Kevin O’Neil — Beyond the “Wall”
After more than 20 years of just making a living to provide for his family, Kevin O’Neil hit the wall, or more literally, the carpet!
On the day before Kevin was to start a new sales job, he was hanging drapery in his family’s living room. A leg on the ladder buckled, and he was thrown to the ground. Kevin started the job with a bruised shoulder, but a couple of visits to the doctor, and an X-ray showed he had broken his humerus and torn his rotator cuff. He was just starting his new job, and now he needed surgery and he had to take time off to recover — several weeks of recuperation and months of physical therapy to get his range of motion back. Kevin really didn’t have a choice. It was either leave his new job — before it even got off the ground — or risk never regaining full use of his left arm.
With his left arm immobile, and pain medications keeping him from working effectively, Kevin was forced to confront what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
Two decades earlier, the day Kevin received his Masters degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology, his wife found she was pregnant with their first child. Rather than taking that first low paying internship job in Organization Development, Training or HR, Kevin abandoned his dream, choosing instead a sales career — something he thought would pay better.
He learned the hard way — through recessions, company restructuring, outsourcing, and down-sizing — that even in good times, working just to survive doesn’t cut it in the long run.
After Kevin’s shoulder started to feel better, he temporarily went back to sales, writing advertising copy for an e-Bay auction house, and trying to get quiet enough to figure out his true role in the world. After a few months of rehabilitation and word processing, Kevin knew he wanted to start something new — but what?
What was he really passionate about?
Kevin decided to revisit his graduate school interests, and poked around the Organizational Development field. Jobs were still scarce, and his experience had taught him that corporate life had become meaner and colder over time. He had to ask himself, “Do I still think there is a chance for me to help make the work life of employees more humane within a company?” Kevin’s perceptions of today’s corporations were by now 180 degrees opposite of what they had been, and he didn’t think he could whole-heartedly try to facilitate organizational changes.
Web surfing led Kevin to Craig Nathanson’s website. Kevin and Craig began a great conversation, and over the next few weeks, Kevin made a deep and clear-headed self-assessment. What could he do? What did he really want to do?
Peeling back the years, Kevin remembered wanting to be a counselor, but he didn’t think he had the time or resources to get another advanced degree. He was volunteering as a mediator in Small Claims Court, but not being an attorney, he found that creating a paying job as mediator in his region is a long process, requiring an intense amount of networking to find even an occasional assignment.
Kevin wondered, “How can I recombine my skills and experiences into a new career?
Kevin and his wife have raised an autistic son, now 17 years old, and they went through all the changes one might expect for a special-needs family. Their journey was so important to Kevin’s wife, Sharon, that she was inspired to build on her teaching career; she earned a Special Education Credential, becoming a Certified Behavioral Intervention Case Manager (BICM).
Brainstorming with Craig, Kevin launched The O’Neil Advocacy Group, a professional consultancy dedicated to helping families with special needs children. Kevin and his wife help facilitate the development of action plans to get the services families with special needs children require.
Stressful situations occur every day when a family is living with a special needs child. Kevin and Sharon coach positive, effective behavioral management strategies that aid and enrich the daily lives of every member of the family.
So far, Kevin and Sharon have launched a website, built a referral network of more than fifty professionals and parents, designed a brochure, and scheduled speaking engagements. They are now writing a current and comprehensive directory of services in two counties in their area. Just by contacting their son’s Regional Center case manager, Kevin and Sharon’s business is now linked to eight different Regional Center case management work teams.
Kevin is now feeling very positive; and he has every reason to believe that by continuing their outreach, The O’Neil Advocacy Group will soon be a very busy and successful practice.
What can we learn from Kevin’s story?
Taking the time to reflect and align one’s abilities and interests can make the difference of a lifetime!