by Kate Woodford
Most of us talk about our jobs. We tell our family and friends interesting or funny things that have happened in the workplace (=room where we do our job), we describe – and sometimes complain about – our bosses and colleagues and when we meet someone for the first time, we tell them what our jobs are. Here, then, is a selection of English vocabulary to help you to speak about your work.
A career is a job or number of jobs of a similar type that a person does over a long period: I’d always wanted a career in teaching./I wasn’t interested in an academic career. The word profession is used in a similar way, but always refers to work that needs a lot of education and training: the medical/legal profession. Note that ‘profession’ also means the people who do a particular type of work: The medical profession is always looking to improve patient care.
Many work words and phrases refer to the time that we spend working. A shift is a period of time that is worked, for example in a factory or hospital: the night shift/a ten-hour shift. A full-time job is done for the whole of a working week, and a part-time job involves working only for part of it. Note that ‘full-time’ and ‘part-time’ are adverbs as well as adjectives: a full-/part-time job/She works full-/part-time. Overtime, meanwhile, refers to time spent working after the usual time expected for the job. It is both an adverb and a noun: Anything over 40 hours is overtime./We had to work overtime to get the job finished. People who work more hours than most people may be said to work long hours. People who work unsocial hours work during a time when most people do not have to work, usually the night: doctors who work unsocial hours. Your workload is the amount of work that you have to do: As a family doctor, he has a very heavy workload. Meanwhile, the work-life balance is the amount of time you spend at work, compared with your free time: Most working people struggle to get the work-life balance right.
Other work words and phrases refer to time that we do not work. For example, leave is time that we are allowed to take off work, for example for holiday, illness or having babies: I get twenty days annual leave (=paid time off every year). Isabel is on maternity leave (=off work to have a baby). If someone is off sick, they are not at work because they are ill: Three of our team are currently off sick. A career break is a period of time when you choose not to have a job: I took a career break for a year and travelled. Meanwhile, to retire is to stop working permanently, usually because you have reached a particular age: My father retired at sixty-five.
If someone is promoted, they are raised to a more important position at work, and if they are demoted, they are given a lower position. If they are sacked or they are made redundant, they are removed from a job: He got sacked from his last job.
Someone who works hard is hard-working and someone who has to work too much is overworked: hard-working teachers/overworked nurses. If a person is very interested in their work and is keen to make progress, you may describe them as career-minded: She worked to earn money but she was never especially career–minded. If you describe a person at work as professional, you mean they show the correct qualities and skills for work, such as being smart, serious and organised: The woman who dealt with us was very professional.
Here’s hoping you now have the vocabulary to talk work!