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I am a new CS (computer science) graduate in Europe. As a master's student, I have specialized in high-performance computing (HPC).

Job offers in HPC were very few and far between, and I had to do my final-year thesis in computer graphics instead, even though it was not my cup of tea. After graduation, it was still very hard to find a job in HPC, so I accepted a job developing GUIs in Java instead.

What is a good decision process to follow when deciding whether to give up on working in my preferred sub-field?

What factors should I consider?

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You may be looking in the wrong place. HPC in industry is a tool, not an objective in its own right. You need to look for businesses that are doing engineering or similar work and want their calculations to go faster. It may help to position yourself as a scientific programmer rather than an HPC specialist.

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The more time passes without you doing work in your preferred field the more your skills in that field are likely to atrophy.

I suppose you could write open source projects in that field or write papers or blog about it or something, in your free time, to stay current, but, barring that, a time will probably come when you're just not up-to-speed enough to be a competitive candidate in that field.

How quickly your skills or marketability atrophy is influenced by a ton of factors so I can't really give an exact time interval but yah at some point "giving up" may be the pragmatic thing to do. But if you do that try to be optimistic about the career path that you've landed in. Don't let bitterness taint your future job prospects.

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First rule : Don't leave a job without having another one lined up.

The most important thing to do is to not let your skills die out with time.

I would highly recommend joining online competitions on coding(will be difficult, but atleast your programming skills will be sharp), then what you want to do is to join one or few Open-Source projects which use HPC for their calculations.

Joining an Open-Source project will very good for your skills and your resume.

Maybe your next boss will notice you there.

Use that experience to land a job in a company where they need a HPC specialist.

As one of the previous answers said something along the lines of "You need to find a company which needs their calculations to be faster."

And here is the most important part : Network.

Network with people who are working in projects which rely heavily on HPCs.

Your network will help you out in time.

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