Emmanuel socphd blogEmmanuel is a member of Centre for Advances in Marketing, Business and Management Research Institute at the University of Bedfordshire Business School, Luton. England. His research investigates the framework of print advertisements for consumer banking services in the UK in terms of visual communications (images) and appeals and understanding customer’s perceptions of visual communications. His research interest lies in visual consumption and communication of corporate designs.  You can follow Emmanuel via his twitter account @e_mogaji and at



After about three years together, I observe the relationship between I and my supervisor is taking a new dimension, she was more interested in things I do outside research – my families, my interest and other extracurricular activities. It was a welcomed idea as I was able to relate better with her and discuss – a privilege I cherish and wouldn’t want to take for granted.

I shared my new experience on twitter through the PhD forum and it came to my understanding that it’s not always like that for everybody, some still have a well defined professional boundaries with their supervisor.

I remember reading Dear New PhD Student – a letter from your supervisor by Annie Bruton, giving the impression that there is a strict professional relationship between a supervisor and their students, though the author suggested that it was not a serious and useful advice about doing a PhD, some of these points could be considered valid by both parties.

But remember I am not your sister, nor your mother, nor am I your counsellor – I am not even your friend. Some supervisors regularly socialise with their students. I do not. I am really not that interested in the minutiae of your life. I understand life events will impact on your work, and I will be very sympathetic and talk through practical solutions. But I am not your emotional support – that’s what family and real friends are for.

I must confess, it was almost like that in the first two years, especially the first year, my main supervisor was strict even from the tone of her email, you can feel the laptop vibrating, I preferred to maintain that professional boundary and leave no room for unnecessary interaction. Meeting times are to discuss progress and no for anything else -all in the attempt of maintaining a strict student-supervisor relationship.

Thankfully she did not support my conference abstract/submission in the in my first year, saying, I need to concentrate and develop the theoretical and conceptual framework of my research (everyone within the research institute knows she consider that as the backbone of PhD research). She was however replaced in just after my first year so I continue to develop a closer relationship with my second supervisor who was more understanding and easy to relate with.

As I proceed within my second year, I was presenting my work at conferences, submitting manuscripts and getting valuable feedback, my supervisor has developed that interest and now considers me a matured researcher, suggesting that we can now work together.

I guess I have patiently waited with diligence to earn her trust and respect because previously, I have been doing this outreach myself, building networks and interacting with other researchers, but she has suggested a conference we can present my work, even though I have exhausted my conference grant, she is quite positive that a member of my supervisory team them can present it and my name and effort will be able duly acknowledge, we also plan towards a journal publications.

So far, am really happy with the way things are going. My supervisor team has been very supportive, we see almost every week or as needed and I acknowledged the idea that the equilibrium change as years comes by, after two years, we can now relate more as colleagues and no really as supervisor and student.

I think it’s best for PhD students to allow the student-supervisor relationship evolve, allowing the supervisor to initiate the relationship while the student keeps doing their best to portray how diligent they are – meeting deadlines, showing initiative and going on to build network. Supervisors will acknowledge this one day; they see a professional in you and will be willing to work together.


Freelance Networking: A fun way to network and see the world.

Steven NicholsonSteven Nicholson, Lancaster University, 3rd Year PhD Student

I am a third year PhD student studying trust in online communication.  As part of the research group Security Lancaster; I research threats from criminal online groups.  My other academic interests include; epistemic vigilance, linguistic persuasion in advertising, and confidence and trust in sports teams.  I like to travel.

Email:      Twitter: @ste_nick


Attending conferences provides a great opportunity to both see the world and build great international contacts, but why wait for conference season to make the most of both traveling and networking?

For the last two years I’ve combined independent travel with networking to practice what I like to call ‘Freelance Networking’.  So what is ‘Freelance Networking’?  Well, it’s any time you take to have a break from your PhD (call it a holiday, traveling or annual leave) while simultaneously taking the opportunity to visit and network with the local University at your travel destination.  Here I’ll share with you how you can start doing this fun, and rewarding, networking practice for yourself.

Go where you want to go. I realised the irony that my decision to travel abroad whenever I had annual leave, so that there would be less temptation to do any PhD work, was somewhat compromised by practicing freelance networking.  Nevertheless, I have always travelled to places I wanted to visit first, and then reviewed the local university second. I think planning a round trip to Harvard University, with absolutely no interest in Boston, would be insanity; and ultimately make your annual leave more of a work than pleasure trip.  Your mind-set should be that this is still your time off, and you are simply taking a fraction of it to do some fun networking.

Do your research. Look up the relevant departments of the local universities. Then look up the individual researchers, I guarantee there will be someone who has similar research interests to your own. However, don’t try to find a perfect match to your research area, part of this is to broaden your research horizons.

Contact the relevant people. Sending this email can feel a little strange and audacious. The key is to be honest, don’t try to claim that you’re traveling all that way just to visit a University; no PhD student has that much spare time I would hope! Simply state how you’re visiting the area on annual leave, and given your research interests (stated clearly) and theirs (pick part of their research most relevant to yours) you’d like to take the opportunity to discuss your common interests and, if possible, meet more people in the institute.

Expect nothing. Academics are busy, they may not respond to your email.  They don’t know you, they owe you nothing; so don’t take it personally if you don’t get a response.  Having said that, in my experience, most academics are flattered and intrigued by your enthusiasm, and are happy to arrange a meeting.

Arrange a time and place to meet. Here, it helps to be flexible. As it is annual leave, I’m usually able to be very flexible; so I will state my arrival and leaving time before inviting the academic to pick a time that suits them.  However, if there are dates you know you have a day trip planned be sure to be clear in stating when you can and can’t meet. Like I said, they are busy people.

Prepare, but not too much! Yes, you want to read up on the academic’s own research interests, but I can imagine how freelance networking can become a chore if you spend the first 3 days of your break studying. For my last trip, I read one paper before traveling and listened to a one-hour pod cast by the academic on the plane, this was sufficient to have an overview of their interests.  The academic will be more interested in your research anyway!

Relax, drink your coffee, and enjoy the chat. It is just that, a chat; don’t think of it as a job interview, or a lecture whereby you need to take notes on everything they say.  Soon, these people will be our peers, not superiors; you should act like that to make the interaction comfortable and friendly. You’ll both feel awkward if you feel judged and act defensive about your work, or if you are in ore of their research accomplishments.  Take the opportunity to enjoy discussing research in an informal manner.

Make email contact after the meeting. They didn’t have to meet with you, be grateful!  A short email to say thank you and sum up of what was discussed, and why you found it interesting, is enough to show your gratitude. However, you may also wish to send any papers you discussed that they sounded interested in, send any of your own work or findings if they found it interesting, or request any material they mentioned if you’d like the references.  Finally, you might also want to reaffirm when you will be finishing your PhD and are in the job market, so that they can bare you in mind if any opportunities arise.

So, why take time out of your hard earned break to freelance network? I imagine the real benefits of this will be different for everyone. Personally, I haven’t got enough space to say how rewarding this practice has been for me; from insightful interpretations of my own work to being encouraged to apply for postdoctoral positions in exciting cities. But whatever success you have, you can be sure that this is a fun practice, to feel proactive, and to really take control of your networking opportunities.  For that reason freelance networking is something I’ll continue to do and something I would encourage all PhD students to start doing! Happy travels!


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