I know when it all went wrong for me. I had started doing my Ph.D. in 1998. My supervisor employed two long-term postdocs, who had worked with her for many years, and their uninterrupted work in her lab ended only when she retired. The other labs at the University of Edinburgh's Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, often had long-term postdocs as well. I decided that being a long-term postdoc would suit me just fine.
I was wrong. After a maternity leave and two-and-a-half postdocs, I found myself in a very different job landscape—one where an experienced postdoc struggles to find a job in academia. Absence of industry experience disqualifies me from industry jobs, and I am overqualified for most jobs outside of academia. I have seen a comparison of a postdoc with a piece of equipment that is replaced whenever there is a new model on the market—and nobody buys a second-hand Polymerase Chain Reaction machine. Despite what I feel are excellent skills, I feel like a used piece of equipment.