The notion of “professional project” has become a key notion in public policies aiming at fighting unemployment among young adults. Yet, its implementation remains an issue in everyday practice. The rational and teleological vision of social trajectories that it implies clashes with the short-terms representations of the future that are usually upheld by the most dispossessed candidates on the job market. The ethnographic survey of an institution assisting unemployed people to formulate a “professional project” suggests that this notion goes through a gradual process of realistic adjustments. Successive failures in the quest for internships, training programs or real jobs lead the applicants to consider jobs that they would have been reluctant to accept at the beginning of their training (cashier, unskilled laborer, packer, etc.) Far from providing the possibility of envisioning a future, the training program becomes for the trainees an institutionally assisted experience of the limited potentials of their own resources and the confirmation of a future strictly limited to the most deprived areas of society.
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