I will try to make this short.
My Ph.D. was in life sciences. I was a part of an "International Ph.D program in life sciences" in Germany. The Ph.D was a nightmare of its own. I had to start the project from zero, there was a strict time limit of 3.5 years to finish. The worst part, after some time I realized that the PI either did not write recommendation letters or wrote bad recommendations for his own people (both Ph.D students and postdocs). At the end, I got my Ph.D, but without publications and, obviously, without recommendations.
I managed to find a "postdoc" position in "no-name" university in Canada, however, it was not a normal "postdoc" as one might expect. At that time, the lab was a mess: high turnover, overworked and demotivated people. Few people had to put extra effort and time to keep that place together. The remuneration was extremely poor. Moreover, foreigners were paid less than Canadians for the same position and, essentially, same job. I barely lasted for 3 years and had to quit and walk away from all results, because my mental and physical health started to collapse. I authored one "book-chapter" as the first author. My name is on some 7 or 8 papers but in the middle, as 5th or 6th author. So these are obviously useless. I cannot expect any recommendation from that place either.
I tried to get another job in a university environment or in bio/tech. I managed to land a half-decent job as a project manager in another small university in Canada. Conditions are much better than before, but my salary is paid by "grant funding" and it is one-year contracts that have to be renewed.
I am in my mid-30. Sometimes I feel that I cannot do this anymore. I cannot make any long-term plans and always feel insecure. I simply tired of this life. I need at least a semblance of stability in my life.
Lately, I looked at some ads for university jobs in Middle East and in Asia. I would take a lower pay, only to have some job stability.
My problem is that everywhere one needs (a) papers and (b) 3 or 4 recommendation letters. I do not see a way to circumvent these requirements.
My problem is that my Ph.D + "postdoc" took good 7 years of my life and it is very difficult for me to accept that all this experience (and suffering) is completely useless.
I understand that I should stop looking at anything academic, but it is very difficult to let go. Any career advice will be appreciated!
P.S. To be clear, I am not trying to complain, I have been desperately seeking any legitimate career advice/mentorship for a very long time. The problem there is none for "life scientists", neither here nor on Reddit! Even in my current position, which technically calls for solid experience in molecular biology, I utilize ~1% of my knowledge/experience in molecular biology. The moment I move out of "life science" arena, I am basically on par with a fresh "college graduate" with regard to skills/experience.
On the other hand, I have been hanging on 1-year contracts last 8 years of my life. I cannot do this forever. Basically, I need to re-invent myself somehow, but I do not know how to do this job-wise, finance-wise etc.