Q: I am a single man and a vice president of a large corporation. My boss is a woman. Stupid as I was, I permitted myself to get involved with her.

We saw each other for almost a year. Since our relationship was out in the open, during this time I became closely associated with my boss in the eyes of others in the management ranks of our company.

Trouble is, she is not very well-respected: She is considered to be inconsistent and superficial in her judgment. This lack of respect for her tainted me as well -- people thought of us as "birds of a feather."

During the time we went with each other, my boss kept me from being hindered by such views. My projects got funded without undue interference.

We recently broke up. It was not a friendly parting of the ways, and subsequently my boss has turned very cool toward me. We now both go about our business at work but keep our distance from each other.

Without my boss's support, my work life has become a lot tougher than before. I still suffer from the lack of respect I garnered when I went with her, and it became virtually impossible for me to get an approval for any of my projects.

How do I cleanse myself from the taint of this relationship?

A: It won't be easy. It took a year to be seen as someone who is under his boss's protection, clearly made more visible as a result of your romantic involvement. It will take you longer -- maybe much longer -- than that to establish yourself as an independent entity.

You need to gird yourself for a long tough road or else consider starting over someplace else, perhaps a bit wiser for the experience.

Q: I have 16 years of computer marketing and sales experience but no degree.

I am very knowledgeable in data communication and networks, but every time I change jobs my lack of a degree becomes a major stumbling block.

How can I move my career forward despite of this handicap?

A: The best way may be to settle down in one company rather than keep changing jobs.

By settling down in one place, your lack of degree will soon be forgotten, overshadowed by your associates' direct observations of your capabilities.

By jumping around, you inevitably expose yourself to being evaluated on the basis of your re'sume', where your lack of a degree stands out.

Andrew Grove is chief executive of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. Send questions to him in care of the Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190.