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My work has sponsored my EMBA but, the more I study, the more I realise I would be better suited to doing something different – and, if I leave, I have to pay back the fees. What should I do?

It depends how well paid your new choice of career is. If what you want to do is start your own business, then you are probably going to have to slog on with your existing employer for a year or so. However, if the new thing pays reasonably well ­– or if you have large quantities of cash saved somewhere – then you should get out now, and pay for the MBA yourself. It will be cheap at the price, as it has shown you what you really want to do with your life – something that most people never find out.

I’ve heard that the executive MBA is hard core, as everyone is juggling work and studying. The thing I’m most worried about is the word “executive”: are all EMBAs going to be super-scary high-powered mathematicians?

I agree that the “executive” bit sounds off-putting, but I don’t think it need be. On average, students embarking on EMBA courses have eight years’ experience as managers – which doesn’t mean that they are either especially scary, or especially good at maths. Some of the schools require the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), which means you won’t get in if you don’t know what 13 times 13 is, but you can pass without being a maths whizz. If you still feel scared, avoid the fancier schools – and you’ll avoid the largest egos.

I am about to embark on an executive MBA programme and am looking at how I am going to balance my diary. The problem is that in my spare time I am juggling my profile on six different dating websites. Do you think I will be able to keep this up – and am I likely to find any eligible husbands on my course?

You are clearly someone quite exceptional if you can even contemplate a job and an EMBA and six dating sites. Whether you are likely to meet a partner on your new course rather depends on your moral code. The majority of men on it are likely to have wives and children – though, thanks to the demands of the programme, they will be seeing rather little of them. Some of the grander courses involve flitting between Europe, the US and Asia, meaning you will endlessly be travelling on planes together and spending nights in hotel rooms – so it is conceivable that untoward things could happen. However, rather than recommend that course of action, I suggest you apply some business skills to your existing portfolio of dating sites, rationalising it and paring it down to one or two core components.

I am thinking about applying for an EMBA and believe I have what it takes to get into a top school, but the cost is shocking, at anything up to $150,000. Can the impact on my future prospects possibly justify the expense?

FT data suggest that the average person with an EMBA earns 50 per cent more three years after finishing the programme than they earned before. Their average starting salary is about $112,000. But, as it is hard to tell what the salary progression would have been otherwise, it is hard to conclude that it is great value for money. And it’s not just the effect on your purse, but on your sleep, stress levels and relationships. If it were me, I wouldn’t do it, but then many EMBA candidates pay for their courses themselves – so, they clearly think otherwise.

Building my network was one of main priorities for the EMBA and I’m trying to get involved with all the extra activities and events. The problem is that my boyfriend is annoyed that I’m spending so much time with my new classmates and our relationship is suffering. What shall I do?

If I were your boyfriend, I’d dump you. A girlfriend with a job, an MBA course and a hunger for every networking event does not sound worth hanging around for.

Many good schools require the GMAT, but it requires lots of preparation and I am particularly “time poor” just now, with a demanding job and family commitments. Should I bite the bullet and sit the exam or settle for a course that doesn’t require it?

If you don’t even have time to prepare for the GMAT, I can’t imagine why you are considering doing an EMBA at all. The course involves a huge additional workload – generally about 15-20 additional hours a week on top of your job – so, if you are already worrying about not having time for your job and your family and swotting for one minor test, I’d say no to the whole thing.

I’m in my early 50s. Given that most of us will probably have to work into our 70s, is it worth enrolling for an EMBA?

That depends upon who is going to pay for it. If you can get your employer to stump up, then I’d consider it. It will involve a lot of work, but that should stop you from slipping into the slough that people in their early fifties tend to fall into. It could also end up giving you new ideas of what to do with the next two decades of your working life and make new contacts. Prepare, though, to feel a bit over the hill when you start. The average age of your new classmates will be a mere 37.


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

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