ArtWe are pleased to feature a short video from a young person in Bulgaria, describing her experience in the transition from education to employment. Paula, in the clip below, describes her struggle to obtain the secure and well remunerated employment that she hoped her investment in education would bring.

Paula is far from alone in this experience.

This is an example of what Lauren Berlant (2011) describes as a form of ‘cruel optimism’ – where ‘certain attachments to what counts as life come to make sense or no longer make sense, yet remain powerful as they work against the flourishing of particular and collective beings’ (p. 13). In this case, the promise that personal investment in education will bring rewards – in the form of stability, identity and financial security. It’s well documented now that the breakdown of what some writers term the ‘neo-liberal bargain’ is occurring across Europe and elsewhere (Woodman and Wyn, 2015; Di Paolantonio, 2016). Whereas in the past the fulfillment of higher education and the achievement of credentials would lead to stability, this is no longer the case for a great many. Research has found that since the recession young graduates have found it increasingly difficult to find secure and stable employment. Growing numbers of young graduates, such as Paula, can find themselves underemployed, in temporary work, on zero-hour contracts or having to work in unpaid internships.

Thanks to Paula for telling us a little of her story and we hope people find it useful. Please find the English translation below the video.


Translation: “My name is Paula. I graduated three months ago in Plovdiv, with a bachelor’s degree in Bulgarian Language and History. After graduating, I wanted to work as a teacher in my specialty. But everywhere they were looking for people with three years length of service. This was the hardest thing that I came up against when looking for a job. I had the opportunity of starting work at many places as a waitress, barmaid, but I had studied four years for this specialty and I wanted to work in it. A month ago, I found work as a teacher. At present, it is hardest for young people who have graduated to find work, because everywhere a minimum length of service of three years is required, and it is impossible to obtain that when studying. Another difficulty is the small pay. I work for 480 leva (about € 240) full time. I don’t think that it is normal for a young person who has a higher education to work for 500 leva (about € 250), given that there are jobs for 800-900 leva (about € 400-500) for sales clerks, barmaids, waitresses, and you don’t have to have higher education for those jobs. This is the worst thing today in Bulgaria, everywhere they demand length of service and when you start work in the specialty you have graduated in, the pay is minimal. This issue should be considered by the politicians so they may encourage young people to stay in Bulgaria and work here. I worked outside of Bulgaria as a chambermaid, but I decided to come back and work as a teacher for 500 leva (about € 250) . I hope this will change and salaries will be raised. Now I am studying for a master’s degree in order to find better paid work.”



Berlant, L. (2011). Cruel Optimism, London: Duke University Press

Di Paolantonio, M. (2016). ‘The Cruel Optimism of Education and Education’s Implication with ‘Passing-on’’, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 50, (2), pp. 147-159

Woodman, D. & Wyn, J. (2015). Youth and Generation. London: Sage Publications