Just apply for any job you find interesting and you think you can do well. The trick lies in convincing the people hiring that you are great value for money.
Although this might seem obvious, my advice would be to also consider adjusting your salary expectations according to your industrial experience.
Because asking for too much money is the greatest mistake I have seen academics make during interviews, I'll try to explain how this works from an employer's point of view. I know this quite well because I have been on both sides of the table, and I made that mistake myself in the early stages of my career.
An academic who expects the same compensation as someone who has been working in the industry for an equivalent amount of time is unfortunately a hard ask, as the two skillsets are worth different amounts of money for very good reasons. If you believe that this is not true in your case, this nevertheless is what most interviewers think, so keep in mind that you'll need to convince them otherwise.
In the private sector if you are good your salary goes up very quickly. However, asking for a lot of money without a track record is an easy way to get rejected, because for the same money we can find someone who has been doing xyz in practice for a long time. The reason is simply that an employer's risk in paying someone too much without hard proof that they can do the job is a hard ask.
Note that this is neither about skill nor personal brilliance. It's about skills that are only really acquired by working industrially. Publishing papers is a very different skill than getting a product/feature/service to a state where someone will pay for it. The main differentiator is people's ability to work well with teams and deadlines. I have found that many academics tend to not be very well trained to:
- Produce results that can be readily used by other people
- Produce results in a handful of days and move on to the next thing
- Properly document details so that other teammates can reproduce their work
- Be happy with something that works even if they don't know why
- Work efficiently in teams
- Use modern productivity software
- Only do what they have been asked to do and ask management what to do next (rather than pursuing some cool random thing we don't care about)
- Communicate delays/issues to management as early as possible
- Properly estimate how long something will take
- Decide when to cut something off because we're out of time
When an employer asks for X years of experience, what you see above is the real reason why. It's not about how good people are at math or algorithms. It's about lowering the employer's risk of a new employee being unable to produce results for a very long time, and we are willing to pay for that.
As an entry-level professional who's making the switch, there are only really two options:
- Acknowledge that you lack key experience and ask for a salary that reflects this, OR
- Walk into the interview like a boss and convince the interviewers that despite your lack of experience you can do all of these things well, and why.
Option 1. is safe, because people will give you time to accumulate experience and raise your salary on par with the results you produce.
Option 2. is high-risk high-reward, because people will expect results from day 1. If you can deliver that's awesome and everyone is happy. If you can't, you're probably in trouble.