I'm in the following situation: In 3 months, I'll finish my PhD in theoretical physics, and I'm certain that I want to pursue an academic career. However, I'm just as certain that my PhD research is a dead end. (My advisor doesn't think so, but I disagree with him.) Thus, I seek to change the direction of my research, but I need a few months to obtain the necessary skills. Anyway, I missed the main application period for post-doc positions (in the US).
Given the following options (feel free to expand this list), which do you think provides the best perspective of leading me to a interesting post-doc position?
- Finish my PhD. Get any post-doc position. Do the work I'm required to do there. Work hard in my spare time to teach myself the stuff I want to. After 1-2 years, find a post-doc position I'm really interested in.
- Finish my PhD. Get a well-paying job in the software industry. Do the work I'm required to do there. Work hard in my spare time to teach myself the stuff I want to. Work harder to keep publishing papers. After one year, find a post-doc position I'm really interested in.
- Abort my current work. Find a new subject and a new PhD advisor.
- Live on unemployment money as long as possible. Work hard in my spare time to teach myself the stuff I want to. Work harder to keep publishing papers. After one year, find a post-doc position I'm really interested in.
- Get the PhD title sooner. Stay in the scientific community.
- Get the PhD title sooner. Earn lots of money (6 figure). In a 9-to-5 job, have more spare time for private research than on a post-doc position, where work is never finished. Go to a foreign country.
- It's what I should've done 2 years ago. I'll have the education I want when I finish my PhD, not later (but be older anyway).
- No immediate advantages over the other options.
- If a logical continuation of my PhD work, I'll suffer from demotivation. My next advisor will not want me to work on other topics that I'm not paid for. Might have to stay for 2 years.
- I'll move out of the scientific community for some time. I know it's hard to get back in.
- I'll be even older when I finally get my PhD. Not sure if I would find another advisor. Open fight with my current advisor.
- I don't want to live on unemployment money for long.
A particular question concerning the options above: Does being out of academia for a year kill your prospects of obtaining a postdoc position later?
I do have some collaborators who will help me to keep publishing, provided that I put enough work into my research. Also, I'm willing to familiarize myself with other topics on my own (a prerequisite for an academic career anyway).
The next application period will be from October to December 2013, which isn't far away. I'm sure I'll have most of the skills I want by then (and a paper published proving that), but still would have to work until summer 2014 wherever I am applying now.
Please give me honest answers, even if they hurt. I'll provide more information as soon as possible, if anyone has questions.