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I am being funded by my employer to do an executive MBA, but since embarking on my studies I’ve realised I would like to start my own business. I want to complete the programme, but cannot afford it myself. However, if I don’t launch my business now I will have missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What should I do?

If it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and if it really must be started right now, then you must drop everything else and do it. However, I suspect that it is less urgent than you think. It wouldn’t matter if you pushed back the start by a few months, which would give you time to finish the course. Use the time to plot and research and make contacts. Nothing concentrates the mind as much as having far too much to do — so continue to do the job and the MBA, while squirrelling away things that will come in handy for your business. If you take your time you might also realise that this cracking business opportunity is not quite as cracking as you first thought, in which case you’ll be glad not to have dropped everything to pursue it.


I am studying for an EMBA at a top school but at a recent networking event I overheard discussions between a professor and a visiting captain of industry and think there might be financial impropriety going on. If I blow the whistle it could bring the school into disrepute and devalue my own degree, which has cost me a fortune. Should I keep quiet or let the authorities know?

This is doubly difficult. Whistleblowing always requires a weighing up of pros and cons. In this case the cons against speaking out are pretty strong. As you say, if you have made a walloping investment in the institution it makes no sense to be trying to destroy it at the same time. However, you haven’t laid out the case in favour. It all depends how bad this misdemeanour is and how certain you are that you got the right end of the stick. If you think you may have misheard and misunderstood, it is then alright to say nothing. If you are sure you didn’t then you probably need to do something. I might be inclined to dump the problem on someone with a bit more clout. Is there anyone at the school, a friendly professor, who you like and trust? I would pass on to them what you’ve heard. It is then their problem. If they do nothing, you are morally off the hook. If they take it up, there is strength in numbers.


At the end of my EMBA a social event is planned to which we are invited to bring our partners. I have only recently come out as gay. My partner is anxious to meet more people in my life and my fellow students seem very open-minded, but I worry that it could have implications for my career. Should I bring him?

Yes, bring him. This is 2015: it is depressing that you are even asking the question. Being gay is not going to hurt your job prospects. But hiding your partner who wants to meet your classmates will damage your relationship and it could damage your career too. Being shifty and private will mean your colleagues will keep their distance. So stop being shifty; take him to the party and have a nice time. Let me know if there is any awkwardness. If there is, I’ll eat my hat.


I have decided to do an EMBA and money is no object, but I need the qualification quickly to secure a much wanted promotion. Should I choose a fast-route programme where I would do most modules online or is it only worth doing a longer term programme that will involve classroom sessions in different locations around the world?

How do you know that it would secure you a promotion? Is there something written into the job spec that says only people with an MBA need apply? If so, and if the promotion is the only reason for doing it, then get on with the online version sharpish. But if you rather like the idea of a more leisurely study, with a qualification that may be of more help in the future, then go for that instead. Working lives are long and in the bigger scheme of things it doesn’t surely matter much if you get the promotion now, or a little later.


I am hoping to get into a top school to do an EMBA but am worried that a bad experience early in my career will hinder my chances. About 10 years ago I was dismissed from my first management level job after huge losses at the division where I worked. I gained new employment, but have not progressed as fast as I hoped. How can I convince admissions tutors to overlook my early bad luck?

I don’t think the early crisis is a problem, but I think that the 10 years of stagnation might be. All admissions departments are obsessed with the idea of learning from setbacks. If you are applying to an EMBA at Wharton they get you to write an essay entitled “Describe a time when you were faced with a challenge and how you responded”. There is no setback or failure that is too big, so long as you can come up with a convincing spiel about what you learnt as a result. And a tip: don’t say it was “bad luck”. Accept full responsibility for your part in the mess and explain how you have changed since then. But, most important, have a story that explains the last 10 years. That is what will really interest your interviewers.


My partner wants to do an EMBA but I think it is only because he feels inadequate when he compares himself with me. I am a woman and I gained an MBA from a top school in my twenties. I have told him that he should not bother because his company provides management and leadership training, but he seems determined. How can I get him to see sense?

I have never met you or your partner and have no idea about what goes on in your relationship, but judging from your message, you seem to be trying to keep a good man down. Why are you so against the idea of him having an MBA? Far from it being a case of him trying to be equal, it sounds like a case of you desperate for him not to be. Why do you assume that his MBA is all about you? Why shouldn’t he want one for all the same reasons that hundreds of thousands of other people also want one? None of them is signing up for years of work and eye-watering expense just to feel equal with their partners. But even, if you are right, and getting one up on you is his main motivation, you still shouldn’t be discouraging him. It is you who needs to see sense.

Lucy Kellaway is an FT associate editor and management columnist, and writes the weekly Dear Lucy advice column in the newspaper and online

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