My supervisor told me to find a job instead of doing a phD


I got accepted into a phd program by an advisor who I didn’t choose but he did.
He didn’t ask me any technical questions when he interviewed me.
He knows my weakness and kept me on his side as decoration.
I kept asking him what am I supposed to do so he gave me an idea and let me figure it out all by myself.
I was completely lost and not able to do a single thing as I have a totally different background and I said this to him many times. I need a guide, leader, and mentor not someone to see my presentation without any helpful feedback. None of his advice was beneficial to the work. He has students who see him once a year.
I read the literature and did little work each time and showed him. he was not angry nor happy with my performance. He always says: “you’er not there yet but keep working, I’m happy you found such a paper try to rebicate the same result”, “Work while your kids are asleep as kids are the most beouteful thing in life”
until I told him one day that I cannot work on this project independently without any help from anyone and I will look for another advisor.
then he said: “You have no foundation to do research and whatever you replicate a result it is a toy”, “It is impossible for you to finish your Ph.D. as you are a mother, it is better for you to find a job and leave”, “I don’t give instructions, I give advise”, “if you carry a dog for a chasing, he is not a chasing dog”, " all you do is setting there crying and saying I need help".

It really hurts as I tried working but was very lost as I have no direction as to where should I go. I didn’t expect the Ph.D. to be extremely independent work to this extent.

am I wrong and didn’t do my work in the right way? or am I with a bad supervisor?
what should I do after this I lost all my confidence to reach out to other professors and restart the journey.

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Hi @Zainabjs,

First, let me say in advance that your supervisor is a jerk.

With that being said, I think it is important to say that I am from the Social sciences. So there are some disparities that I can not relate, such as replicating results in a laboratory. In addition, I believe the degree of jackassyness is higher in the physical sciences because there are probably no aspects in your research that you investigate human behavior.

I dropped out from a PhD before, I am about to start another one next Fall and it looks like your program is very similar from what I saw from the one I dropped out. Your program/supervisor does not want to train you to do research. His/Their expectations are that you were already a researcher and that you would be there to hone in your already existing research skills rather than develop or create new ones.

At any point I think you are wrong. I believe it is a matter of misaligned expectations with your supervisor being a jackass. If you already knew what to do and just needed some tips here and there, why the hell would you need a PhD degree?!

Unfortunately, I believe the best way to for you is to switch supervisors and restart the journey if necessary. I would recommend you to reach out to the head of your program and explain your situation. But before that, consider talking with someone with a human behavior background such as a therapist or a coach (I don’t know if your university offers that kind of support) so you can organize your thoughts and clear out at least some of the emotional distress you are going through. I don’t know your department, but I would believe that you will face some degree of push back because of that, so the more prepared the better.

Just to summarize my thoughts. I think it is a matter of misaligned expectations with your supervisor having unrealistic ones and that he is a jerk for treating you like that.

I hope I have helped.

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Thank you for the reply.
Can you give me advice on what should I mention and what should I avoid to say?
My advisor has a great way to talk so he would never make himself wrong.

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Ok, @Zainabjs first please forgive me for the late reply!!

Second, and I need to give you full disclosure here, I really think you should actually TALK with someone about this such as a coach or a therapist who can investigate with you about this matter at length and think with you about it. I will give you some suggestions but I am 120% sure they will be limited because I barely have a picture of your situation when the best situation would be to have the full trilogy sequence!!

So, here goes nothing…

My first recommendation to is to build critical mass about this with the director of the program or anyone who is above you and your supervisor. I am sure it is awful to hear (read) this but you are the weakest link in this process, if you are not expendable at all in their eyes. For some reason, someone in your department thinks your advisor is important for its reputation and prestige. By starting complaining about him, you are questioning the status quo and putting the university production, therefore funding, at risk.

Going back to critical mass, think about a situation in your close past where you reached out to him, he gave you whatever advice or some useless reply, you reached out to him again and he was again unhelpful. I would report that situation to the director of the program (or anyone that is above him and you) and ask for some advice from him/her. It is probably better if you ask for a meeting with the director rather than give a full report through email. That way you will not create evidence against you that can circulate through email around the university. But basically you should ask for advice on how to deal with this situation. Report the situation and ask for suggestions on what you should do from now on.

The goal with this strategy is to schedule “as many meetings as possible” so your department realize that you want to be there, you are open to change, to learn, but sometimes there just isn’t a match between advisor and advisee.

I really recommend you to talk with a therapist about this because I think you should avoid unloading all your emotional distress about this situation with someone from your department. I understand you are struggling but most people do not know how to handle these situations and I would that academics are probably the ones who know the least on how to handle this.

Most importantly, be aware that by doing this you will stress your relationship with your advisor if not with your program. In the last case, this can lead to their recommendation for you to take a leave of absence or even to leave the program!!

I hope I have helped somehow!!

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