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Kevin O’Leary: How to find your passion and turn it into a successful career

Finding a career that you’re passionate about is “the best thing that can happen to you,” entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary tells CNBC Make It.

That way, “the hours that you’re working don’t seem like work at all,” O’Leary, an investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and chairman of O’Shares ETFs, says. “That’s the magic of finding the right thing for you.”

But finding and following your passion is easier said than done. And in the current job market, with around 13 million Americans unemployed and thousands of businesses permanently closed across the U.S., it can be difficult to find a job at all, let alone one picked out of passion over need.

Here are three steps O’Leary recommends to find your passion — and turn it into a successful career.

1. ‘Keep a broad focus’ to find a passion that complements your skill set

To find what you’re passionate about, “you’ve got to try a lot of different things,” O’Leary says.

“If you’re going to go to college, keep a broad focus at the beginning until you find that thing that really fits,” he says. “You never know what that’s going to be because life is rather serendipitous.” 

But as you do this, take note of what you’re good at. To achieve success, your passion should also align with your skills and talents, O’Leary says.

He learned this lesson at a young age. After graduating from high school, O’Leary initially wanted to become a musician, an artist or a photographer until his stepfather gave him some tough-love advice.

“He looked me in the eye and said, You’re not good enough at any of those. And you might as well face the reality now that you’re going to starve to death if you pursue them,” O’Leary previously told CNBC Make It.

“He said, How about you figure out what you’re good at? I think you’re a good marketer. You work hard. You hustle. Maybe you should pursue a business career.” It was hard to hear at the time, but “he was 100% right,” O’Leary said.

Keeping a broad focus can help you discover something new. You can try exploring free courses on LinkedIn to learn about new skills, from data science to digital literacy. If you’re in college, try taking a variety of classes in different subjects, as O’Leary mentions, or join a new club on campus.

You may find you’re passionate about something unexpected after putting more effort into it, says billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, one of O’Leary’s “Shark Tank” co-stars.

“Evaluate and say, Okay, where am I putting in my time?” Cuban said in 2018. “Where you put in your effort, that tends to be the things that you are good at. And if you put in enough time, you tend to get really good at it.”

2. Learn ‘in demand’ skills and see if any spark your interest

If you’re unsure what you’re passionate about, try learning a new skill to see if anything sparks your interest. Keep in mind that amid the pandemic, new and different skills are becoming more and more in demand.

“The remarkable thing about the pandemic is the arts are back: writing skills, editing skills, anything to do with social media now has become really, really important,” O’Leary says.

The pandemic prompted a major shift online for workers and businesses, so skills like social media management, communication and editing videos and other digital content are in high demand right now, according to a recent report by Money and job sites LinkedIn and Indeed.

Demand for social media skills in particular has increased nearly 200% since 2019, according to Indeed. “Employers want to make sure their social media brands are on point when in-person interaction with customers simply isn’t possible,” AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed, told Money.

3. After finding your passion, use social media to land a job

Once you’ve found the passion you’d like to pursue, leverage the many tools available to you on the internet, including all of your social media outlets, to market your skills, network with professionals and find job opportunities, O’Leary recommends.

Start by creating a “really strong LinkedIn resume,” O’Leary says. That should include a profile summary that is “no more than three paragraphs. Don’t make it too long.”

Next, use social media to market your abilities and connect with others in your preferred field. ”Get out there on social [media] and present yourself. Talk about what you’re good at and how you can help people run their businesses better and more efficiently,” O’Leary says. “That’s how you get in the door.”

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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