Have you ever had to go to a presentation or a lecture and felt as if you’d wandered into one of Charles M Schulz’s Peanuts comics? Learning a new skill often requires learning a whole new vocabulary, so with that in mind, I’ve gathered together a list of words which are often used here at Victoria Careers, along with their meanings as described in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). And, because I love the history of words, I’ve even included when they first became a part of our language. Some of them you’ll probably know, some of them you might think you know, but actually don’t, and some of them are just words which I particularly like. Enjoy!


First recorded usage: 1927

OED: A course of professional life or employment, which affords opportunity for progress or advancement in the world.

A lot of people think that ‘career’ just means your job. It doesn’t. It’s an all-encompassing term that has resonance through your entire life, relating to your ‘progress and advancement in the world’. Your career is your lifestyle as well as what you do from nine ‘til five.


First recorded usage: 1898

OED: The character or quality of being employable.

When looking for a job, your employability is what puts you ahead of the rest of the pack. It encompasses three major features: Skills, Knowledge and Attributes, all of which differ depending on the current workforce demands or the area in which you wish to be employed. When applying for a job, these three things are what you should be aiming to advertise in your CV and cover letter, to let potential employers know what you have to offer.


First recorded usage: 1976

OED: The action or process of making use of a network of people for the exchange of information, etc., or for professional or other advantage.

A relatively recent word also referred to as “Schmoozing” and “Rubbing Elbows” by the professionals. Networking relies on you knowing a group of people who can help you to advance your career because of the positions they hold or the knowledge they have. Expos and presentations are great places to network and meet potential employers in a relaxed environment. To find out more, you can attend one of our networking workshops, or have a look at our tip sheet.

Pro Rata

First recorded usage: 1575

OED: In the appropriate or specified proportion; proportionally.

In terms of careers, this term is used in the context of ‘salary pro rata’, usually in part time or casual/contract positions. This means that the salary you will be paid will be calculated according to what proportion of a full-time job you are doing. For example, if your salary is $18,000 pro rata, that means you would be paid $18,000 a year if you were working a full-time, 40 hour per week job. If you were working part time and only working 30 hours per week, you would be paid the appropriate percentage of this, so $13,500 for the year’s work.

Psychometric Test

First recorded usage: 1889

OED: A test designed to provide a quantitative analysis of a person’s mental capacities or personality traits, typically as shown by responses to a standard series of questions or statements.

Psychometric tests are designed to assess your reasoning abilities, or how you respond to different situations. There are two basic types: Aptitude, Ability and Intelligence Tests assess your logical reasoning and thinking performance. They have definite right or wrong answers, and can often be multiple choice. Personality Questionnaires evaluate the way you react to certain situations. There are no right or wrong answers, but the tests themselves may ask you to state whether you think a statement is true or false. You can find some of our practice psychometric tests on CareerHub.


First recorded usage: 1398

OED: The action or process of thinking carefully or deeply about a particular subject, typically involving influence from one’s past life and experiences; contemplation, deep or serious thought or consideration.

This is a useful word in any capacity, and those of you doing ePortfolios will be especially familiar with it. In a job interview, an employer might ask you to think of a situation from your past where you faced conflict, had to give criticism, worked as part of a team etc. and comment on how you handled this. The ability to reflect on past experiences and learn from them is an important one: Questions such as “what did I think about this?” “how did I feel while this was happening?” and “how might this be useful/done differently?” are all important parts of reflection.

And just for fun…


First recorded usage: 1620

OED: The action of throwing out a window.

Possibly my favourite word in the English language – who knew you could be so specific? You can defenestrate your computer when it crashes, your homework when you can’t answer a question, and you can use it as a threat if you’re ever cornered by armed robbers: “Don’t come any closer or I’ll defenestrate the lot of you!” At the very least the unfamiliar word will confuse them long enough for you to run away.


First recorded usage: 1919

OED: Fine, excellent, going just right

I found this one on the back of our ‘current mood’ calendar in the office a few days ago, but it doesn’t seem to have a recorded origin aside from as a US slang word.


First recorded usage: 1586

OED: Incapable of being wearied; that cannot be tired out; unwearied, untiring, unremitting in labour or effort.

Aside from being the name of Captain Pellew’s ship in CS Forrester’s Hornblower series, this is a great word all on its own.


First recorded usage: 1653

OED: Sharp-sounding, piercing; (of a voice) treble

One of many new words added to the OED just this month. Considered rare and obsolete now, but that doesn’t mean it can’t experience a revival. There are plenty of examples: “I don’t mind him practicing the euphonium, but does he have to make such an oxytonous noise?”

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Love it, Sarah. I just ran across a word that I didn’t know the meaning of until now and was moved to come and see your blog. I love your selection of words and hope to include a few into sentences this week.
    Your clarification of the word career is appropriate and I hope people take this to heart. I think our team at Victoria Careers expresses the true meaning of career in the way we work – it is about growth, not just a job.
    Thanks for a highlighting the ePortfolio (ref. Reflection). The ePortfolio tool we use is on CareerHub. All VUW students and staff have access.
    My new find is nouement (knotting up) and denouement (unknotting), from Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction, A guide to narrative craft.



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Interest, Miscellaneous, Personal development, Skills development, Study