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Academic and writer

Paul JacobsWhat is the job you love?

I am an academic and a writer. This is a multi-skilled job that is a blend of journalism, advocacy, lecturing, and research. The main focus of my work is about how people who are deaf can achieve social and professional participation. Another major part of my work is how deaf people can achieve healthy mental wellbeing.

How did you get into this line of work?

By default. I had been the captain of three school premiership teams, winner of the competition's best junior cricketer award, and a member of many under-age representative teams. I played District cricket for the North Melbourne Cricket Club. I wanted to be a professional cricketer. But that didn't work out. 

At first, I wanted to be a journalist. I'd written many freelance articles and had a shoe-in for a job at a newspaper in the late 1990s. The editor gave me the job then asked if I could use the telephone. I said "no" (this was before SMS and email). He then said, "Well, you can't do the job." My friend, a fellow journo, was waiting for me downstairs. She was smiling, but then saw how upset I was. We had a coffee and she suggested I write a book about deafness. I refused.

But, in time, the writing flowed. I completed my Masters of Education in 2004 at the University of Melbourne. And I kept writing my book. Neither-nor: A young Australian's experience of deafness was published in 2007. I completed my PhD in 2009.

Since 2002, I have had 26 academic related publications - 23 with American and European publishers. My works have also been published in Spanish. I'm currently writing my second book, while doing some research on the side.

What is the best part about your job?

My happiest moments are when I am in flow. This occurs when writing, giving a presentation, or learning from others. 

Meeting and working with quality people
Here's the secret to happiness: helping others. There are dedicated people who devote their lives to helping deaf people and it is an honour to work alongside them. Together we make a difference that will otherwise not occur.

Befriending people from overseas
I've worked alongside deaf war veterans from Sudan, deaf homeless street kids from Chicago, deaf abused English women from Derbyshire, deaf youths with multiple disabilities whose families have shunned them. I've also worked alongside deaf Spanish school kids whose friends are sons of princes, a scientist who shall win the Nobel Prize and whose father was deaf, and, also, deaf professionals whose offices are within prestigious law firms, universities, and the White House.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

It takes a long time to establish yourself as an academic and an author.

The tall poppy syndrome
In 2020, the Australian disability sector will have the same quality as that currently present in England, Scandinavia, and America. If, and only if, the new generation are given the opportunities. 

Gruelling hours and personal sacrifices
In my line of work, 43 is the average age when a scientist makes their first major breakthrough. A classic example is Professor Graham Clark. His first successful cochlear implant occurred when he was 43 in 1978. This would not have occurred without the many setbacks, his sheer hard yakka through hard times and a true love for his work. I'm 37 and am still refining my craft. 

What advice would you give other deaf young people looking for a job like yours

We need deaf people working in academia, especially in the fields of disability and deafness. Many exciting changes will occur between now and 2020. There will be a liberation and growing awareness similar to that which occurred for women and other minority groups in the 1960s. In 2020, being an academic will be the new cool.

We need teachers of the deaf. In Australia, many are approaching retirement age. Now, there is a dire shortage of younger replacements. Become one if you so desire.

Befriend other deaf people. I wish I had the support group of deaf friends and acquaintances during my younger years that I have now. They "get" it.

For more information about becoming a writer

Neither Nor by P Jacobs

Dr Paul Jacobs lost most of his hearing when he was 5. His memoir, Neither - Nor: A Young Australian's Experience of Deafness was published in 2007. His PhD research discovered eight proactive psychosocial attributes and tactics used by vocationally and socially successful individuals with deafness.

11-Nov-2015 9:23 AM (AEST)