I completed my Engineering PhD in 2019 and started working in a small startup. Things did not work out as expected. A few months ago I signed a job offer for a postdoc at a (great) US institution. I would have started immideately but couldn't because of visa. They applied for an H1B visa with premium processing for me, which is a big ask and big cost. And takes a few months.
I've been pondering about this over the past months since I signed and I came to the conclusion that I do not really want to do this any more. I loved my PhD, I loved doing research but the output wasn't super great (which means I'd need great output in the postdoc to be competitive).
My main reasons are that I just feel exploited by the system: The pay is about 3x less of what I would make in industry, yet I would continue live PhD life: Working like a pig without weekends and little money. Once I am through, no guarantee to find a (good) faculty position, specifically given my sub-optimal PhD outputs. And even then, five years tenure, again with little pay. Finally, 10 years later, MAYBE a bit more quiet but still little pay. Likely in a location where I do not want to live.
I am getting towards 40 years, I am married and want to start a family. I have full support from my wife for this way but I feel I am having trouble "providing" for the family and once I have kids life will be so stressful. I was so energetic during my PhD but now I would feel so much more doing a nice but exciting job in a big company. Finally starting to make real money. Starting savings. Starting a family and buying a house.
I think it's not really "ok" to withdraw from an offer once it's signed. Here in particular, it's worse since they put so much money & effort with the visa in and my PhD advisor (I have a wonderful relationship with him) vouched for me and made this (partially) happen.
I am torn: I could be honest, bite the bullet, destroy bridges and maybe need to pay for the visa fees (not sure?).
Or I could give it a shot: I love doing research, I'm sure I'd like the work itself and the group and university is amazing and world class. Maybe it turns out great. And if not, I could still leave after a few months.
Is it "ethical" to retract the offer? Should I try to contact the international department or HR first about the visa status (maybe the fees have not been paid yet)? Or talk with the prof first?
Should I share my thoughts first or be upfront from the beginning?
Any advice appreciated!