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5 tips for successfully switching careers in the new year, according to career experts

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The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the finances of millions of workers, with more than 20 million Americans receiving some kind of unemployment benefits as of early December.

With many industries still operating under limited capacity, including travel, hospitality and leisure, some job-seekers are going into the new year searching for new opportunities and a possible career change.

In fact, in the second quarter of 2020, nearly 20% of job seekers changed industries in order to land their new position, according to executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That number is an increase from 15% in the first quarter.

CNBC Make It talked to career coaches Ariel Lopez and Latesha Byrd to get insight on how to make a successful career change in 2021, regardless of whether you have exposure in another industry.

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1. Get clear on what it is you want

Before you send off your resume to every job opening you see, Byrd, who runs a career development club called Career Chasers Members Club, says it's imperative that you get clear on "what it is that you actually want and don't want out of your career."

To do this, she recommends making a list of the things that do and don't excite you, including the type of work environments in which you operate best, the type of team you'd like to work with and overall company culture.

"It's also a good idea to know your non-negotiables," she adds, explaining that this includes the "salary and benefits you desire."

2. Update your professional brand

Once you have an idea of the industry or job you'd like to be in next, both Byrd and Lopez agree that updating your resume and online appearance are key to helping you successfully make a transition.

"So thinking about what's on your resume, what's on your LinkedIn profile, even down to what's in your bio on social media — all of those things need to be consistent and all of them need to express that you are capable of doing the thing you're trying to transition into," says Lopez, CEO and founder of the hiring platform Knac.

For example, if you're working in finance as a program manager and your goal is to become a product manager in tech, Lopez says you should research tech companies and see what their job descriptions look like. That way you can create a resume that mirrors what your target companies are looking for.

"But beyond that," Lopez says, "I highly suggest looking at other people's LinkedIn profiles that are in the role that you're trying to transition into and see how they describe themselves." From the words they use when discussing their experience, to the organizations they're part of to the career bootcamps they've participated in, Lopez says all of these things will help to "paint a better scope of what your trajectory could look like and how you should be communicating that to recruiters."

Credit: Jess Lowcher | Twenty20

3. Understand the type of training or education that's needed

In addition to updating your professional brand and doing your research, Byrd says it's critical that you have an honest conversation with yourself about whether or not you need additional training or education to make a successful pivot. If you do, then she suggests mapping out "how much time, energy and financial resources" it will take to obtain those new skills.

Right now, many companies, including online education platforms Coursera and Udacity, are offering free courses and tech training to workers who have been laid off as a result of the pandemic. Tech giant Google is also offering 100,000 scholarships for online certificates in data analytics, project management and UX.

4. Effectively communicate any transferrable skills

When looking to make a career change, it's important to be able to explain why you're leaving your industry, as well as to effectively communicate how your work experiences are transferrable, says Byrd.

She explains that communication, customer service, client relations, conflict resolution and innovative thinking are valuable in any industry, so be sure to display those skills on your resume and in your interview.

"At the end of the day, we are all working with people, whether that be customers, leadership, team members, etc.," she says. "Being able to demonstrate your ability to work with people, solve problems and think creatively/innovatively by bringing new ideas to the table are very important."

5. Network

Though networking amid the pandemic is very different than what most people are used to, Byrd says that the lack of in-person events should not deter you from making new connections.

"Online networking is everything," says Byrd, "and LinkedIn will be key." In addition to joining professional organizations and attending virtual conferences and events, Byrd says you should examine your current LinkedIn connections to see if someone you already know has a connection to someone who is working in the industry or job you're looking to transition into.

"Don't be afraid to slide in the DMs," she says, adding that you should "talk to other people who have made the change to boost your confidence and reassure you that it's possible."

Check out: 4 tips for negotiating your salary and other benefits during the pandemic

Don't miss: The best 0% APR credit cards so you can finance your debt or new purchases interest-free

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