This article challenges existing contentions regarding the weakening of work identities amongst young adults and the proposition that labour market uncertainty inhibits life planning. It draws on analysis of 48 in-depth young adult interviews carried out in two globalizing, post-industrial cities, Bristol and Gothenburg, and presents a typology of future orientations which demonstrates the salience of employment to young adult identities. Since young adult life narratives are often about what they want to become, rather than what they are, analysis of aspirations is crucial for understanding the place of employment in their lives. The findings reveal a propensity towards detailed employment-centred life plans amongst young adults in Bristol, which contrasts with the desire to take life a ‘day at a time’ in Gothenburg. These emergent future orientations reveal alternative versions of the ‘good life’, which stem from the contrasting education and welfare regimes of the two countries, Britain and Sweden.