Thomas Magaldi tells Nature Jobs that he figured out that he didn't want to be a bench scientist after his thesis project hit a dead end three years into graduate school. Instead, he realized that he was interested in policy.
A few months before he graduated, he looked into the American Association for the Advancement of Science policy fellowship but realized that have any experience that would make him a good candidate. "I came to this conclusion and thought 'I will find a few things that I can do now to put on my resume now and then do a strategic postdoc,'" he adds.
Magaldi says that many people chose their postdoc lab solely based on the science. While that's important, he also says that if, for instance, you're interested in industry, you should consider a lab that has many alumni working there. Himself, he did a postdoc at the US National Institutes of Health, and while there, got into policy-related activities at the American Society of Biochemistry and was part of the NIH policy discussion group.
Then when it came time to find a job, Magaldi turned to a four-quadrant guide that basically asks four questions: "Where do you want to live? What do you want to do? What can you do? What do you want in a work environment?" He notes that he was limited by personal circumstance in being able to fulfill all of these, and applied to policy-related jobs where he wanted to live and that he could do.
Once there, he found "that I really loved this career track, advising people, putting together professional development programs, developing, and planning career workshops."