If you could work on whatever project in the world, without worrying about any other outside issues, what would it be? Given unlimited financial resources, a Mary Poppins nanny for your children, 5-star resort quality care for your aging parents, an immaculate housekeeper, a personal chef, what would you work on to better the world or even the science project you are currently working on?
One weekend day, think about this question, and follow-through.
Here are some examples:
1. I want to study the link between diet, personalized medicine for cancer, and outcome.
2. I would like to design a more efficient, comprehensive diagnostic method in screening for pediatric hereditary diseases.
3. I want to write about the effects of environmental toxins, food biochemistry, and effects on child development.
4. I want to combine my science with policy and find a career in governmental intelligence.
5. I want to change the infrastructure in the health organizations of some third world countries so they are self-sustainable.
Some of your free thinking days will be related to science, sometimes not. However, if you keep thinking about the same issue you would like to challenge yourself with, you have a passion for it.
Not many PhD students are told this, but "You have a PhD! You are intelligent and with motivation, you can be a leader of your own cause!"
Students tend to think they have to apply to the "boxed" jobs, but the best careers are those that you have driven yourself. If you have the passion and motivation for something, start with small steps. Perhaps a few hours week with basic research, getting to know the players in the field and discovering what has already been done. Next step is to contact those who are already in the field, chat with many people. Write it all down in a notebook with date, person and contents of the chat. Offer your services to an organization that will support your passion and your accrued knowledge. It might take a while, but within a year or two with the right support, you will enter the field. Within 3-5 years, you will have established yourself and be expanding your career. Remember to keep reading, publishing and communicating your ideas. Only communicated ideas are innovated.
Only if you take those initial baby steps and keep persevering will the dream become a reality.