It has been nearly a year since I left academia and joined a company. The shiny novelty about having a new job with new and different rules and new people has passed a little and I'm starting to feel comfortable in my new role. Before leaving academia I thought what I would miss the most would be recording from cells or generating data myself. And when I think about it I kind of miss the excitement of doing experiments, but I don't really miss the anxiety about whether I will be able to interpret my data, whether my data will look nice and whether it will be publishable. I don't miss hours of struggling to record form a cell only to bump against my table and loose my cell. I don't miss changing animal cages.
However, what I do miss is my coping mechanism. When I was doing my PhD, I would imagine what my defense day would look like. I would imagine how I would feel when my PhD was done and I would hold the book in my hand. I would imagine how incredibly happy I would be when a publication would be accepted.
During my post-doc, I would imagine what I would feel like having gotten a fellowship or a grant. I imagined how people would congratulate me and tell me I had deserved this after all my hard work. I would imagine how - further in the future - I would maybe become a full professor, which in my homecountry is accompanied by having a whole day of festivities including giving your inaugural lecture in front of the whole university. I would imagine how awesome that would be. On crappy days I had this mantra in my head and I would repeat "keep your eyes on the prize" over and over to keep writing, experimenting and analyzing data.
In my new job, the future is much less clear. There is not one path, but there are many paths one can take. There's less need for a coping mechanism because I feel much more at ease here, but at the same time I notice that I used these fantasies about the future as my motivation to get work done.
I guess I may need new incentives and I don't know what those are yet.