Best Practices for Communicating with Your Supervisor

Whether you are a seasoned professional or about to embark on your first internship, one invaluable skill to master is how to communicate with your supervisor. Building a strong relationship with your supervisor is incredibly important. Supervisors are an important source of feedback for you, and since they have formal authority, they can shape how your role is defined and the types of projects you take on in your work. Plus, as part of the Career Development Cycle, supervisors can help you build your skillset and serve as a springboard for you when you are ready to make the next career move.

Ready to build or enhance your relationship with your supervisor? Try out some of these best practices moving forward:

  1. Prepare. Prepare any meetings with your supervisor in advance. Jot down some updates you have, questions you want to run by them, and be prepared to write down any requests or tasks that they may have for you.
  2. Schedule. If you don’t have this set up already, propose regularly scheduled meetings or “check-ins” with your supervisor on a biweekly or weekly basis. This will promote transparency and ensure an open line of communication.
  3. Be candid and straightforward. It is critical to be frank and open with your supervisor. If you are running into a roadblock or are unsure of next steps, you should ask those questions. A good supervisor will provide you with guidance, and can be a sounding board for you as you work through challenges. Plus, they’d prefer you be upfront with them than find out about problems after a deadline.
  4. Listen and reflect. This may seem obvious, but actively listen to your supervisor. If they have feedback for you, you should be writing that down, and reflecting on how you can incorporate that feedback into your work moving forward.
  5. Get to know them. Your first priority should be to understand your supervisor’s work-style. How do they prefer to communicate? When is a good time to have meetings with them? Beyond that, though, take the time to get to know them on a personal level. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their weekends, what hobbies they have, or how their family is. This shows you care about them as people, and can foster a stronger relationship between the both of you.

Your supervisor holds a formal role in managing you, and it is important that you respect their position. But don’t just view them as your supervisor. Build on your relationship with them. The best supervisor and supervisee relationships become mentor and mentee relationships. Take the time to learn from them, share your goals with them, and ask questions.

Remember, this relationship is a two-way street. If you put the work into it, you can likely expect a supportive supervisor who not only manages you, but advocates for you, too.  

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