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Many successful IT leaders are iconoclasts, however. They went against the grain, ignored advice or turned away from trends to find ways that were right for them. Here, they share some of their stories about the junctures where they disregarded prescribed career road maps, and they reveal how those choices helped them make it to the top.

Brian L. Abeyta

A grain of salt

How should you evaluate well-intended career advice? Researchers, career coaches and recruiters weigh in with these thoughts:

-- Look inward. Consider how the advice fits in with your own goals and objectives.

-- Get multiple perspectives. A professional mentor knows what makes smart business sense, but family and friends can help you assess advice from a personal perspective.

-- Think long term. Ponder how your decision will affect you in five or 10 years.

-- Keep an open mind. Don't rule out advice because the options now in front of you weren't among your original goals.

-- Consider the source. Some mentors truly have your best interests in mind; others' advice might be clouded by their own issues.

-- Make a list, but trust your gut. Write down the pros and cons of following the advice so you can analyse it. Weigh the results against how you actually feel about the situation. A long list of pros shouldn't win if the advice makes your stomach turn.