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As a female MBA student, I get a strong sense that some male classmates presume I have benefited from unofficial positive discrimination and do not deserve to be there as much as them. This is untrue and irritating, but should I tackle it head-on and challenge them or rise above such pathetic views?
There are two different things here. The first is whether you have benefited from unofficial positive discrimination. As most schools are ashamed of how rotten they are at attracting women, it is possible that you did. The other question is whether you deserve your place. Just because you may have benefited from discrimination does not mean you don’t deserve to be there. Throughout my career I have benefited from being female — I have been given opportunities and pushed forward and allowed to be different. At the same time, I think I deserve the breaks I’ve been given, so I don’t feel in the least sheepish about it. Make the most of it and take the opportunities. Women spend too much time trying to prove that they deserve the positions they have been given. I suggest you copy your male colleagues and act entitled. If you do it convincingly enough, they may well end up thinking you are entitled to everything you’ve got.
I have a PhD in physics and decided to study for an MBA to help turn my specialist knowledge into a career in business. I find that some of the people teaching courses are less qualified than me and I feel short-changed. Is it unreasonable to demand that I am taught by more highly qualified academics for the rest of the course?
So how do you see that working? You march up to the dean and point out that as you have a PhD in physics you need to be taught by smarter people than the other students, who are less brainy and will be fine with mediocre teaching? I guarantee your dean will send you away with a flea in your ear and you will get a reputation for being stuck-up, humourless and insufferable. You are not learning physics now. This is business, and one of the most important things you must grasp is how to work in teams and to pretend to show respect for people you don’t actually respect at all.
I work at least as hard as my classmates, but more efficiently than some. I have other commitments and try to keep weekends free as far as possible, and do not want them consumed by panicky emails from group project colleagues — which infuriates them. How can I convince them I am pulling my weight?
You have three options. Number one is to spoil your weekends, which you have already said you don’t want to do. Number two is to tell them point blank you don’t work on weekends. Finish your bit by Friday night and leave the rest to them. The trouble with this ploy is that the others will not like you much and they will end up making final decisions on projects on Sunday nights without you. The third option is to take control of the project so that it has to be done on your terms. Everyone else would surely rather not have to work on weekends either, but are too inefficient to manage it. If you show them the way, you will almost certainly end up doing more than your fair share of the work, but you will be earning their gratitude — as well as teaching them the important life lesson that weekends aren’t for working.
My partner wants to do an MBA abroad. I realise this may mean a significant salary rise in the long term, but there is a cost, too. Together with our children, I would move with him for the duration and would have to give up my job. Is he being unfair? What do you think would be fair quid pro quo?
What he is asking you to do is huge. To relocate everyone and to lose your job and have to find schools for your children and a new job for yourself — only to have to do it all over again at the end of two years? How do you feel about the country he is dragging you off to? How important and enjoyable is the job he is making you leave? How certain is he that the MBA will transform his career and earning prospects? It sounds as if he is being utterly unfair. Can’t he do an online course or a local one instead?
There are too many students on my MBA with poor English and not enough work experience to fully understand the programme. I fear this is affecting my education. What can I do? Can I legitimately ask for a rebate?
You can try. I would love to hear how you get on. I don’t believe for a moment that you will have any luck. Neither do I believe that it is affecting your education too badly. Can’t you just enjoy being a star on the course? And isn’t one of the points of an MBA the contacts that you make? If you befriend these people from all over the world you will have an international network that will surely stand you in good stead with whatever you go on to do.
I’m still unemployed 18 months after graduating from my MBA. I keep hearing that I am overqualified but I don’t get offers for more senior roles either. The school’s career service doesn’t seem able to help. I’m considering further education but would that simply make it worse?
No, do not dream of signing up for yet another degree. That will cost you more money and make the situation worse. Instead you need to understand why you aren’t getting the jobs. Are you applying to a sector that is too competitive? Is there something off-putting about your CV? Are you getting interviews and the process goes awry at that stage? There must be someone at the career service who can answer a few basic questions. Show your CV to a sensible person. Work out what the gaps are. Broaden your net. Try different things. And, hardest thing of all, try not to get too discouraged.
Lucy Kellaway is an FT associate editor and management columnist, and writes the Dear Lucy advice column in the newspaper and online
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