them!
There are lots of other people who will help and support you as you progress through your PGR programme, from administrators, technicians and librarians, to academics, participants and researchers. You are most definitely not alone, and putting the effort in to build your team at the beginning of your programme can help ensure you don’t feel like you are.
And, if it turns out that you did miss something important from the induction programme while you were busy making new friends, you will know plenty of people to ask…