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The New Lingo of Work: Workplace Terms and What They Mean

13 July 2022   |   by Explore Careers
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Diving into the world of work for the first time is exciting – but it might also come with a lot of ‘Huh? What does that mean??’ 

All those wordy job descriptions might leave you with questions about what they’re talking about!

And that’s where Explore Careers can help.

The Explore Careers Workplace Terms Glossary

We’ve put together a list –  a glossary of sorts – to help you untangle what some of the most common workplace terms mean.

See this as your workplace dictionary to help you demystify all that job jargon!

Below we’ve collated some of the most frequent terms you’ll come across to help you get a better understanding when you start applying for work:

Terms of Employment

‘Terms of employment’ refers to the responsibilities and benefits associated with the job you apply to. These are usually set out by your employer and then agreed on by you when you sign your work contract. Also referred to as ‘conditions of employment’ include job responsibilities, work hours, dress code, time off the job, and starting salary. They may also have any benefits you receive, such as health and life insurance, life insurance, or retirement plans.


Employment-at-will means an employer can terminate your contract without providing a reason. Essentially, you are employed ‘at will’ – for as long as the employer needs you. These contracts offer flexibility all around, as you can leave your role without working a notice period for no reason. It also means employers can change the terms of employment, including wages, hours, or benefits, without notice or consequence. You need to agree to this when you start a new role, so make sure you check your contract.

Probationary Period

Employers use probationary periods to assess whether the new hire or newly promoted employee is a good fit. In many companies, probationary periods are used when a new employee starts a role to help them adjust and learn the ropes. It also allows everyone to make sure it’s a good fit. Probationary periods can range from 3 months to 6 months.


Contractors are usually employed for a set period within a company – it might be three months, six months, or twelve. These roles tend to be full-time or part-time, usually to cover another staff member (on parental leave, perhaps) or to help a new project get delivered. While on contract, you’ll be treated as a full employee and have the same rights, but there’s no guarantee of work once your contract ends. Many tradespeople and construction workers are employed on this basis.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the federal minimum wage and overtime pay at one-and-one-half-times the regular pay rate. It also regulates child labor, determining the number of hours minors work, so they are not exploited. Some U.S. states have a higher minimum wage and different overtime and child labor legislation. In those locations, state law would apply.

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE)

Full-time equivalent is usually used for a salary of an advertised position. For example, a job advert might advise a part-time role but include the full-time equivalent salary. You’ll need to calculate what the full-time hours are to work out the actual salary for the part-time position. For example, if a full-time employee is equivalent to 30 hours per week, but a role is advertised at 15 hours per week, the actual salary will be half the full-time equivalent.


An increasingly popular career choice for lots of people! Freelancers specialize in skills other businesses and organizations need – from content writing to web design, accounting to coaching! Freelancers work to match potential clients, set their hours and salary, and deliver work based on their client’s needs. You might deliver a one-off project for different clients throughout the year or work with several different clients at once to help them deliver their business.

Gig Economy

Going hand in hand with freelance roles and careers, the gig economy refers to short-term positions and contracts – these might be related to freelance gigs, or they could also be seasonal and project-related. Many people in the arts and creative industries find themselves moving through the gig economy – where their careers are categorized by moving from one project to the next, working with different institutions and organizations to deliver programs or work.

Shift Work

Shift work refers to any role where you don’t work a standardized time pattern. In these roles, the total number of hours you’re expected to work per week typically stays the same, but the days and times will change. Most shift work roles operate on a two-week rotation, so you may have the same work pattern for two weeks before it changes again. Nurses, care workers, other medical roles, and emergency services tend to operate on shift work contracts.

Workplace Culture

Another term you’re likely to see come up a lot on job ads and employer websites is workplace culture – and descriptions of the culture within a given organization. Workplace culture refers to the shared values, belief systems, and attitudes employees in a workplace share. It could be how everyone respects each other and customers, the overall values of the business, and the type of brand image they want to portray as a company.

What Other Words Are Stumping You?

This is just a brief selection!

We’ve done our best here to cover just some of the most common terms we see coming up a lot that we get asked about, but what other lingo, terms, slang, or jargon is stumping you in the world of work?

Let us know in the comments below!


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