I'm a postdoc based in Europe working in a theoretical/computational field with a background in physics and am considering leaving academia. There are various reasons for this, but most importantly I have not made as much progress as I had hoped and am pessimistic about my long-term chances of getting a tenured job.
Now I am close to 2 years into my postdoc, and my contract runs for another full year. I have an individual fellowship that has allowed me to work flexibly and start various collaborations, but due to a few setbacks none of these projects has been published yet.
My plan would be to work in industry, perhaps as a data scientist or to work on AI/machine learning. I already have some skills that would be directly relevant for such a career (Python, R, machine learning knowledge), and have some experience applying these to data in my research. But I have no experience outside academia at all and don't have a clear idea of what working in industry is like.
Unlike for PhD, there's no clear endpoint for a postdoc. So I am considering what the best exit strategy would be.
- Should I stay longer (perhaps until the end of my contract) and try to finish my projects and write up the results?
- Or should I try to leave as soon as possible?
Arguments in favour of (1) are:
- It would be more responsible and less problematic for my supervisor and collaborators.
- I would have a sense of accomplishment if I manage to get a few papers out before I leave.
- I could use the spare time to acquire more skills relevant to e.g. data science without pressure of immediately delivering anything.
Arguments in favour of (2) are:
- Another year in academia would potentially make me less attractive to industry.
- I am afraid that my supervisor might lose interest in mentoring me if I tell that I will leave academia.
- Better compensation in industry (though I am satisfied with my current postdoc salary).
As for my personal situation, I'm in my late 20s and am unmarried and without children, so from this perspective everything should be relatively uncomplicated.
Do you think these are fair and valid arguments, and what would you do if you were in my situation?