How to Talk to Your PI

On the OITE Career Blog, we often write about mentoring relationships; after all, they are often vital to your success in the lab and beyond. We have written tips for mentees on managing their mentoring relationships and we have discussed how to talk about your career with your PI. Often, we are focusing on the high-level components of your mentoring relationship with your PI. Sometimes though it is important to focus on small, seemingly simplistic, tips which can help you have better conversations with your mentor.

In Nature’s Career Column, Veuthey and Thompson put forth a basic suggestion in their article, “Why You Need an Agenda for Meetings with Your Principal Investigator.”

The take-away tip is: Create an Agenda!


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The authors note that they are constantly discussing with classmates/peers how their interactions go with their respective PIs and all are swapping advice on how these interactions could be improved. They note, “We have found three practices to be consistently helpful: asking our PIs about all aspects of their job; preparing an agenda for each meeting; and negotiating new experiments without explicitly saying ‘no’.”

Face time with your PI can sometimes feel limited or rushed, so the point about using an agenda to organize the conversation is key. According to Veuthey, she starts her agenda with an update on her projects but will often add topics that can feel uncomfortable, like requesting funding for a summer course.

As you go through your work week, keep a document where you list all of the things you want to discuss with your PI during your next meeting. Don’t rely on your memory to recall the main priorities to be discussed. The Muse actually created a google document with a template for a free meeting agenda. This agenda seems more tailored for group staff meetings, but the principles behind it can be helpful to have more productive meetings of any kind.

For more effective one-on-one meetings, some prep beforehand and some thought about the overall structure required can go a long way in ensuring that your meeting doesn’t turn into a rambling chat and that topics which are important to you, like your work in the lab or your career development, can be addressed.

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