I must admit, this week I applied for a post-doc.
I know, I know. I'm the one who said a post-doc doesn't provide me the experience I need to get on the vaguely defined career path I am interested in. I don't want a faculty job, but at this point, working in science would be great. And Seattle has all these non-academic research institutes. I gotta be honest, this is is not a concept I was familiar with before I moved out here.
Maybe other cities don't have this always, but The Gates Foundation had prompted all this funding for soft money institutes. Because the funding doesn't rely on the NIH, the money is better (am I an ass because I care about that?), and the research is more product oriented. I have a friend I ought to interview about her job at IDRI, but she has given me the impression that unlike academic work, the entire lab at these not-for-profit gigs is all working towards the same objective. In her lab, it's finding a cure of TB, in other labs, vaccinate against malaria, or other global health issues. The upside is that your work is of dire importance, you still get to work on your publication record (if you want to go academic later), and you get paid a bit more than the NIH would recommend. You might start at 45k, but a little bit more than the NIH suggests can feel like a lot if you've been on grad student wages for half a decade.
The downside, (and I am searching here), 1) this is still a training position. I am coming up on my 30th birthday, I am ready to settle down. Why would I want to take a job that commits me to take a new one in 3 (or so) years? only to find a new one later. 2) All your pubs will have a whole host of authors. I'm trying to pretend like this is a problem- I was in drug discovery in grad school, which means all my pubs had at least 14 authors (not exaggerating). Is it important to you to publish papers that indicate your authority on the subject- like just you and your PI? I don't have that feeling, but if you do, not-for-profits might not be for you. But, if working on a legitimate cure for a major global health issue is for you- you should look into these not-for-profits. There isn't the pressure to make a profit or a product that there might be at companies like Amgen or Zymogen (Bristol Myers Squibb).
Who am I thinking of? IDRI, the Institute for Systems Biology, or Seattle Biomed. I'm told there are more, but that's a start. I'm not convinced this is the dream job, but it might be the direction I need to go to get there, so I am trying it.