Mentoring and creative careers

Littleton, K. and Taylor, S. (2008). Mentoring and creative careers. In: EARLI-SIG 14 Learning and Professional Development Conference, Aug 2008, Jyvaskyla, Finland.



This paper explores the significance of mentors and mentoring relationships for novices in creative careers. We analyse material from interview studies with postgraduate art and design students and practitioners to highlight the complex and multifaceted nature of mentoring relationships. Mentoring is more than the proferring of advice and guidance or the opening up of opportunities, though this assistance is important. But mentors also embody and enact forms of creative practices as ways of life, representing particular ways of being creative and doing creative work. They thus offer lived examples of possible trajectories and the associated proposals of potential identities. Drawing upon Wenger’s (1998) notion of ‘paradigmatic trajectories’, we explore the need of novices to look to the specific examples of the creative careers of known people. These cannot serve as an exact template to be followed, because of the emergent nature of creative careers, but, we argue, they provide evidence of how points in a pathway may be negotiated, and also reassurance that this can be done. Whilst the novices will need to construct their own careers and identities, the example ‘shown’ by the mentor both suggests that success is possible and provides details of how the field works and some of the possibilities for newcomers.

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