While perusing twitter the other day I came across a post by asking about people's post Phd stories. There are a lot of "why I left academia" stories and you inevitably hear about the superstar stories, but there are a whole lot of us in the middle who never tell their post Phd stories.
So here's mine, take what you will from it.
I did my Phd at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School, and I liked what I was doing there, but I couldn't see myself staying on for a Postdoc (I don't think my supervisors could either...), the topic was fine, but I wasn't really excited by it towards the end of my Phd, and my main supervisor & I used to rub each other up the wrong way.
I had 3 years of funding, so as the three years drew to a close, I started to look for another job. I was writing up at this point, but I was still quite a way from having the thesis finished.
I applied for a couple of jobs, one at Nottingham University, where I wasn't shortlisted and one at the National Genetics Research Laboratory in Manchester. It was a 'Clinical Bioinformatician' job (I wasn't really sure what that was, when I got the the interview it turned out it was pretty much a made up job title...) creating tools and teaching bioinformatics for the NHS.
I was offered the job, I took the job, and I moved to Manchester. For ~ 6 months I was working at NGRL during the day and doing my thesis at night. Having had no experience with patient centred bioinformatics/genetics, I didn't know how I would take to it. It turns out, it's not really my thing. I'm definitely more a blue skies researcher type. However, it was a great job to have while I was writing up my thesis (BTW, it's totally possible, to write up with a new job. It's not fun, but it's totally possible).
A few months after I'd passed my viva, I decided to start looking around to see if there were any postdoc positions which might be more my style. I wasn't going to just apply for anything as I was fairly happy in the current job. Almost immediately, a job came up at Nottingham University (different PI and campus to the last job), I went down for an informal chat before applying and it seemed like a great position. The PI encouraged me to apply, I did, and I was offered the job.
Three years has gone by since then and I'm now in a second postdoc at Rutgers University in New Jersey. I'm trying to find either my own money or a lectureship and it's hard. But I left academia once and came back, so I know that this is the life that makes me happy. Maybe I'll leave again if things don't work out. But right now I'm sticking it out.