We examine the job aspirations of 80 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients in Cleveland and Philadelphia by drawing on data from in-depth, qualitative interviews conducted in 1997–98, well after the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was implemented but before time limits were reached. We show that these recipients view the work mandates they face as legitimate and express optimism regarding future work and earnings prospects. They also desire more education. Although their earnings expectations are high, respondents' occupational goals are relatively low, even among those with the most human capital. Furthermore, mothers say their vocational expectations reflect the urgency they feel about finding a job. We suggest that providing cash assistance while TANF recipients increase their human capital is critical for meeting the self-sufficiency goals of welfare reform.