Although not an algebraic geometer, I recently went through a similar experience (I actually posted one of the questions to which you linked.) One of the reasons I became disenchanted with academia was that I struggled to learn algebraic geometry for many years but failed. So I hope you appreciate that this advice is coming from someone who is not as smart as you!

After returning to my own country following an unsatisfactory year teaching at a liberal arts college, I did some part-time teaching at my old university while I researched possible careers. Attracted by the idea of earning a lot of money, my first thought was finance and I read several books about the stock market and the history of money. By the way, it's very hard to find textbooks about finance which don't "take sides". The very best book I found, coming from zero knowledge of economics, was "Introduction to Money" by Honor Croome.

We don't have quants in this country, but the career which appealed to me most was actuary, and I contacted some actuaries via the University Careers Service. The main actuarial recruiter in my city was not interested in me, saying that I was "over-qualified" (an expression you will probably soon be hearing a lot) and would find the job boring. Most of the actuaries I talked to were very friendly but were baffled that someone who had a PhD in mathematics would want to start a new career from the beginning.

Meanwhile, I realised that any job involving maths was going to require some knowledge of programming, so I began to learn Python. This was quite fun, although I did not get very far before switching to Javascript, because I wanted to be able to share my code more easily. An excellent resource is a free book called "Eloquent Javascript". I really recommend this if you have no programming experience. I didn't get very deeply into programming, but learned enough to do simple calculations and talk about things like "APIs", "dynamic typing" and other jargon.

I attempted to get a full-time teaching job at my old university but failed. However, everyone was very impressed by my lecture. I decided that I wanted to make a positive contribution to the world and so began to consider mathematical ecology, especially fisheries. I talked to some people and they recommended that I learn Bayesian Statistics, so I got a book and started to work on this. I rapidly became starstruck by the beauty and power of the Bayesian approach. It was also a source of helpful programming exercises (Gibbs samplers etc.) and motivated me to learn R, which is the industry standard among academically-oriented statisticians.

Around this time, I failed to get a job in fisheries. It turns out that people don't really care about whether you are capable of doing the job; they want you to "demonstrate an interest" in it. It's a bit like how, when applying for a liberal arts position from a research university, you have to harp on about how committed you are to the liberal arts philosophy. Otherwise your application goes directly into the trash.

I was at a loose end and a new semester was starting, so I sat in on two courses, one on Bayesian stats and the other in data mining. The data mining was helpful for learning R, because it's a very scatty language and there are all kinds of little tricks you need to know. The Bayesian stats was an opportunity to work through more Bayesian stats, with exercises.

Around this time, I contacted an ecologist in the statistics department who happened to have a problem to work on, so I started working on this. After a couple of months I was able to amke progress on it and I'm hoping we will eventually get a publication out of it, which will certainly boost my credibility with the ecology crowd.

Anyway, at this point (about a year after my search started) I suddenly got a job in the tax department. The reason why I got this was because my boss is a mathematician. It turns out that there are lots of mathematicians in industry who were once in the same position as I was, and you now are. They like to hire mathematicians, just like how people who have emigrated to a different country like to hire people from the same country as them. Another mathematician was hired at the same time as me. I don't view the new job as a permanent thing that will go on forever, but I really like my colleagues. I do have to deal with meetings and people blathering about "going forward", "taking the first cab off the rank", "passing the ball" and all manner of similar phrases. On the other hand, I can bask in the feeling that I am helping to stick it to those nasty finance people who care about nothing but money ...

Ultimately I am hoping to return to academia (as a statistician) or become a statistical consultant if I can, and I want to move to Canada one day.

I guess the most useful pieces of advice for someone in this position are probably the following:

- The only way to get a job is via personal connections.
- Appearances are very important.

and (more an obervation than a piece of advice)

- Every real-world problem is ultimately about maximising some hideously complicated function.

I am sorry if you didn't find this too helpful, but I thought it might be useful to hear from someone who has very recently been in a similar position. It took me a year to find a job, so don't lose heart!

experience you have gainedas a graduate student rather than thecontent you have learnedover that time. – Yemon Choi Aug 26 '12 at 5:51