I did a part-time PhD and finished it in 2007. I did a postdoc for two years after that but always knew I never really liked or fitted research and left to start training as a scientist in the NHS. The problem was I went for that as it seemed like the only other reasonable thing I could do, as I had worked in that field for three years before I did the PhD. I don't think I ever really wanted to do it and inevitably quit after 6 months as I didn't like it. I also had to relocate and do another part-time degree for it which was the straw that broke the camel's back.
I realised then that I no longer wanted to be a scientist in any shape or form, but had no idea of what I did want to do. I was unemployed for 6 months but eventually managed to get a 9-month community sector position through volunteering. I quite enjoyed that but now it has come to an end and I can not find another job.
I'm loathe to apply for scientific jobs because I know fine well I am not interested in them, but everyone (including the job centre) takes one look at my work history and is determined to send me down that path. That said, there are very few science jobs out there anyway. Community jobs are drawing a blank too because I am overqualified yet still too inexperienced in that field to compete well against other candidates.
I've been feeling incredibly depressed and lost because I just don't know where I fit any more. I know many postdocs reach this point. A lot of my friends have gone to train as teachers but that has never interested me. All I really want to know is what other options are available. In my experience a lot of postdocs seem to drop off the radar when they leave academia. What do they end up doing outside of scientific jobs?
I think it could be a good idea to try to get as many different career ideas as you can, and work out at least which ones would not suit you. Then knock them off the list and consider what is left.
One poster a while back mentioned that they were doing - and enjoying, on-line tutoring. I have no experience of this myself - but it might be worth while looking into.
You could even maybe do it part time, while working in another job.
Evaluate what other skills you picked up during your PhD and Postdoc, project management, time management, analysis skills and see what you can apply them to. I know a couple of people who had done some very simple computer modelling stuff in their time as PhD student or Postdoc and had come to work as analysts or modellers, is there something like that you could do?
Do you have an idea of what you DO like doing? That would be a start. To put together the individual tasks that you do enjoy and see what roles might be applicable.
That or have some inspiration and set your own company up...
I would be really interested in hearing what people think, also, because I have been having this exact same problem for a while now. (although I am not a post-doc)
I am in my second year into a PhD program in Biomedicine and still feel like I am not meant to be a researcher in science. I majored Molecular Biology only because I had originally wanted to pursue medicine which required me to take quite a few science courses, not because I loved science. As I learned more about medicine I started to realize that it was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I stayed in science because that was all I had been doing in my entire undergrad years. Now I am well into my PhD, feeling lost, because I don't know what else I should do...
======= Date Modified 27 Jan 2012 16:21:33 =======
Thanks for all of the replies guys.
@ Dalmation. My community-based job was in public health. I worked for the NHS but spent most days out and about raising health awareness with members of the public. A pretty big leap away from the lab! It still had its challenges but I enjoyed the freedom and interacting with people in that way. I thought that stint might have opened a few doors but with Primary Care Trusts and the voluntary sector facing some of the biggest cuts, there aren't many jobs out there and there are lots of people out of work with far more experience than me. I only managed to get one interview for a job in this sector in 9 months.
I was also looking into research positions with a social science base but I have not been able to break in - they usually want a social science degree/PhD and more practical experience than I currently have. To be honest a lot of them have looked at me like I have two heads! You can almost see them thinking "Why on earth are you applying for this when your background is completely biomedical?" I've tried to get volunteering to boost my chances but this has been slow to start and I've only got bits and pieces of mundane stuff. There's no way that I would take on another degree either. I couldn't afford it.
I have also applied for a couple of scientific roles in industry and got interviews but no hire...I reckon this was on the back of my NHS experience rather than my work in academia, but I have been pipped at the post by more experienced candidates with industrial backgrounds or more relevant experience/NHS state registration which I don't have.
All in all the experience has been very demoralising. Having a CV like a patchwork quilt doesn't help either. I've had 5 jobs in 13 years. All were biomedical and scientisty but for the most recent one. The last two were 6 months and 9 months long respectively. I also have two 6 month stints of unemployment in the last 2 years. I can tell this is raising eyebrows with some recruiters, despite the state of the economy and the amount of people out of work. I'm also tied to the region I am in. Really not sure what else I can do.
I think you need to do what others have said and think of the things you do like doing. That will be a start. If you hate the idea of spending your time in science, then you need to look elsewhere. If you don't want to teach, then don't do it, it is something you have to want to do - and not just for the holidays or the money - you will also have to defer to people in a way that you might not find appealing. (enough said there I think:$) If you need a breathing space, go for some mindless job to tide you over whilst you find something. A careers advisor should be available to you , if so, give it a whirl. They may well come up with something you would never have thought of on your own. good luck
======= Date Modified 30 Jan 2012 01:46:55 =======
======= Date Modified 30 Jan 2012 01:40:20 =======
It sounds like you're naturally very good with people, which is a skill that can't be taught even by the best PhD program. I'm wondering whether overseas work is a possibility for you. There are a lot of overseas non-governmental organizations desperate for good people - not just the post-graduate credentials, but people who know how to relate to the public. On top of that, the public health and biomedical background would be a huge advantage.
Of course, it all depends on your ability to travel, or even relocate to another country. Is this a possibility for you?
I realize you mentioned that you're "tied to the region" you're in, but sometimes you just have to pursue the path that's best for you.
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