BE PROFESSIONAL and polite in ALL interactions. Arrive on time, neatly dressed and prepared.
PREPARE – Ask if there is anything you should review in advance of your meeting. Review their research so you are ready to discuss projects. Have any requested documents ready to bring or send for review.
- Be upfront with your expectations (time commitment and availability, compensation, goals)
- Ask about their expectations:
- Are there any trainings, classes, or readings to complete prior to starting?
- Are their lab, group, or journal club meetings you are expected to attend?
- Will you be required to present on your project at a group or lab meeting, write a paper at the end of the semester, or create a poster and present at an event?
- Address conflicts:
- If you have class or other conflicts during days/ times they expect you to be present, discuss them during interview to see if there is a compromise.
- If there is no compromise, thank them when declining and ask for a referral to a colleague doing similar research.
THANK THEM for considering you whether you are selected or not.
- If you are not selected, ask them if they have other colleagues they could refer you to.
- If you are offered a position and like the opportunity – CONGRATULATIONS!
BAD experiences happen. Not every opportunity is beneficial. The good news is you are not stuck. There are so many researchers across the university, you can leave an opportunity and move on. If you are researching for credit, you just have to get through that semester and you can move on.
There are many reasons why an opportunity may not be working for you –
- You are assigned menial tasks or ‘assembly line’ tasks that are not expanding your knowledge;
- The research is not what you expected/ not useful toward your goals;
- There is a personality conflict or the research group is not friendly and inclusive;
- And others not mentioned.
What to do?
- If the research is unsatisfying, have a conversation with your mentor or professor/ PI to discuss opportunities to grow, attain more skills, and achieve some independence. If the opportunity is just not there, thank them for the time they invested in you and let them know you will be withdrawing from the project.
- If the research is not useful toward achieving your goals, have a conversation with your mentor or the professor/ PI about your goals and if this opportunity can grow into something better with commitment. If it can’t, thank them for the time they invested in you and ask if they can refer you to a colleague that better fits your interests.
- If there is a personality conflict or uncomfortable atmosphere, you can try speaking with the professor/ PI if you are comfortable with them. Most likely you just want to get out! You conversation should then be with your mentor or the professor/ PI thanking them for the opportunity, telling them it not what you expected and you will be withdrawing from the opportunity to leave it for another student that might better benefit. (This might be a little fib, but you are not burning any bridges!)
Remember – If the problem cannot be resolved, always extract yourself politely and graciously (even if you are fibbing a little). You never want to burn a bridge. It will come back and bite you in the end!